My brother in law once asked me, and several other church young people, what makes your spirit come alive? What makes you feel most connected with God, others, the earth? What males you feel the most joyful?
What makes you feel like, this is how it’s supposed to be?
I’m sure Kris doesn’t remember this, but it’s stuck with me for years. And I was reminded of it last week while I wrote about Grandma and Psalm 34 and living a life that glorifies God. Even though I wrote it, and desire it so much, I’m still left wondering, what does that mean?
What does it actually mean to glorify God?
Surely it can’t mean always going to church on Sundays and saying my prayers and doing all the right things. Or, kneeling before him, fanning him with my body as I chant ‘I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy’ in a spot-on Wayne’s World reenactment. I mean, maybe for a moment, an afternoon, or just before I go to bed, but a life? A while lifetime of just that? It seems like a waste. It doesn’t seem useful. It doesn’t seem helpful. To me, it doesn’t seem like the kind of life that God wants for me, or for anyone else.
And it kind of paints God as this selfish, smug king who doesn’t care about disease and hurt and struggle. He only cares about having all of the attention.
That’s when I think about spirits coming alive. Into their fullest. Into the way that they’re supposed to be.
When I was younger I hated church. I only went to see my friends and family. I loved God, and thought Jesus was awesome, but I hated church. I hated religion. I hated the hypocrisy I saw. The preoccupation with keeping traditions, and the damning everyone to hell, and the hate that I saw coming from the mouths of people who’d decided that they had it all figured out, and they didn’t need to listen anymore.
I didn’t like singing hymns, so I’d just mouth along, or read The Hobbit in the back pews. I didn’t want to read the Bible, because that’s where all those stubborn, tradition focussed people got their ideas from (and for a twelve-year-old me, Middle Earth was much more interesting). I felt uncomfortable talking about God, but I desperately wanted to love and care for people, the way that Jesus did.
So when Kris asked, what makes my spirit come alive, what makes me think this is how it’s supposed to be, he was asking, what makes me the most like God has made me to be. Because that’s the most precious and simple ways of glorifying God.
If we are all the unique and beautiful words of God, spoken out into this earth*, then what could be more pleasing to him than to allow ourselves to be spoken? To recognise who we are, and how we’re made. To know what it is that makes our spirit come alive, and then to be brave and chase after that.
But, I think the most important thing to remember where this all came from. It can be easy to run with our gifts, and then to start praising ourselves for how great we are.
Yes, we have to recognise who we are, but we also have to recognise whose we are.
Words can’t come from nothing, they must be spoken. And we’ve been spoken by the most powerful and loving, and scary and wonderful being in the universe.
That thought got me through my teens, when church wasn’t exciting, and worship made me anxious, and a lot of christian behaviour made me despair. The thought that that was okay. That I was wired differently, and I could connect to and love and worship God in a different way.
There’s a wonderful book by Gary Thomas called Sacred Pathways. In it he walks about the different ways that God has wired people to worship him. Thomas outlines nine ‘pathways’ to God that he thinks everyone can roughly fall into. At the end of the book, you’re left with three pathways that connect with you the most, and a hope that you can have a rich and fulfilling spiritual life. The hope of a spirit fully alive.
I connect to God while in nature, by caring for others, and in seeing the mystery of God’s power unfold in the world. Although I’ve come a long way in realising the value of a lot of christian tradition, it’s comforting to know that in those times when reading the Bible isn’t doing anything for me that a walk in the bush can make my spirit come alive and realign my eyes to Christ.
I was reading Matthew Twenty-Six, that part where the woman pours perfume over Jesus, and the others all complain that she’s wasted money, but Jesus says that it was good for her to do it. It struck me that it was her way for worship, of making Jesus the most beautiful and fragrant person in the room. Of fixing all eyes on Christ. And that’s what happens when we allow ourselves to be spoken.
When we realise who we are and whose we are, when our spirit comes alive and we allow ourselves to be spoken in a clear loud voice, it’s the speaker that becomes more beautiful, not us.
And I guess that’s all that glorifying God is about, what living a life that glorifies God is about. It’s about reminding ourselves, and others, that Christ is the most beautiful one in the room.
* See ‘of snow and wonder‘