Becoming charismatic (again)
In response to some patient friends who might stop visiting if I don’t post some of my life on this blog . . .
I haven’t, for several years now, been quite the “charismatic” that I used to be. Not that my theology changed (in theory), I just wasn’t living it. I don’t know what “charismatic” means to you. Maybe it means rolling around on the floor (which I’ve personally never done), but here’s what I mean by it, in terms of practice and attitude:
- My praise and adoration for God aren’t just in my head–I put my body and my heart into worshipping God and present myself for whatever he wants, publicly and privately. And I do it regularly and with a certain lack of dignity where helpful. (I have a sense of my own dignity that grows like a weed. I find that being undignified, or being willing to be so, in my worship or service of Jesus helps–Look up the definitions of “extol” and “exalt” or even “worship” if you need some biblical basis, and there’s more besides.)
- This giving of my emotional, mental and bodily attention and my offer of service to God (my whole being) has pretty nifty side effects. The more I do it, the less I care about my stuff and the more “the peace of Christ rules my heart”; the more I am unoffendable, impossible to threaten with harm. I know where/who my favorite persons are, who and where I am, and who’s ultimately in charge of things here. This personal peace means my walls come down. I don’t even care about how people see me, nor does bad news typically shake me, though it might sadden me. I become genuinely present and compassionate with people–and I actually see them. Not being consumed with my needs does wonders. I basically begin to just have “extra” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.–that Holy Spirit is quite the fellow.
- This actual caring for others and simultaneously communing with God leads to praying for others’ needs and hearing God’s thoughts about and for other people. I become a physical location through which God communes with people, and they see and hear from him as well. I become the temple of God. A few important subpoints here: First, of course this praying/listening to God for others includes times when I’m alone, but it’s also when I’m with people. I’m really looking at and listening to the person I’m with, and I’m doing the same with God at the very same time. It’s amazing the things God has to say to people and the effects are equally amazing, miraculous even. Some might say to me at this point, “Doesn’t that make it harder to hear the person you’re with if you’re trying to talk with God at the same time?” Not once you get used to it. And getting used to it usually means actually coming to terms with the fact that God is always part of your conversations anyway. He always has been, we just don’t always acknowledge or believe in or accept his presence in the way we do a physical person. And/or we don’t assume he has anything to say, or we assume he only wants to say things that are in tracts, or is limited to quoting scripture. Once you come to terms with the reality of his active, creative presence (whether we like it or not), and that he’s got a pretty large vocabulary and repertoire of available actions and emotions, it’s just a matter of time. It becomes a matter of not being rude and ignoring someone who’s right there; someone who happens to have more insight than either of you, someone who loves you both like no one else does or can. Which brings me to my second subpoint: God’s communications are “wholistic”, for lack of a better term, just like he is and you are. They’ve got feeling. They’ve got a human touch. He grips you with his thoughts and his feelings for someone so that you can communicate the whole package. We don’t typically believe God will do this through us, but we long for him deeply to communicate to us in this way. There’s a clue there via the Golden Rule. God’s best vehicle to communicate himself isn’t a billboard or a pamphlet or a book; it’s not even the Bible. His best vehicle is a living human being who embodies and obeys him. Obviously, Jesus was and is the prototype, but God’s taking on flesh and bone didn’t end with Jesus. It just began there. We are his living, acting, thinking, feeling sons and daughters, his vehicles of creative expression and action, or we are those of a much smaller inspiration. God doesn’t just want to fill your mind with some logical point to be made in a mechanical fashion. He wants to fill you with a logical point that has unbelievable emotional and physical consequences. He wants empathy, for his feelings and those of others. He wants us to embody, to surrender to, to hear his message(s) with our whole being, and you won’t have embodied all that he has to say in a hundred life-times, if you did it every second of every day. And then my final subpoint is a little more painful: he wants us to trust him, which in my experience has meant he didn’t feel the need to explain the whole deal to me before directing me to act in a wholistic way on whatever he did give me. I was given the “strong leading” once to just hug a guy I barely knew in the middle of a worship song. Since I care about how people see me, and since this guy had his eyes closed, and probably didn’t know my last name, I really wanted to give him a verbal warning like “Hey.” or “Hi.” first. But I got this sick feeling in my stomach like I was chickening out and disobeying God if I did that. So after sweating through one song and halfway through another one, I reluctantly hugged him, full on. And he hugged me back without ever knee-jerking away. And he broke down. And a tear or two came down my cheek as we kept embracing. For a while. After it was done he told me that his dad is one of those always tearing-him-down types and he was just saying to God before I hugged him, repeatedly, “I just need to know what you think of me.”
These are things I’ve experienced but have let go of over the last 4 or 5 years. There are lots of reasons, but that’s another post. I’m pursuing again a kind of wholistic practice of worship and love that I learned from some dear folks who were willing to be called charismatics. I hope to do the label justice soon, and be consistent out in the world that thinks it’s alone. Thank you, Father, Son & Spirit, for your patience and for continuing to talk and act for me and for all of us. Thank you, Jesus.