I finished a book on Saturday. Finally. It was a good book, but sometimes it just takes me awhile. The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. The book is actually a collection of Willard’s writings from various sources with the main premice being that the church has lost the essence of Christianity: Being an Apprentice of Jesus. That we can learn how to live in an eternally healthy manner, the way we were designed to live, from an ongoing, generative relationship with a living personality: Jesus Christ. Our goal in the everydayness of life would be to live my life as Jesus would live my life if He were here:
- Love my friends and family as Jesus would
- Do my job as Jesus would
- Make financial decisions as Jesus would
- Treat the poor as Jesus would
- Spend my time as Jesus would
However, the objective of Willard’s point is NOT to direct people to “muscle up” and attempt to become driven by an intellectual, religious legalism. His point is to speak to the development of an ongoing life process which makes room for living in constant communication with God. The means to this generative interaction in the inner life with our creator which eventually directs our outer life is brought about through intentional activities traditionally called spiritual disciplines. Willard lists several:
- “solitude and silence
- prayer and fasting
- worship and study
- fellowship and confession”
These disciplines help us to begin living on a spiritual plane, or “life in the Spirit.” Willard explains:
“These disciplines are not, in themselves, meritorious or even required except as specifically needed. They do, however, allow the spirit or will– an infinitesimally tiny power, in itself, that we cannot count on to carry our intentions into settled, effectual righteousness (right living as human life was originally designed to live in healthy relations with God, others and ourselves–my definition) — to direct the body into contexts of experience in which the whole self is inwardly restructured to follow the eager spirit into ever-fuller obedience.”
These focussed activities allow us to begin to open ourselves to the voice of God in all the areas in which He speaks: The bible, nature, through others, directly to us, even in culture… God speaks when and where He chooses, using the means He chooses, yet His message agrees with itself no matter the venue or method. That is why we have to learn how to distinguish His voice from the noise of our life. The disciplines Willard lists, help us block out the noise of our harried lives and our propensity to plan and control our individual worlds in order to become present in Today….This moment. We listen. We observe. We live intentionally in the moment trusting that we are NOT the center of the universe and that is a GOOD thing. In other words, we fall in love.
My dad was a preacher and he constantly explained becoming christian as “falling deeply in love with Jesus Christ.” That explains it. When we fall in love, our life revolves around the one we love. We wait for the adrenaline rush of their call or seeing them at our door. Our desire is to spend every minute with them if it were possible, but because it isn’t, we stay in frequent contact and they are never far from our thoughts. However, we all know this rush of emotional desire doesn’t last. The attraction and relationship is begun in the fire, yet the initial scorching blast eventually subsides to be replaced by something else. Emotion may start the fire of love, but choice sustains it. Eventually, we begin to live with each other day by day. We have to learn about each other. Our love affair with Jesus is much the same. We don’t immediately know the timber of His voice, it must be learned. We actually don’t even know the depths of our own heart until He reveals it to us. There are deep beliefs upon which we build our lives of which we aren’t immediately conscious. Our battle becomes one between the disease of self-centeredness and the health of love for God, ourselves, and others which manifests itself in giving and servitude.
A love affair turns life upside down. That is its nature. When we are in love, other people know it by watching our life. Our actions are a witness to the power of the love we have given ourselves to.