Imagine driving down a country freeway. You look out the window as you pass a rusty, half broken down trailer, being slowly eaten away by the weather. If you are like me, this moment fills with delight as you stare into the beauty of Jesus right there on the side of that road, rusting away.
What? That’s not what came to your mind? Rusty trailers don’t become encounters with God for you too?
Then I suppose I better back up a few steps and explain.
At the end of December, I published a post called The Satisfied Life. If you haven’t read it yet, please do, or you’ll miss some of what this post is about (click here to read). God had started teaching me how to rest. Frankly, I have been failing at it pretty consistently. I mean, after all, how does one “do” rest? How do you “do” “just be?” I’m finding myself not alone in this struggle. My friend Esther expresses this process best in her recent post, His Grace. She says:
“I know where I should be at emotionally… but my heart isn’t fully there yet. I’m sad. I’m tired of the process.
Learning. Growing. Trying. Failing. Striving. Resting.
As I read her post, I felt so liberated by it. Like the author of Hebrews, I realized that although the rest of salvation has already been freely given to us, we have to wrestle, to push, to enter that rest. (Heb 4:11) It seems like a contradiction, but that’s when the value of learning becomes so key. Learning means I don’t know it all. Learning means I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better at it. Learning means I fail, make mistakes, and miss it along the way, but I keep growing. We learn to rest.
And there are layers to learning to rest. Here are the ones I’ve been exploring.
Layer 1: Be– The first gift God gave you is being. Before you ever made a decision, before you even had a heartbeat, you were. It’s not simply “what gifts has God given me?” It’s “My very existence is his greatest gift.” Look at the garden. Man was commanded to what? “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) Notice that in this command, Adam is told to do two things he already naturally does by simply “being.” To have dominion is simply to walk in the gift of authority he was already walking in as head of creation, and the second is to take his own being and reproduce it over the whole earth. To fill the earth with “being.” It was never a “doing” lifestyle, it was a “being” lifestyle. Man corrupted this gift through choosing to find his being apart from God in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but Jesus came to restore the gift of being. To rest is, at its core, a command to “just be.” Think of what you do when you rest. You sit. You sleep. You eat. You aren’t very productive, you are simply taking care of whatever you need to to be the most healthy and whole version of yourself. To rest is a process of returning to what is most fully you.
Layer 2: Know His Being– God’s first declaration of his nature is “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14) Just as we are called to
rest by just being, we experience God by experiencing His being. He never changes, He never strives, He never loses His temper, and nothing ever catches Him off guard. He is always at peace, always joyful, always loving, always living life to the fullest. God is the “I AM.” He is the ever resting one, who exists, and causes all things to exist because of His character–His being. Because God is, all things are. We have to seek to know God, not by striving to somehow earn His affections or to prove our devotion, but by experiencing His constant being. As we choose to “just be,” we can choose to freely receive the Being of the Uncreated One. Remember, knowledge is an experience. Cease striving and know.
Layer 3: Experience the “Logos” in all creation– This is a weird and slightly theological way of saying that you are meant not only to be, but to be in harmony with all the “being” of everything around you. I expound upon this in my Satisfied Life post more than I will here, but you are meant to feel God in all creation. This is easier with things like nature, and much harder in things like your annoying neighbor or dorm-mate. The character, beauty, and personality of God are singing forth from all creation, but we rarely hear it. As you learn to just be, you must also learn to let everything else “just be.” Not meaning passively accepting everything as “just the way it is,” but instead asking “how do I see God in this?” and then experiencing the response.
It is layer 3 that humanity often misses entirely. We know ourselves, we know God in the Bible and our “devotion” times, but we don’t see or feel Him in everything. There’s God, then there’s the rusty trailer, but we often fail to see God in the rusty trailer.
At this point you may be saying “well, I can see God in the tree, but God didn’t make that piece of junk. People did.” True, but who made the people? Who made the iron, the wood, the creativity that birthed that thing you now call junk? Who made the earth that is eating it, or the invisible force that is slowly returning the iron to dust? What holds every fiber of that piece of junk together? How is it that this junk even gets to exist in the moment you look at it? Something is at work in that crumbling relic of modern man that is eternally captivating. Look closer and you’ll see it.
Isaiah didn’t see it. He was religious, but didn’t feel especially close to God. He was a kind of “go with the flow” person, living and loving the status quo, talking the same old talk as everyone else. I’m sure that much like me, he often looked around at the brokenness of the world– the sin, the evil, the destruction –and thought God distant. He probably looked at the rusting junk laying in the dirt and felt nothing. But one day, this man had a visitation.
As he went to pray, he saw the Lord of Glory filling the temple. Blinding light, smoke, a throne, and six winged angels with bone shaking voices, crying out “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is the Lord Almighty! The whole earth is filled with His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3, emphasis mine) He immediately realized he had been blind, and living a life of corruption. Then God set him free.
I can only imagine Isaiah’s surprise as he meditated on the haunting, overwhelming phrase the angels kept repeating. The whole earth is filled with His glory. What a paradigm shift.
But God, what about war? The whole earth is filled with His glory. What about poverty? The whole earth is filled with His glory. What about all the pollution and waste? The whole earth is filled with His glory. cleansed him by touching him with it. Once the fire of God had touched him, he freely volunteered to go forth as God’s voice, letting his people know that like him, they too were blind to the truth.
I’m not saying that evil is good, and good evil. I’m saying that within all things the glory of God can be seen. Somewhere within the being of every thing on this planet, God is there. His nature may have been abused, twisted, perverted, or covered over, but it is there somewhere. When you see from the perspective of the angels, there is nowhere you can look in the whole earth that is not filled with the glory of God.
Listen to the rocks. You can hear them groaning for the day when they can fully reveal that glory. All creation awaits that day when it will be restored so that its glory is impossible to miss. Everything is meant to reveal God. All things can be enjoyed to the measure that they reveal God, and all things to some measure reveal Him. As Christians, it is our privilege to rest. From this place of rest, we can reveal to the world what is God in the junk around us, and what is perversion.
Jesus wants all to see that He can be found in an old, rusty metal trailer on the side of the road. There is glory all around you, do you see it?