Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

WisBits Archive

October 2010

Companion--Not 911 Emergency Operator

You may have heard me say that people have reduced God to a 911 emergency operator who quickly and cleverly cures all our ills. In crisis, people contact God and trust God as never before. While this is good, what isn’t so good is that when they aren’t in crisis, they don’t stay in contact with God. As a result, they miss out on God’s great intention to be the companion of our soul all day long. The upshot is that God is used more than God is loved.  We pay attention to God mostly for how God is useful to us, not out of love for God’s own self.

When we fall into this kind of thinking, we prefer hearing sermons and reading books about taking care of problems and fixing ourselves rather than knowing God. Healing what is broken is part of what the spiritual life is about, but there is more.  There is the possibility of living our entire with life with God. That close connection with God results in our being transformed into the kind of person we have always wished we’d become.

This God-is-more-than-problem-solver view challenges the notion that we need problems because they are the primary thing that brings us closer to God. This view implies that spiritual growth is fueled mostly by leaning on God during crisis and then onto the horrific idea that God routinely heaps crises upon us just to make us grow.  (Think about that view of God—that God heaps trouble on us. Is that how good parents treat their children and get them to grow?) It’s a radical thought to many Christians that they can have the same close connection with God all the time that they thought was possible only during crisis moments. How does this happen? they wonder.

Our bond with God grows as we learn to continually listen to God with the heart and mind opened wide. This allows for constant contact with God. We can draw our life from a this conversational relationship with God. We can have ‘a life beyond.’ (In Search of Guidance p. 239) That life beyond invades all of earthly life—pulling us away from distractions, showing us how our character flaws are silly and useless, then drawing us into selfless service to Christ. The world becomes less centered in us and more centered in God. Julian of Norwich put it this way:  “Our soul is made to be God’s dwelling-place; and the dwelling-place of the soul is Godľ. Prayer oneth  the soul to God.” (Great Devotional Classics, p. 26,30)

You can see how this affects our prayer.  We still come to God with requests.  But we also come to God just to be with God because we know God is for us and created us to be with us. When we have requests, we come not with instructions for God—do this!—but with an open mind, asking God to work in us, to reframe our ideas and open us up to new thoughts.

This also affects how we come to church. We don’t drag our impoverished selves to get recharged for another week. While we will no doubt hear and experience helpful things at church, we do not come drained because God has been our companion all week long. We more likely come rather overflowing so that we give as well as to receive.

May you enjoy this life with God and invite others into this possibility too. (Some of this is adapted from When the Soul Listens p. 71.)

Grace and peace,
Jan Johnson




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