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(AN INVITATION INTO THE SUPERNATURAL)
I don’t want a minimal life! I want to understand the main thing about life & pursue it.
—John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
It is the nature of stone to be satisfied. It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else.
—from the poem Gravel, by Mary Oliver
We’ve all heard the stories of successful executives, entrepreneurs, or just ordinary people who decided to walk away from their “envied lives” and live out the longing of their inner selves. We often quickly dismiss their actions as simply the impulsive knee-jerk response of people who will probably come to their senses later. We expect that sooner or later, they will wander back to join the “regular rats” in the race—a.k.a. the “normal life.”
Thomas Kelley was a Quaker missionary. He captured our inner longing for a deeper life:
We feel honestly the pull of many obligations and try to fulfill them all. And we are unhappy, uneasy, strained, oppressed, and fearful we shall be shallow…. We have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hum(‘ existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and If only we could slip over into that center. We have seen and known some people who have found this deep center living, where the fretful calls of life are integrated, where NO as well as YES can be said with confidence.
Many of us may need to confess that we, too, wish till life that has a deeper meaning. Like Solomon in Ecclesiastes, we realize the futility of a life lived for things. We long for depth. We long for meaning. And we long for inner tranquility. A time and place where the noise ceases and we hear the “still, voice” of the Spirit clearly.
The questions that haunt our minds are:
- What does it mean to live deeper?
- How can I can I experience a deeper spiritual life?
- What would my life look like if I lived deeper instead of living on a superficial level?
“Superficiality is the curse of our age,” Richard J. Foster says in Celebration of Discipline. “The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
Solomon uses the word vanity over and over. “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity’” Ecclesiastes 1:2—NKJV). He saw life as having:
- No profit (vv. 3,4): Nothing we do changes the results.
- No purpose (vv. 5-7): We keep repeating the same things and nothing changes.
- No progress (vv. 8-11): Nothing we do makes any difference.
What are the characteristics of the superficial life? We live superficial life when we attempt to fill the emptiness of the and with the acquisition of one more thing. For some, it’s the addiction] to shopping, while the “tool junkie” has amassed more toys” from Home Depot than he’ll ever use.
The superficial life is the tendency to easily dismiss people who don’t live up to our expectations. People are cut off after months or a year. We flippantly sever the cords and discard friends or family members who no longer fill a need in our lives. They’re unloaded like yesterday’s garbage.
Like Solomon’s, our journey through life is headlined by our unsatiable quest for more, even when the last acquisition loses its luster faster than the previous one. We’re empty. We’re weary.
We become narcissistic.
Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity (1 John 2:16-17—The Message).
To discover the deeper life, we must first go back to the beginning, back to the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve had something special:
- They walked with God in total innocence. They had no knowledge of sin. They knew only the holy presence of God and days filled with sweet communion as they walked with their Creator.
- They lived in complete harmony. Nothing in their environment was out of alignment. Everything in the created order was in its place. There was no animosity. The lion would lie down with the lamb. The majestic eagles would fly with the simple sparrows. The rivers knew and respected their boundaries. There were no floods, no devastating tsunamis.
- They walked with God in absolute obedience to his Word. Each day as they filled their role as stewards, Adam would rehearse the warning, of Jehovah to Eve: “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die” (Genesis 2:1 6-1 7—NLT).
When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost their relationship with God. Since that time, we’ve come to life with an innate sense that something was lost. We long to live a deeper life, but how?
As we explore what it means to go deeper, consider Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 47:
In my vision, the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing east from beneath the door of the Temple and passing to the right of the altar on its south side. The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the water flowing out through the south side of the east gateway. Measuring as he went, he took me along the stream for 1,750 feet and then led me across. The water was up to my ankles. He measured off another 1,750 feet and led me across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet it was up to my waist. Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to walk across. It was deep enough to swim, but too deep to walk through (Ezekiel 47:1-5—NLT).
Here are some characteristics of the deeper life:
- God initiates the deeper life.
- The deeper life requires our obedience in following God.
- The deeper life is a process. One level must lead to the next.
- The deeper life is measurable.
- The deeper life changes the landscape of my life.
It’s interesting that we are introduced to the metaphor of “the river” in Genesis 2:10 and we conclude with the river in Revelation 22:1-2.
Walking with God is about answering the clarion call of the Holy Spirit to go deeper. It is life lived below the froth and the foam of religious activity. It is intentionally moving away from empty cliches and numbing rituals.
Maybe you’re a new Christian. Stop! Before you go any further, this would be a good time to answer the call to a life of deep devotion. Envision the kind of Christian you want to be at the end of your life. What will you need to do today to achieve that? Resist the temptation to fish in the wrong pond.
If you’re in the middle of the journey, you have the miles behind you to remind you that the journey ahead isn’t worthwhile if there’s no depth to the relationship with Christ. The answer isn’t to give up on your faith—the answer is to achieve a deeper faith, faith in Christ alone.
If for you the shadows of evening are quickly approaching, there is still time to pause. The few weeks, months, or years ahead could be the most precious. The end could be, and should be, better than the beginning. There is still time to discover life you’ve always wanted. Jesus called it abundant life!
We don’t live the deeper life unless we’re sick of the U we’re living. There must be the red-hot flame of holy discontent. In the following chapter, we’ll delve deeper, but before we there we must be painfully honest. Each of us must answer these questions:
- In what areas of your life do you feel shallow?
- In what areas of your life has the Holy Spirit convicted you?
- In what areas of your life do you face increased temptation to sin?
- In what areas of your life do you find yourself living contrary to what you believe?
A STEP ON THE JOURNEY:
Dear Father, I confess that until now I have been contented to live in the shallow waters of spirituality. My life has been more about duty and Hess about devotion. I have allowed outward expression to become the essence of who I am even when I have Hacked deep conviction. Please forgive me. Long ago I traded courage for comfort, knowledge for intimacy, and works for worship. Ultimately, rules became more important than a relationship with you. I now invite the Holy Spirit to lead me on a new journey into a deeper life. Amen!
I wasted an hour one morning beside a mountain stream, I seized a cloud from the sky above and fashioned myself a dream, In the hush of the early twilight, far from the haunts of men, I wasted a summer evening, and fashioned my dream again. Wasted? Perhaps. Folk say so who never have walked with God, when lanes are purple with lilacs and yellow with goldenrod. But I have found strength for my labors in that one short evening hour. I have found joy and contentment; I have found peace and power. My dreaming has left me a treasure, a hope that is strong and true. From wasted hours I have built my life and found my faith anew. – Unknown
The above article, “Deeper” is written by Chester Mitchell. The article was excerpted from chapter 18 of Mitchell’s book The Gravel Road to Heaven.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
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