It has become a bit of a frustrating game with the Lord the past couple of years. The way we interact has changed and so the way He tends to speak to me has been changing. It has been comical in a sense because I find myself in a kind of argument, two ways with God that He isn’t speaking to me. I caught myself in this silly exchange - laughed out loud and realized that I am hearing God, just differently than before!
One particular argument has gone like this. “Father, please show me the way, the way through this situation, this issue in my life. Please show me the way!” No sooner do I end my thought and I hear “I am the way.” I would rebut “No Father, you know what I mean - Please show me the way.” and hot on the heels of my trailing syllable is His kind but deliberate “Michael, I am the way.”
To be honest, I was frustrated by the response but would smile and say “Oh Father” and be on my way just as frustrated as before. After a number of these kinds of exchanges, I finally asked Him what He meant. He smiled and seemed to say - “This is a much better question.”
Kierkegaard said life is best understood looking backward, but as we all know we have to live life forwards. Looking back it is apparent; He was leading me back to an area we had previously spent a great deal of time - His present presence. It was a paradigm shift in my faith life - a shift from how to whom. Christianity at is best is indeed all about love and this love is in Jesus - the person of Jesus not a relationship with what He has done or what He will do, rather the person of God.
I am reminded of a Hasidic Jewish story.
"A young man asked Reb Yerachmiel ben Yisrael “Rebbe, what is the way to God?” The rebbe paused and looked up from his work and replied: “There is no way to God because God is not other than here and now. The truth you seek is not hidden; you simply do not notice it. It is here for you if you will only awake."*
This transition is really at the core of what many may describe as religion - peoples effort to find god with a focus on the right kinds of effort - to a relational, incarnational paradigm where God is indeed present. It is more about the present presence of God - a shift from how to whom. The question is answered in the person of God. Jesus said I am the Way, the truth and the life... Jesus is the WAY & the WHOM.
This is an important shift in many ways. First, we are awakened to the reality that God is present with us in each and every moment. We learn that we are not alone, we find comfort, and it infuses each task, conversation and decision with meaning. This in itself is really powerful.
Second, we connect God with our everyday, physical reality - there is no longer a separation between secular and sacred. For Christians, it's all sacred.
Third, it turns 'have to’s' into 'get to’s'! This means that thing that may have been laborious and done out of religious obligation can take on new life - no longer in an effort to strain to get Gods attention, favor, love or salvation (we already have that in Jesus). Rather, those practices that perhaps we have found a burdensome take on new life and vitality when out from under a cloud of religious obligation.
(* I read the Hasidic Jewish story on David Brenner's blog.)