I have always felt a failure as a Christian. I have been surrounded by good people who seem to be in a permanent state of Holy Spirit ecstasy and enduring intimacy with the Lord Jesus. This is not my experience and has led me to question whether after 22 years of following Christ and a lifetime of knowing Him, my salvation is real. I believe the Bible is true when it tells me God loves me but to be honest I have felt only the most fleeting of assurances that this love is actually for me. And yet I crave it with every fibre of my being. We all do. Tracey Emin says it in neon lights, “You forgot to kiss my soul”. It is the hunger for an unshakeable knowing at the core of our personhood that the truth of who we are is loved. Not just that, but the affirmation that we are worthy of such love. It enables us to reveal the beauty we keep hidden so that it might enrich the lives of others. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6 v.33). The merest snatches of intimacy keeps us wanting more, keeps us searching, keep us knocking at the door of His heart. Perhaps I should learn to accept the longing.
In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s collected saying and thoughts, Citadelle, he said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs and organise the work; teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean.” The desire for more, better, deeper can be used by God to motivate us to see more of His kingdom come and not just for our own gratification. While precious moments where God’s mercy and goodness overwhelm us in worship are to be cherished and celebrated, what about finding love and fulfilment in God through the mundane? On Saturday I massaged the hands of a 94 year-old woman at a church fun day. She was so blessed and delighted by this simple act that I felt God’s pleasure. There was genuine satisfaction in bringing His kingdom near and I also felt loved and valued when two people on different occasions during the day commended me for my gentle spirit. So rather than berating myself for not being good enough or getting frustrated with God for His hidden-ness, I am resolved to look harder for Him in the unexpected places of my daily life and accept that living with longing is part of the package of being His.
A couple of weeks ago now, I was part of a team ministering to those attending the Mind, Body, Spirit exhibition at the Horticultural Halls near Victoria in London. It was fantastic being able to bless people who are looking to meet their spiritual needs at such an event with a free massage and Ruach or Jesus Deck card reading. Over the five days of the festival, many commented that in an environment where everyone was trying to sell something, we offered something different. However, what I also enjoy about these opportunities for demonstrating God’s love to spiritual seekers, is working alongside other Christians with a similar understanding of mission. We are sharing a desire to be a foretaste of God’s abundant life for what many church goers would consider unlikely people in potentially harmful situations. I had some wonderful conversations with Reiki healers, a tarot card reader and Yoga instructor. These are often the people who care for the most vulnerable in our society, as well as the planet we share. They are seeking to use what has helped them, to bring hope and healing to others. It is always amazing to see where God is already at work in their lives and partner with the Holy Spirit to bring a little more recognition of His grace to them.
Some of the people I value most in my life are partners with me in this work and often the chance for me to give to spiritual seekers is also an opportunity for me to feel blessed and encouraged in a ministry that many Christians are critical and fearful of. As is often the case, I came across a concept in a book that has helped me to understand what is going on in these ministry situations. Michael Frost in ‘Exiles’ says of creating community, “We build community incidentally, when our imaginations are captured by a higher, even nobler cause. Though it took me a while, I came to realise that Christian community results from the greater cause of Christian mission.” (p.108) I think this is such a valuable lesson and one that our churches urgently need to learn. He goes on, “…aiming for community is a bit like aiming for happiness. It’s not a goal in itself. We find happiness as an incidental by-product of pursuing love, justice, hospitality and generosity. When you aim for happiness, you are bound to miss it. Likewise with community. It’s not our goal. It’s a by-product of pursuing something else. Those who love community destroy it, but those who love people build it.” This sums up perfectly what I got out of working with Dekhomai at the Mind, Body, Spirit event. It is what I experience every time I join with Eden People for events in Guildford and it is my hope and expectation for the missional community that is being created here in Kingston. My prayer is, thank you Lord for those I partner with in mission and please help us to love people as you have loved us, so that true community might be built and your Kingdom will come!