Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus fellowshipped with Adam.
It was in the garden, where the two of them walked side by side and talked face to face in the cool of the evening. Jesus met Adam in his full humanity, where life sprang forth both in and around Adam.
It took me a long time to learn that it’s OK to be human and that God wanted to meet me too in my full humanity.
Performance Verses Life
For most of my life, my biggest challenge was a performance and goal-oriented personality, which could never relax.
For a long time, I couldn’t recharge my internal batteries and renew my soul by taking joy in simple things, chllin’ out, or doing “non-productive” fun things that – if I let them – could renew life in me.
Eventually, the Lord changed all that through some very painful things that took me to the end of myself.
On the other side of that process, I finally realized something that made a huge impact on my life: Jesus chose to meet Adam in the place that brought life and joy to Adam, which was Adam’s garden. Likewise, He delighted in meeting me in the things that most resonated with my whole humanity.
Tending to Eden was the activity that caused life to well up within and around Adam, because that’s what Adam was created to be and do.
I came to realize that it was no accident that Jesus delighted in meeting him where Adam’s full humanity came alive.
Too often, we put some heavy performance-based crap on young Christians – you must read your Bible every day, you must get on your knees and pray 15 minutes every day, you must go to church every week (or maybe even twice a week if you’re really serious about breaking through to God), blah, blah, blah.
Some do the same thing with an “existential” kind of spiritual mysticism – which imposes their own, overly intense perception of what it means to be in Christ or be His Church on others. Lately, it has become the new legalism: “be the church”, “it’s all about relationship”, “deeper life”, “root before fruit”, blah, blah, blah.
It all comes down to you must do this and you must do that, or you must be this and must be that, if you ever want to hear and please God – and is all focused on ought, ought, ought. Otherwise, you have no hope of convincing God to even feign interest in you or dwell within you.
Maybe that sort of thing works for you, but not for me (or most believers I know, if they are willing to be honest about it).
Our God-Given Uniqueness
Consider Adam. He didn’t have to do anything special to earn God’s attention. He just needed to be Adam – the gardener – who did what naturally brought him life and joy because it was at the core of who God created him to be.
By simply being Adam as God created Him to be Adam, he experienced the full measure of his God-given humanity – which God then delighted in also experiencing as they walked and talked together in the garden.
Each of us is created by God differently. There are activities and places that uniquely resonate with our unique humanity because they tap into who we are at our most basic level.
For Adam, it was gardening and his garden.
King David, on the other hand, was created to be a shepherd and his soul was restored in green pastures and besides quiet waters (see Psalm 23:3). Those activities and places brought life and renewal to David – they resonated with who he was, at the very center of his being, because they fulfilled who God created him to be.
Because God met David at the place and in the activities that resonated with his unique core humanity, he could then walk through very dark times – and even through the valley of the shadow of death – renewed and without fear of evil (see Psalm 23:4).
Our Integrated Humanity
God created us as embodied beings, with flesh and emotions, and with likes and dislikes. There are some things each of us do that energize and renew us, while other things that drain and fatigue us – and these are different for each of us.
Sometimes we can’t avoid the necessity of doing things that drain and fatigue us, but we must never, ever neglect those things that restore us.
We need to renew not only our spirit, but also our body and soul. In doing so, we generate life and joy because we are being the integrated, whole and complete human that God created us to be.
In contrast to the “deeper life” mysticism of some, He created us to be integrated beings – body, soul and spirit (regardless of how you parse them out theologically).
It has never been Christ’s intent to enslave our rejuvenated “souls” (our reason, emotions and feelings) or physical bodies to some disjointed concept of “spirit”, or enslave our spirit to an unrejuvenated soul or body.
In Christ, it is our whole humanity that is redeemed by becoming complete and alive through Him.
In Christ, we find new life – which includes the freedom to be the whole, integrated person He created us to be.
When we finally realize this, God delights in meeting us there – where we can then talk and walk together as we experience the fulness of life together.
Doing from Being
God never intended for us to be all “spirit” or to only find renewal in purely “spiritual” things. Rather, I now believe, the so-called “spiritual” activities – such as reading scripture, praying, meditating on Him, gathering with other believers, and the like – should normally spring from life and not necessarily be performance-based prerequisites to life.
It’s not an either/or, however – God can meet us wherever and however He wants! But He created us to fellowship with Him as we experience authentic life from being and doing what He created us to be and do.
Most of us have it backwards. We work so hard and consume what life and joy we have as we try to earn God’s favor and attention by striving to be good and proper Christians – often in conformance to someone else’s individual concepts, expectations and demands.
We work at reading the Bible and praying each day, or relating to others as His church in some cookie-cutter way, or doing whatever else someone tells us is needed to achieve their idea of “mature discipleship”, “deeper life” or “spiritual” perfection. It sucks the life out of us and our churches, and we then wonder why God finds no joy in meeting us there and fret over why our faith has become so dry.
Try life instead! Try doing those things that arise from and resonate throughout the whole of your humanity! Then see if Jesus doesn’t show up to share the fun and the joy as you experience the full measure of who He created you to be!
Stop trying to earn or deserve God’s pleasure.
Stop conforming to your own – or someone else’s – efforts, timing and agenda.
Stop listening to others who want you or your church to fit into their cookie-cutter concept of Christ – as though their perceptions and how He created them is normative for all.
It just doesn’t work.
When we experience life – based on how God uniquely created us – other things like reading scripture and prayer follow naturally out of passion, rather than “ought-ness”. They become the natural fruit of life, rather than a mechanical list of “oughts” that we must do to supposedly invoke God’s joy, presence and blessing.
If I could impart any one nugget of wisdom to new believers, it would be this: Don’t neglect those things that renew your spirit and also your soul and body.
Along those lines, don’t try to spiritualize everything; there are more aspects to our God-given humanity than just the spiritual.
And don’t think that “spiritual” pursuits or activities are enough to always produce life and renewal in your whole being. Sometimes they will bring life, but you can’t always rely on those alone because God created us to be integrated people: spirit, soul and body (again, regardless of how you parse those out doctrinally).
Recharge Your Batteries
For me, flying my plane recharges my batteries and restores my soul. So does taking time to shut out all distractions and quietly read a good book, or staring off into vast vistas, or spending time talking with a particularly close friend. These are not “spiritual” pursuits, but without them I become emotionally raw and spiritually empty as my energy drains away.
God in His mercy can certainly meet me in my physical weariness and emotional exhaustion, and sometimes does. He can also meet me at “Bible study time” or while coming to Him in my exhaustion to pray, and sometimes does.
But I find more times of significant fellowship with Him when I’m poking holes in the clouds with my plane at 8,000 feet, reading an engaging book (and not – please, please don’t tell anyone I said this – necessarily the Bible!), sharing a meal with some friends, sitting on a rocky ledge staring off into a valley thousands of feet below, or fishing in my canoe on a quiet creek in the light of early dawn.
Those are the things that resonate with how God uniquely created me.
I also experience God’s presence when I teach and when I write, or when I’m counseling and mentoring young men, or when I’m finding vision and direction for His people, or when I’m seeing how the building blocks fit together for a new or existing ministry – because those activities arise from the gifts God created in me.
Where God Meets Us
Whether flying, absorbed in grappling with some new concept, quietly watching the sun rise while enjoying a cup of coffee, or just chillin’ out on a still lake, I become centered, complete and renewed. God then shows up and we enjoy some of our best times together.
When that happens, I may break out in joyous song, deep conversational prayer or joyful thanksgiving. Sometimes I am passionately compelled to open my Bible and read scripture. And sometimes I just bask in His presence and do nothing.
You see, when God meets me in life, He lets me know what He wants me to do, whether it be reading scripture, or praying, or praising, or giving thanks, or sitting silent before Him, or whatever else He deems appropriate based on who He created me to be. And I do it because I am renewed in joy, rather than compelled by “ought-ness”.
Like Adam in his garden, do and be what naturally brings joy, energy and refreshing to your whole person – spirit, soul and body – because it resonates with what God created you to do and be. Then see if God doesn’t show up to also delight in the life that arises in and around you.
Because it’s there, in life, that He most desires to walk and talk with us.
~ Jim Wright
Works doesn’t bring joy. That’s Pharisaical law. When Jesus was making the triumphal entry, he said if you will not rejoice the rocks will cry out with joy. God is in everything, because he created everything. God wants us to enjoy being with him in his creation.
Like you, some of my most intimate moments with Jesus is when I’m sitting in my back yard, watching the birds nest, the ducks on the lake. I take a book, and most of the time it’s not my Bible, sit, read and peace flows into and through me. I go to the reservoir, sit on the grass and just stair out at the water, while eating a cheeseburger and coke. Many times I feel as if God is sharing my cholesterol binge with me. Those are the sweetest moments.
Perhaps this is a comment on the previous comment rather than on the blog. Work and works can bring joy if you are doing the work God has created you to do. God put Adam in the garden to tend and keep it. In doing that task he had sweet fellowship with God. Jim, sounds like God created you to fish and fly planes. Colleen, perhaps God created you to read books in your back yard. Anyway, serve the Lord with gladness.
God invites us to be in His presence as the defining reality of our lives. We don’t have to spend hours alone in a quiet place, but live in His presence 24/7 with our spiriutal anteni (spelling?) atuned to Him. We can go about our busy lives in an attitude of Mary, always sitting at the feet of Jesus, in complete devotion to Him
Sure ‘nuf! “Fearfully and wonderfully made” is how David described himself as a creation of God.
How wonderful to finally accept ourselves as the whole human which Father created us to be. He is so wonderfully present in His creation, and when we are in the midst of His beauteous vistas, or conversing with a friend, we are refreshed, indeed!
In 1991, a son photographed me hugging Mickey Mouse at Disney World. I keep this image (glued to laminate, in stand-up fashion) where I can glance up at it occasionally. It makes me grin, and keeps me from taking myself too seriously…HA!
In this life we get ahead by hard work, but in God’s kingdom we are released from that type of orientation. We don’t have to “Work a good work to be pleasing to God”. God is pleased with us and when we meet him in our special place and in our special ways he is still pleased with us.
I find that I don’t need a special formula to win God’s approval. In my younger days I tested the theories. (Be a Good Methodist, Be A Good Christian) But it was only after I had come to him in the still of the night and confessed my confusion and dissappointment and acknowledge him as supreme, did any of this “Christianity” make any sense.
Jesus Christ now had my full and undivided attention, he wanted the core of me! (My heart) I turned it all over to him. It is up to God to do the “work” in me. As I now wanted to go to church every Sunday, it was no longer a dreary chore that I did not want to do, but something that I wanted to do gladly.
I think that the problem with “Works” is that these are not things we really really want to do, but things that we feel that we “have” to do and when we do them in an attitutude of (I gotta do this or else) then our works become tainted with the foul stench of self. It’s “See what I did?”, it doesn’t win us friends nor does it influence others for the better, but brings forth an air of competition. The competition doesn’t bring about any good thing instead it brings about feelings of failure if the work doesn’t produce the same level of satisfaction each and every time.
But when we are doing something with a servant’s heart or a heart of humility then there is no competitive spirit to deal with. We inspire others to follow suit because they see the enjoyment on our faces and in our attitude. It’s the fruit of the spirit that is flowing through us, because we are renewed in our spirit by the fellowship we feel when we commune with our Creator.
🙂 good Bro
That’s sounds really wonderful but I struggle with a question. If I always do what I’m naturally driven to do, won’t I get a wrong way? I mean, I naturally want to be lazy, selfish, impatient etc. Don’t I need to be shelf controlled? Doesn’t it need great effort?
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What do I think? I think that was a splendid blog post, Jim. Awesome. And it’s something we need to hear and relax into.
Papa loves me and he loves you, just as we are, doing what we do. Nothing I can do will make him love me one jot more, or less.
So I say let’s bless one another, and smile the deep smile of knowing we’re fully accepted.
Here’s a blessing for you, for Marianne, and for all the readers and commenters. I bless you in Jesus name, that you may find ever deeper peace and joy, energy and courage, fulfilment and joy in the things you each love to do.