Easter and Passover have come and gone. Has life shifted with a sense of direction or are we much like the disciples walking along the Emmaus Road talking about the events of this season without shifting our priorities or recognizing the call on our lives? It can be easy to get right back at the things of this life without His life altering the course of our days or priorities.
We tend to be much more like those early disciples we read or hear about. Jesus invites us into the deep places with Him and the call He has for each of us and if we are listening to that at all, we might acknowledge that and keep walking along the dusty road we were on, distracted and weighed down with other things.
As I was listening to a recent podcast by author, John Eldredge, he referred to two areas that interrupt us often on the way to the deep places with Christ. One is what he calls the “shallow lands” known as the distractions bombarding us from moment to moment from dozens of sources. It’s the “white noise” we hardly even notice any more that shows up with our tendency to scan a page rather than read thoughtfully and reflect on the words we are reading. It’s that same stuff that causes us to listen to one another with only half an ear and find it difficult to attend for more than a few minutes to a message or the Bible in our laps. And when we do try to be with Him, we get into our routines and miss the intimacy with Him we long for.
Recently as I was having my devotional time with Him, I sensed Christ nudging me to lay down my journal and the Bible and pen as the Holy Spirit whispered, “Sit with me.” It seemed so unproductive, but clear that this wasn’t about praying or reading but rather just being in his presence, still before and with Him. How hard it can be to quiet my heart and just allow His presence to refresh and renew and repurpose my time. Yet that was how so many hours were spent by his disciples when Christ walked the earth. Study and reading the Bible is crucial to our foundation and praying for ourselves and others is as well, but He invites us into a deeper relationship with Him if we will just take time to move out of the “shallow lands.”
Eldredge describes the “midlands” as those areas that the Gospel of Mark describes as “the cares of this life.” It’s that passage about the soil that represents our own hearts and ends in the verse that reads as follows:
“…but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”Mark 4:19 (NIV)
How easy it is for that to apply to any one or all of us and never more so than in recent years where the life we thought of as “normal” has been upended by shifting values, increased crime and fear for safety, a pandemic that sought to destroy us and an uptick in other numerous illnesses and things that shifted us away from our dusty feet on the road to anxiety and fear that resisted our efforts to focus and still our hearts before Jesus.
How much differently we can be readied for the things that come at us if we are first laying aside even the trappings we bring into our times alone with Him by simply doing what Brother Lawrence reminds us of in his epic book, The Practice of the Presence of God. Do we really practice being in his presence? What would we hear if we did?
“Do not be discouraged by the resistance you will encounter from your human nature; you must go against your human inclinations. Often, in the beginning, you will think that you are wasting time, but you must go on, be determined, and persevere in it until death, despite all the difficulties.”Brother Lawrence
That solitude with Christ points us to the purpose of that day, our call, and the passion to move into it with a keen awareness of Him with us no matter what “the shallows” or “the midlands” throw at us. They remind us of what our focus is to be and after sitting with Him to get moving on that which He asks of us and be sure of what that is.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11: 28-29 (NIV)
“In order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.”Brother Lawrence
What happened after I took his request to “come sit with me”? Ah, that is for just the two of us, but the results were to be propelled into my day with a fresh awareness of Him and alertness to be drawn to focus where He directed my attention. Those are the times I not only hear the birds singing despite “the shallows” and “the midlands” but also drop a note to someone I just kept putting aside or pick up a bud vase to brighten the day of my doctor’s receptionist on a recent visit. I am not only in awe of Him but moving with Him. And those are the very BEST days!