Reading that Old Story Again

Until Christ takes us home, we must bask and be immersed in the Gospel.  The Spirit dwelling in you will continue to illumine the darkness, give understanding and delight, and grow you in Christlikeness, as you read and meditate in the Word.  It will never grow old or stale! This is a post inspired by a recent moment that was refreshing to my soul.

But first…

I have been spending much of my in-between-time reading Medieval Theology.  In those spare moments in between tasks/work/etc that our generation are typically drawn to social media, I try to read or go outside or do something creative. In read theologically, I have always tended towards the Reformation and the Puritans and the Confessing Church during the Kirchenkampf, and a few more modern favorites like Stott, Packer, Ferguson, Letham, Clowney…this is a long list actually…  

But as a mama who has the great privilege of homeschooling her children, and as we are studying Medieval European History, I decided to dig into some older writings.  I’ve read Anathasius and Augustine before, and a few portions of others, but have enjoyed the deep dive alongside the history books.  

In reading about medieval Christianity, I have of course pondered greatly the beginnings of monasticism, and the “spiritual practices” that became more defined. This was also a time when spirituality easily mixed with superstition, legend, superlative mediators (there is One true Mediator, Jesus Christ). 

There was a divide between those who were “spiritual” and those who were “regular” and this false dichotomy is still lurking in the hearts of many today. 

Monasticism flourished in a culture where many wanted to run away from the world, and the church would fund that.  Scriptures were twisted to support the idea that owning property was evil; so monks and nuns were able to be spiritual while the rest were entrenched in the evils of having to wear clothes that were not painfully scratchy, having shoes, having meals that satisfied hunger, etc.  Asceticism flourished as those who were “spiritual” tried to prove they hated their earthly life and all things fleshly by hurting themselves. 

We should not look back with yearning for the more simple times.  Those were not simple times, life is not somehow more difficult now. It was not easier to commune with God.

It may be, though, that to know the truth seems easier now, as we have unfiltered access to the Word of God. I am thankful to have a full copy of the Scriptures rather than just snippets, as some in Medieval times only had. And we have all been blessed by the faithful teachers who do not allegorize or literalize in order to keep us “regulars” under control.  

Is this false dichotomy still here today? 

I’ve encountered it every now and then, even in my own heart.  The misunderstanding that we have to have large swathes of time and space and a particular ambiance to dedicate to our ‘seeking the LORD.’  Only if we have that time, that space, that incense or other thing that aids in the sense of ‘the divine.’  O Beloved, He is always abiding in His people, no matter the surroundings, the ‘experience of beauty’ or other mountaintop experiential aids.  We worship in spirit and truth, not by isolating ourselves or following ascetic formulas.

We who have His Spirit are spiritual, and in this time, this space, we can enjoy His presence.  Sometimes, it is in the regularity of reading, or hearing the Word, that He will give you a moment of “ahhhhh” and it will carry you through–you journal it, and revisit it–but it is not hours of mindlessly reciting, or other variations on the Medieval lectio divina theme.  

Spiritual disciplines can be yours in any season of life; and they will be different in various seasons.  We must appreciate that, rather than assuming that in one season I can study Scripture, but as a mom of young children I cannot; or as a person with a regular office job starting early I cannot; or as a college student who must do well on exams I cannot…  There will always be a fleshly reason crouching at our door, tempting us to believe we are not meant to commune with God.  

Stand firm, pull out your sword, put to death those thoughts of the flesh!  Ask Him for wisdom on how to pursue the life of a Psalm 1 believer, who meditates on His Word; or a Psalm 42:5 who hopes in the midst of despair, clinging to the One who has words of eternal life.

One such season hit me recently, it was a daily battle to preach to my soul to remain steadfast, cling, boast in the cross, press on toward that which lies ahead…  but it is in His Word that He pulls us out, His word hidden in our heart, His word preached, His word read because we know it is the very daily bread we need.  (For more “how to,” come over for a cuppa and let’s chat! Or read here.).

She heard her name…

In John 20, Mary is downcast because Jesus died.  Her whole world is falling apart–so she thinks and feels.  But it is not!  At the tomb, she sees someone she assumes is the gardener.  When that Someone says her name, “Mary,” everything changes.  

Hope.  Fears assuaged.  Doubts answered.  Newness of life dawning in her inner man.  Excitement, perhaps?  

There will be a time when I will hear Jesus saying my name.  Not only has My God called me into communion with Himself, that I may experience here and now–but Jesus has promised to confess my name before the Father.

And when He takes me home, He will give me my new name.  It is this moment that we ought to ponder every now and then as we set our minds on things above.  What will that moment be like, when He says my name and brings me into my new home? 

What happens in your heart now, as you set your mind on things above, even though the here-and-now bogs you down, even just for a moment? Even on a busy day? What Spiritual Disciplines have you been avoiding because you thought they were for “more spiritual” Christians? Or less busy Christians? What will you do today, to set your mind on things above? This is the abiding life.   

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