Have you ever been so in love with someone that it didn't matter where you were so long as you were with them? That their presence, just their presence, would bring you peace, joy, and slow you down enough to experience life in its fullness. Has such a love ever permeated your existence that nothing of what you had or didn’t have in that moment really mattered? Have you ever encountered a love that you knew would change you if you spent any kind of time with it? That the experience of love would soften your edges, make your heart malleable, and shift your priorities?
I was laying on my back, on the floor, my feet resting on the simple desk chair I was using at the time. This was my preferred posture whenever David Kim would signal that we were entering a time of listening. I was one of a host of others taking part in Trellis, a four-week guided listening journey, presented by Goldenwood. My preferred posture kept my feet and legs from wanting to dance – a trained habit. Standing or sitting for me is an active stance. Laying down helped me turn off my “I’m ready to do something” switch. It allowed my focus to shift from doing to hearing.
I don’t remember the prompts of the session. I do remember the tears. During this time (mid/late 2020), I was still recovering from severe burnout, moving countries (the second time in as many years), the loss of a job I had had high hopes for, and the many strained and severed relationships that go along with such things. Crying was a part of the process of working all of that out. I had gotten used to it and welcomed the surge of emotion. It was like something in my inner world needed to get out and the way it did so was through tears. I would feel a release, a greater peace, a little lighter, after every time it happened. So, I figured, keep it coming. This time, however, there was a word that accompanied the tears. It welled up from deep within my being. It was just one word. Spontaneously, as I lay there on the floor, tears flowing, this single word broke through the tears. I was ugly crying as I almost yelled:
I have consciously believed in God, Jesus Christ, and God’s active Spirit since I was nine years old. I haven’t always understood everything about God (I dare say I still don’t), but I practiced. I prayed, talked with fellow believers, and attempted to have my choices in and responses to life guided by the promptings and my knowledge of this, “God in whom I trust.” There are many stories I could recount that I believe point directly to God acting in my life, through people, work, and just my own personal experiences. Through these, I had come to know God in a particular way. He was a friend, a provider, a protector, awe-inspiring, full of wonder, and yet very grounded and practical. I’m finding it difficult to explain it, but this new experience – calling out to God as Father – shifted something inside me.
God = Father.
I have an awesome dad. He has always been the quintessential provider, kind, protective, down to earth, and principled. He has his own stuff (don’t we all?) and has gone through quite a bit in his life. His love for me kept much of what he has had to carry from impacting me. That’s a miracle in and of itself. Even still, my dad could not (and was never meant to) fulfill the role that God has in my life. And yet God could not fulfill the role that I desperately needed Him to, without being acknowledged as my Father. This wasn’t an intellectual shift as much as it was a positional one.
From that moment on the floor, all I wanted moving forward was to be with my Father in Heaven. I knew that the place where I felt most at home was wherever He was. In that moment, it didn’t matter how much I had or didn’t have. I knew that the more time I spent with Him the more of a change I would experience in me. I trusted that the change would be good.
But God is in Heaven, right?
Dallas Willard has a wonderfully provocative line that I’ve heard him use in some of the videos available online. He says, “Want to go to Heaven? Why wait? Go now.” Over the course of history there have been many thinkers and writers, who have shared their experience of the “With God” life. It might be a shift in thinking to believe that access, entrance into, and experience of the Kingdom is available now – on earth and in this life. In the Gospels, Jesus is recorded as referring to the Kingdom of Heaven (that is the scope of God’s effective will, or where God is and where what He wants actually happens) as like a treasure. It is something that the pursuit of which supersedes all other priorities on account of its value. A great pearl, or a buried treasure in the land – a thing that would prompt one to do whatever they need to acquire it. Sell all your belongings and buy the pearl. Sell all your land and buy the land in which the treasure is buried. If it is as described, why would I want to wait to enter the Kingdom? No, I want to go now.
It is a wonderfully bizarre experience – to feel at once blessed, unworthy, afraid of the awesome power, and overcome with love. It has been for me a fulness of life that I hadn’t experienced in the same way before. It feels fleeting, and yet right in front of me. It is ever present yet requires seeking. It is a reality that seems to set the rest of my life in proper order. Here’s the thing: it’s not just for me, and it’s not only for later. There is nothing that makes me any more special than anyone who might be reading this. There is nothing that says that anyone can’t have access right now. There are many questions that arise around how we are to enter. I’ll have to save that discussion for a later time. As it is, I’m still learning and practicing. For now, it is enough to say this:
Experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven – that is being with God – is like being so in love, that all you want to do is spend time with that person. Their presence brings a peace, joy, and experience of life that is not available through any other means. Everything else becomes less important than the time you spend with them. And you know that you will be changed for good on account of it.