“You are closer than the mention of Your name.” – November mantra
The mantra Jesus gave me for the month of November has been preparing my heart to usher in Advent. In our humanity, nearness and intimacy are how we experience truth most fully. Jesus became human to help our humanness know God. From the time we are born, we are learning through experience. Experience becomes our truest belief system.
I grew up in a conservative Christian community where many didn’t sit comfortably with the idea of “experiences” with God and as a young girl I received the message that I couldn’t trust myself or my experiences.
As I grew older, I began to long for a personal experience with God. I needed a head to heart connection. I didn’t know what it might look like, but I started asking God to help me experience Him in a deeply personal way. The sweet thing about our kind Savior is that He loves our questions. He made the promises and He’s happy to explain them, happy to help us see more of Him.
Standing on His Promises
One of the practices I have formed in my life is holding a promise of God and telling Him that I’m not letting it go until I experience it to my deepest core. All attributes of God are a promise. A promise that He IS our Comfort, He IS our Father, He IS our Shelter. I long for all these attributes of God to grow from cognitive understanding to experiential knowledge. We don’t need to wait until we have it figured out. He wants us to come with questions. He is the essence of His promise after all, and as our Creator, He knows exactly how to make it real for us.
As Adam and I fell more in love at the beginning of this year, I began to ruminate on God’s unconditional love and delight in me (Zeph 3:17, Ps 18:19, Is 62:3-5). The idea that God wants to “romance” us had always made me scoff (even typing it out now makes me squirm). I never understood what it meant and I thought it was an awkward thing to say about God, but for some reason I decided to bring this promise to Him. I came with my awkward feelings and my questions and asked for understanding. A new knowledge began to form, not because I was suddenly smarter but because I opened my hands and took God at His word.
The Spirit grew my understanding in a way that completely caught me off guard. Western culture has diminished “romance” to kisses in the moonlight and butterflies in our stomach. Those are a part of it but the deepest core of Adam and my love isn’t that at all; it’s so terribly simple. Our journey toward a shared life was what deepened our love every day.
Isn’t that what we truly long for in the idealism of “falling in love?” We just want someone to stick around. We want someone to laugh at dumb jokes with us, go grocery shopping with us, rub our feet, and make fun of us when we fart in our sleep (maybe that’s just me). We find someone for our boring, for our mundane, and we call it love.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” John 1:1
This is the type of romance that God wants to have with me. He wants to walk with me, hand in hand. He wants to laugh with me and chat with me. He wants me to know His undying love and commitment to me at the core of my being. He wants me to know He is near.
Thus my experience with God began; the Word became Flesh. He didn’t come in a vision or dream. He didn’t speak audibly or part the Red Sea, but boy, did He open up the heavens and start speaking to my heart. He began to show me that He is all around me, in a million tiny ways. He is waiting to speak through my every day experiences if I will only shut up and listen. (If ONLY, am I right?)
I love love love boring ordinary life, and Jesus started showing up in all of it, filling my heart to bursting. All those simple things which He had created me to enjoy started exploding with His presence. I saw Him in the sunset at the end of my run, I saw Him in the posture of the kind crossing guard, I felt Him in the crackling fireplace, and I heard Him in kind words from a new friend. He has always been closer than my breath, waiting for me to see it.
“He is actually not far from each one of us, in Him we live and move and breath…” Acts 17:27
The simplicity and deep humanness of this kind of nearness took my breath away. I felt Him as surely as if He had stood before me and spoken, because He did. I found myself delightfully surprised by how truly He is Emmanuel, “God WITH us.” We don’t have to go looking for Him, He’s right there. When we start asking, He starts answering. When we start quieting our anxious, self-conscious minds, He starts speaking. He’s not waiting for us at the other side of a “figured out life,” He’s waiting for us in our mundane and in our questions, eager to walk alongside because He already is.
So friend, my encouragement to you as Advent begins: what promise, posture, or character trait of Jesus are you most skeptical of ? Often we are most skeptical of what our soul needs most desperately because we can’t bear to be disappointed that deeply. What if I promised you with all my heart that you won’t be disappointed? What if Jesus, the One who cannot fail you, promised you?
Hold that desire before Jesus and do not leave His presence until He brings it to your deepest heart. The romancing of Jesus, that I was skeptical of, showed up as an experiential knowledge and “deep-to-my-toes” rootedness that He is walking this life with me, hand in hand. Isn’t that really all we want in a fairytale romance? A kind friend who is always there? A best friend who knows us intimately and is crazy about us anyway?
Jesus became human so that He could meet our humanness. What part of your humanness needs an encounter with Jesus this Advent?