Down the mountain

In the preparation you undergo for speaking on the scriptures, comes challenge of some of the tendencies that you have developed or fallen into as a person and so you find yourself being addressed by God first and sometimes in painful ways ... In Luke 9 we read of the transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus's transfiguration marks a moment of purpose-driven change. Peter, John and James see Jesus in a new way, and as much as they want to stay in that moment, they have to move on.... with a new way of understanding Jesus, and some anticipation of the things to come.

I too must move forward ... But how I would rather stay on the mountain-top! The trip back down from the mountain with Peter, John and James is one I share, as I move forward and take down my tent or in my case, the awning I had set up with my caravan at New Wine, Newark. I had erected in my imagination the hope that I could stay at the mountain-top forever, perhaps I always knew really that the gazebo has to come down when the party ends!

I, like Peter, have wanted only to stay put in the comfortable places and erect my tent to live in but I know God will overshadow me with a cloud just as he did the disciples that day the moment they began to secure their own comfort too. God moves me on, kicking and screaming but with the proviso that, not unlike Peter, James and John, all I am required to do, for my part, is to listen to the voice of his Son. The presence of God brings incredible light into our lives, but sometimes we really are shrouded in a cloud, Peter, James and John step out unaware of the cross and all it would bring, perhaps I do too.

I feel as though when I first met Jesus in a new way, just six years ago I stepped up that mountain and I didn't really come down again for a long time. I remember when the most scary and incredible words for me were 'Let's pray...' I would feel the current of the Holy Spirit in a gush and was almost afraid of showing the visible reactions in company, of a red, flushed face and shaking limbs. In some of the prayer situations I was involved in, the whole room pulsed with the movements of the Spirit and I could sense that the person I was praying for was about to slip away into that place of shalom-rest that can sometimes look like a faint or a collapse, that they call being 'slain in the spirit, don't they? I could catch a head falling into my hands if a person was sitting or I would shoot my prayer partner a glance to get ready to catch - timber!

I continue throughout the year to worship God in contexts where people fall to the floor, crying and laughing or being released in howls from all sorts of pain, where people cry from the front at the end of their preaching. I have my own times of being doubled-up with gut-pain, the pain of release as areas of unforgiveness in my life are being dealt with or past hurts and words are being handed-over to God. Not pretty. New Wine facilitates most of this stuff.

...I am a God-chaser. ...worship music, prayer gatherings... I really can't get enough. I will sit in company with other Christians and shoot arrow prayers up - please Lord, have someone suggest that we pray...please... it feels too dangerous and indulgent for me to suggest it and so I often leave it to others to initiate. Each year, I do mental gymnastics over whether to serve on the New Wine summer camp prayer ministry team or not...it feels like the most outrageous thing, praying for other people, wearing that badge - I gotta licence to pray! I am both intellectually and spiritually interested in the ways in which God works at these mass prayer rallies... I read books on glossolalia and the third wave movement. You could say I hang out at the top of the mountain... God moving in my life, the bible pulsing with life and I can be one hungry, undignified Christian.

...what I am learning to do now, is to not crash - ... - "Mary had a little lamb, it turned into a sheep, it joined a charismatic church and died from lack of sleep." I can't sustain my way through the rough times by praying rather than sleeping, I can't take it all to God rather than people, I can't study for answers, I have to live into them.

I have had my dark night of the soul, I have wrestled with God like Jacob. I have limped my way back to myself. I have given God back all the gifts he has given me and I have asked him to help me surrender them and give me them back again. I gave glossolalia back to him, he returned it to me. I handed over my identity to him, he gave it back to me. I gave any future ministry I might have over to him, he gave it back to me and all the while he promised me that this surrender, this hopeless place I go to sometimes when I miss his manifest presence is necessary, it is for my discipline, for my sharpening, for my growth. I need to learn dependence, humility, fragility, surrender, pain, I need to grow-up and it is so painful...but he shows me that the way of the cross brings resurrection...

What I have learnt and continue to learn unfolds as I walk out discipleship, what I learn carries me forward, helps me live in the valleys and the plains at the bottom of the mountain...

... and so I now try to remember that the revelation of God himself: his glory having been revealed to us through his Bible and his Spirit and his Son is a
given, it lives when I don't feel it, it pulses when I am not there, it surrounds me when I can't find it, when the people around me aren't chasing it down with me. He is enough. And what I am asked to do now is listen for the voice and keep moving on – I am called to change and to ache, to a not quite knowing what that looks like and this is intentional on God's part, it is only then that I really listen. And so the reaction God hopes I have to the glory that he has revealed to me, is that because of it, I am empowered to listen and follow. I pack up the tent I hide in and now I step out with temerity into the cloud of unknowing.

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