Responding to God

Gill Vriend

I appreciate the shapes that sit on the respond step of the Christian Wholeness Framework: the circles, the cross, the combined cross and square, the triangle. They illustrate the diversity of ways by which our Creator, His Son and the Holy Spirit reach down into our world and touch us where we are. Demonstrating Immanuel.

Looking at the shapes, I imagined them jumping off the page, dynamic and multi dimensional, just as He is multi dimensional and His world is without end. The ways He responds to humankind, and we to Him, are numerous. Looking at the inner circles of the mind and the heart, I wondered what they would look like when fully inhabited by the Spirit of God. What would it be like to have the ‘mind of Christ’, always thinking His thoughts from a Kingdom perspective? We are instructed to ‘take every thought captive’ and “demolish strongholds which set themselves up against the knowledge of God’ (2 Corinthians 10:5), yet in itself this is only a precurser to receiving and living out of a Kingdom mindset.

I then thought how it would look if this also applied to our mood, that we feel His mood and emotions about situations we are in.  In reading John 11:1-44, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, I am struck by two things. First, it is clear in the early verses that Jesus knew ahead of time what He, in obedience to what His Father had told Him, would raise Lazarus from death to life. He appears almost impatient with his disciples for not understanding this! Why then, I wondered, was he so overcome by emotion on approaching the tomb that He wept? What was He responding to? Was it, perhaps, grief at identifying with the pain of separation which death means for human beings, something which was never part of God’s original design? And why, in verse 38, was he ‘deeply moved’, ‘deeply troubled’, or in one translation ‘angry in His spirit’? I do not know, but postulate that His spirit could have been troubled, stirred, angry over satan’s seeming ‘victory’ that death was now firmly established in the God’s world, the very opposite of the life that ran through Jesus’ veins.

Yesterday I spent part of the day running errands, preparing a wodge of documents for a visit to Thai immigration. I was consciously ‘practicing the presence of Jesus’, imagining Him being with me as I collected documents from here and there in the city. We were chatting and joking, passing the time like two old friends in a relaxed unhurried way. When I got home I realized I had left my cell phone somewhere, probably in the bank in a big shopping mall. Sharp intake of breath. Oh no! What if…? ‘Stay with me. Breathe’, His whisper came. Back to the shopping mall, Jesus and me. I had an inner calm, because I sensed from Jesus it would be OK, and ,to be fair, also because my phone was old (and  undesirable) and people in North Thailand are usually very honest. And sure enough, all was well. Afterwards I sensed Him laughing with me, not at me, at the relief of retrieving my phone. No condemnation, no reprimand. That was His response, and it silenced my inner critic.

With situations that are more serious and more threatening, I find it harder to ground myself in Christ centred responses as a default setting. Fear is a powerful force to be reckoned with, the polar opposite of love, with both human and spiritual dimensions. ( 2 Tim 1:7) At times like this I often ‘engage other help’, and have a trusted person to pray with me to break the oppression of fear, and be freed to receive both His peace and His thoughts, the ‘mind of Christ’, in order to know to pray and to act from a God centred perspective once more. Recently I have discovered that taking communion, the physical act of symbolically taking His body and blood into my body, and all that it represents, to be extremely powerful in evicting fear and negativity and bringing peace and love.

So, me in Him, and Him in me. These are some of the ways I have found myself responding to God recently. How about you?