Today has been a beautifully bright and sunny spring day here in the South East of England, and I enjoy nothing more than to take our six and a half month old labrador puppy for a walk round our beautiful surroundings, where I can easily connect with both God and nature, where I can grasp the awesome realisation of how small I really am and how big God really is. But there are two sides to every coin, and stepping out of my house, my work, my chores, my duties and responsibilities albeit for a short window of time, can also expose me to jumping off the fast train that life can be when I am unprepared and unequipped for what such a risky jump may bring my way.
I took that jump this morning. I left my house for one of my daily walks with our puppy, totally oblivious to the drama that would unfold by simply stepping out of my front door. Sometimes we can be so caught up in our own success, in our comfortable living, in our own cocoons, that it takes something as simple as a walk round the block to unearth in one’s heart and spirit a myriad of emotions powerful enough to destroy what one perceived as stable, secure, and balanced living.
When my dog and I go for walks, these are the times when the Spirit of God reaches in and does its work on my soul. This happens during other times throughout my day, but it is during these walks that no outer influences, distractions or background noise and noise within can block what God is saying to me. Many people have asked me recently why did you get a dog after the bad experience you had with the previous one 10 years ago, why now, why the very sudden change of heart? Initially, I put it down to my children’s begging for a dog gradually breaking down my barriers of good reasons for not having one, but a few months down the line, I am beginning to see that Jake, our labrador, is literally a God’s send. Why do I say that? Some of you know that I stopped going to church almost a year ago now. It is easy to believe, to have faith when you are surrounded by like-minded individuals whose own faith often times is fed in turn by your own. Withdraw that comfort blanket, that safety net, and you will experience a spiritual desert, a spiritual wilderness like you have not known before. No gimmicks, no falsehood, no hype, no nothing, simply you, the Word, and the Spirit of God. What is left as one drags themselves down this lonely and dreary path? Not much! simply raw faith, a faith that discards every single thing for which there is no basis in the Bible; a pure, undiluted faith which does without the baggage brought about by the religious spirit that has crippled the Body of Christ for thousands of years, which has brought disunity, hypocrisy and pride to the very Bride Christ died for on the cross. This faith no longer has time for man-made creations such as denominations, corporately run churches, hierarchical systems, titles, privileges, over-paid and over-rated undershepherds and hirelings, or for the overly spiritual mumbo-jumbo dialect which many in some churches use as their green card into a private club of the select few who are convinced they are in the know and who have utter control over the whole flock.
Living in this desert, this wilderness can get to you pretty much everyday, because raw faith requires raw emotions, heart-break and a lot of soul-searching. There is no one to carry you when you have no spiritual food or drink, there are no easy ways out or another Christian round the corner to pick up that baton you have been called to take to the finish line. It is just you and the scorching heat, the sand, and the dead landscape. This kind of environment forces one to absolutely implore, beg and rely solely on the only ONE who has the power to supply you with such food and drink. Nothing else will satisfy that hunger and that thirst. What worked before whilst you lived sheltered within the confines of your church and its people no longer has any power over you and through you, and so there is nowhere else to go but down on your knees often in anger, pain and frustration.
Had we not bought our dog, my only source of spiritual oasis right now would not even be there. The need to take him out for walks forces me out of my self-pity, discouragement and numbness and into the bosom of a Father who is forever waiting for his child to look up, to be open to His council, love and grace.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2