Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
Being still before God these last four days has made me realize a few things.
Number One: Being still before God doesn't need to be complicated.
Number Two: I can still be in God's presence even though He feels completely far away.
Being still before God requires no perfect chair, no perfect time of day, no perfect moment. It requires no perfect frame of mind, no perfect attitude, no perfect night's sleep. It requires no perfect outfit, no perfect set of ears or praying experience or wisdom.
It requires one thing. You.
It requires you showing up.
It requires you being alert.
It requires you wanting to see God.
A few days ago I shared with you how I wanted to do an experiment--spend a few set minutes every day, for a week, being still before God. I wanted to discover what it would be like to experience a week intentionally sitting still for 15 minutes before God, without doing a thing (no writing, no listening to music, no talking to Him, no even trying to actively listen to what He might be saying).
I wanted to just be with Him. I wanted to sit next to Him. I wanted to be near Him, at His feet, curled up so my shoulder tucked up against His chest. I wanted to close my eyes and focus on Him, His goodness, His completeness, His wholeness, His safety, His hugeness (yes, such a sophisticated word, I know).
And I asked if you wanted to do it with me. And see what happens. And a lot of you said you were 'in'. (You are so beautiful.)
So I decided to jump in here and share with you how it has been going for me so far--especially as there is a bunch of you who are doing this experiment with me. (Do you know how awesome that is?--that we, together, as sisters, are sitting together, with God?) I really hope, in a comment, you share with me how you're doing with this so far.
For me, my experiences on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were pretty fun. This is what I did: when no one was around me and the house was quiet--because the other family members were at school or at work or, in the early mornings, sleeping--I set the timer on my phone and crawled up on the couch in my writing studio or into the chair in our family room and closed my eyes. That's it. I just got in a quiet place and closed my eyes and desired to sit still with God.
Rather than speaking to Him--and rather than listening for His voice--rather than listening to music about Him--and rather than reading scripture--I simply sat down, with eyes closed, and thought about God. I attempted to not communicate to Him. No desires. No worries. No fears. No confession. Rather, I tried to sit with Him, sit in the same space with Him, wherever He wanted me to be. I wanted to simply be aware of His love--both His love for me, which, of course is amazing to think about--but also, His love, in general.
In the stillness with Him, I waited for Him. And I thought about Him. My desire to turn my every thought to God's love kept me more present with God.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7).
On those three days the time flew by. I set my timer for 15 minutes and I was present with Him, in the moment. My soul was quiet and awake. It was open space, uncrowded by distraction or unwelcome thoughts. I centered my mind, my soul, my presence on being with God, being in the presence of Jesus. And for those three days, I was.
And it was amazing.
And then Sunday morning happened.
It was early, the house completely quiet--the dog passed out on the floor, and those 15 minutes were not at all the same experience as the previous three days. My mind could not stay in one place. I could not rein in my crazy thoughts; one annoying thought led to another. And these thoughts weren't at all about God, but about seemingly random stuff that I really didn't want to be thinking about so early on a Sunday morning. That wasn't the plan!
I listened to Bill Johnson say once how one's thoughts during times with God are perhaps not so random. A thought that occurs to us during our time with God--about a situation or a person--might be God actually whispering to our heart about something good He wants us to know or take care of. A thought about a person might be because that is someone whom the Father actually wants us to be thinking about, loving, caring for. Sometimes, these thoughts during times in prayer are God's whispers, and an opportunity for us to respond. But, not always. And that wasn't what I think was going on with me on Sunday. At all.
I think I was distracted and tired. I think I didn't feel God close, even though my head told me He was. I think I was wanting the same awesome, beautiful, intense experiences I had had the other days with Him. I wanted to think about His hand touching my cheek. I wanted to think about His smile, His tenderness, His compassion, His all-consuming love that I can barely begin to comprehend. But I didn't. Not even close.
Which brings us back to my realization Number Two:
We can still be in God's presence even though He feels completely far away.
And I think that's okay. But I also know this: I know that sometimes, when we are hurt and when we are scared and when we feel totally alone, God's apparent absence doesn't feel at all okay.
Not one bit. I know.
But on Sunday, when I felt just empty space and the frustration of experiencing random streams of thought rather than the peace and joy and fulfillment of God's presence, I remembered two words that God whispered to me on Friday: "Please stay."
So here is realization Number Three:
When your heart has trouble feeling God close, your head can help you remember He truly is.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
Sister, I pray you know God loves you and delights in you being with Him.
Isn't His love simply, the most amazing thing?
So, this being still and quiet before the Lord? Let's keep doing it.
Tell me how it's going. Let's encourage each other on.
What have been your realizations or experiences so far? We need to hear what you have to say.