God has taught me a lot this year. He does that most years, but this year was like boot camp. Inevitably, what with living on my own for the first time and starting university while remembering to actually buy food and cook it, there were many adjustments. Any adjustment takes some adjusting to. It’s part of life. But on top of that, there were also many, many battles.
Never before have I encountered, spiritually, such constant, persevering opposition in almost every way, both on campus and at home. I grew up in a peaceful and God-loving home, and it was a rather rude awakening to live with people who do not value peace or God. I’ve never had to deal with not wanting to go home, because I’m incredibly lucky to have parents who love me and with whom I have an amazing relationship. It is shocking how much not having peace at home affects every other part of your life, especially when it is also spiritual opposition.
But never have I encountered in such a real way the strength and peace of God and his presence, and the power of his Spirit – both to move and upset and, and even more astoundingly, to transform. Never, or rarely, have I seen the Bible, the words of God, this alive and tangible in my own life; the transforming power of truly loving your enemy, the immense power of prayer, the way God provides; the list is very long.
I can’t name one thing he taught me that outshines all the other things, because all are absolutely incredible and radical and necessary. Love, his unconditional, unconditional, love for me and his love for others, even my “enemies;” the peace he so desperately wants us to have even and especially in the midst of total confusion; his unending mercy and patience and forgiveness. God is beyond words. Even saying he is beyond words is completely inadequate. Even if all languages were combined, there wouldn’t be any human utterance that comes close to describing him or giving him the praise he is worthy of.
I’m having trouble expressing exactly what I want to say. It’s like it’s so deep and rich and wonderful that it can’t be put in a box with words or images. It’s the secret place, the quiet place, the place of peace where you and God meet; it’s the rolling green plain where the sun is shining and there’s just the right amount of breeze, and the sound of water and singing birds. It’s the steady rain and the soft wind. But it’s also the towering mountain peaks, the turbulent sea, the raging fire, the lightning strike. It’s the fierce warrior who defeats all his enemies and sends them running for the hills, then returns home to sit with his family by the fire, telling fairy tales. Fierce when needed and gentle when needed.
And the secret place, the quiet place where you and God meet. The place of refining fire, burning away impurities, and the place of comfort, of forgiveness, mercy, and love. Peace. Rest, even in the middle of a storm, like when Jesus slept as the storm rocked the boat. That is God’s peace, so that we don’t only have peace when we have reason to have it, but also when our worlds are collapsing in on us and everything seems to be lost. If we leave the secret place behind after we finish reading our Bibles in the morning, we leave God’s love and peace locked in a little room when it’s meant to flow and flood every part of our lives. We leave behind the strength he gives us to do his will for that day and the love he wants to push through us to other people. Take it with you. Take him with you. Don’t leave the One who loves you on the shelf with your Bible. Let him into your life, really into your life, and watch while he rocks your world and the people around you. This has nothing to do with our awesomeness or ability; it’s all him, and all the glory is his; but we have to open the door.