Living from the Bottom of My Soul

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?

Psalm 42:1–2

Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1–2

I want to live from the very bottom of my soul.

What do I mean? And do I really?

Maybe I can put it this way: I have a desire to be more authentic (cue contemporary buzzword), so that who I am becoming in Christ and how I live are much more congruent with one another. That my outward actions would more fully reflect my deepest self.

Then again.

Part of me also wants to escape: from responsibilities, obligations, and from whatever might lead to anxiety and uncertainty and threaten my little bubble of comfort. Frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to deal with life.

But I can’t live a life where I get to have both: a life of deep spiritual resonance and purpose on the one hand and a life of relative comfort and minimal responsibility on the other. To have the former means giving up the latter. One cancels out the other.

Because being the sort of person who sometimes just wants to zone out for a few hours on Netflix or Amazon Prime, who doesn’t like being uncomfortable or dealing with difficult circumstances or feeling stress, means that becoming someone who is spiritually mature is going to be painful.

To grow in Christ—or learning to live from the bottom of my soul—means allowing God to take his scalpel to my heart, to my desires, and to my motivations and to cut away whatever is there that prevents me from reaching deeper spiritual maturity. Even though it’s for my good, it’s still painful. None of us usually wants to undergo such spiritual surgery.

And so like most people, I will naturally do whatever I can to avoid experiencing pain. I will avoid doing stuff that will be hard even though it is beneficial in the long term. I will seek to numb myself to pain in all kinds of ways. I will cover my ears so that I don’t have to listen to what God wants me to hear.

As a result, I can end up with the appearance of spiritual depth, but none of the substance. I say I want to draw closer to God, but it’s only insofar as God conforms to my expectations and satisfies me on my terms. I want a God of my own choosing, not the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and of Paul, Peter, and John. I want God in a box, not a God who is sovereign over the heavens and the earth.

Or at least my worst habits and inclinations say so. What I believe with my lips doesn’t always work its way through to my hands and feet. The distance between my head and heart sometimes seems insurmountable. Truly, it’s a distance only God himself can cross.

And, yes, I do want to live from the bottom of my soul. And I want to want it more. I know that my desires are mixed, sullied, and in need of continual transformation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, as Jesus told the disciples in Gethsemane.

I know some of my own weaknesses. I’m aware of where I struggle to desire the presence of God in my life more fully. Because I know the Lord disciplines those he loves and that in the moment such discipline is painful (Hebrews 12:7–11), I sometimes opt to avoid God. I sidestep prayer. I skim along the surface of life.

I pray that God—revealed in the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit—would prompt my heart to seek him more intentionally, that by his grace I may find my desires more thoroughly renovated to conform to his good purposes for me. I pray that my willingness to experience the pain necessary for this process would deepen, if only because of the joy and peace that I can eventually know in some measure while in this life and then completely in the life to come.

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