“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” —Galatians 4:19
Do you ever wonder what Paul really meant when he spoke about Christ being formed in us?
If we think about the formation process, whether it’s cinnamon rolls or a pot pie on the manufacturing floor, there are the ingredients, climate, assembly, and cook time. Drawing on my experience in the food manufacturing business there are a lot of complexities to a pot pie or a bag of hermetically sealed, ready-to-cook popcorn. It’s important to note that in every case there are the ingredients, the DNA of the end product. Cinnamon rolls always have cinnamon, and popcorn almost always has genuine popcorn kernels. With us it’s true as well. The end product of who we are meant to be always begins with the right building blocks. Take heart, even if you are deeply in process of becoming your best you, you have the right raw ingredients! The Lord has seen to that already.
I’ve noticed when I take a step and venture into a new space even though I may fail miserably, I can’t help but see the raw ingredients of potential. At times it’s easier on my pride to focus on the potential instead of seeing and admitting to the growth opportunities too. Do you ever notice when a package arrives, even if it’s damaged beyond recognition you still have to acknowledge it’s arrival. The UPS guy stands there until you sign. I have a friend that wisely says, ‘You can denigrate the witness all you like but that doesn’t absolve you from acknowledging the message.’ And it’s true. Our growth opportunities can arrive in completely mangled packages but the package has still arrived at our doorstep.
The formation of Christ within us, or within a person that we love, is completely messy. No one ever prepares us. To care is freakishly messy. If you want to be tidy about your life, do not get involved. Do not care about a single person and you will be just fine. You’ll be alone. But tidy.
Our days are filled with repeat performances. Over and over again we go through something. The Lord is not about beating us with a stick. He’s usually building a skill set. The responsibility factor increases and we continue to repeat the same circumstances with greater authority, greater responsibility.
There are people who coach us, pray for us, contend for our best selves … they are the ones who labor until we get it. Likewise, we stick with a friend until she learns how to fight without being freakishly defensive and hurt. When we all learn to stand in love, to not capitulate at the sign of conflict, but manage our emotions and positions with kindness … that’s when the picture of Christ begins to emerge in our lives.
… till Christ is formed in you!
There are women and men who stand like sentries around the periphery of my life, with whom I share an uncommon depth of relationship. Some have been there from the beginning of time, and some have only recently taken their place on the wall of my life. This is not an exclusive club with costly membership dues. Days turn into weeks, and they tirelessly listen to my dreams and breathe hope on them. They believe in me and remind me of who I want to be. The visceral strength they infuse is not something I can extract from them and, as a result, I cannot control who stands on the wall. You see we make the choice to love another unconditionally. We make the choice to shout down the mountains in their life, to stand with them in the floodwaters, shoulder locked with shoulder.
You might think I’m a relational ogre following this, or if you’ve known me for many years you may try and understand where you fit in to the schema. Nevertheless I must tell you that there have been times when I have tried to decide who would be my closest confidantes. I have intended to trust only those that seemed incapable of hurting me, only to be bitterly betrayed. I tried to care and feed for the few that seemed most advantageous to me with the result that I was left alone. To pour salt in my own vicious wounds, I wrecklessly wounded those who loved me dearly. You know who you are.
Why this confession?
Most of us want to arrive at the end of our lives with the confidence that we have loved deeply and been deeply loved. To be loved implies that we are known, for you cannot love someone without really knowing the ugly parts of them. If our life-goal was happiness we’d be sorely disappointed for happiness is merely a by-product of being fully known, and fully accepted. Some of us misunderstand the objective and clang around the countryside ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’. I know. I’ve done it. It’s as though we’re holding out a beggar’s cup with the words “LOVE ME” taped to the side.
There is only One who perfectly loves. Until we allow Him to know us fully, to see inside the crevices of our lives, even the uglies, we will always wonder if we are truly loved. Not only do we fail as friends and lovers, but our friends and lovers will fail us. It is not in our nature to perfectly love as the Father perfectly loves us. Even our best efforts will fall short. I’m reminded how the Perfect Lover knows when He’s been in intimate relationship with a man or woman and to some, with the deepest regret He says, ‘Depart from me. I never knew you.’
There is simply no mistaking intimacy, whether with the Father or a person. It’s intentional. We choose to maintain a soul connection with someone or we choose not to. But when we choose to make this step, the cost is paid from the heart. I was looking the other day at the story of Jonathon and David. “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him [David] as himself.” The king’s son put himself on the wall of David’s life, with complete disregard for what others might think as to rank or motive, timing or propriety. He stripped himself of his robe and armor, his sword, bow and belt, and placed it on David. Talk about making oneself vulnerable, I’m not sure that he had much else on after that. Jonathan knew that David was to be king one day and acknowledged it long before David’s time.
There is a grand lady who is in the latter seasons of her life. Though her memory is not what it used to be, its evident that her heart is given over to selflessly care for others. I want to be like that. I want to be known for “…loving [one] another deeply from the heart. For love covers a multitude of sins.”
Picture a lake with a nice beach and a swimming area, with buoys that mark the drop-off. The drop-off is where it’s over 6 feet deep, so most people would not be able to stand and have their head above water. The marked-off swimming area is shallow and progressively deeper. Those who don’t know how to swim usually stay in this area. There is still some risk in the shallow area; a person can drown in a bowl of soup under the right conditions. But by and large, the swimmer is in control and there aren’t too many surprises.
Our walk with the Lord is like these two swimming areas. While many have been in the shallow area most of their spiritual lives, the Lord has been teaching fundamental things: obedience, His love, His discipline, His glory, His character, the need for Him. All incredibly important things. There have been prophetic words about destiny. There have been some supernatural experiences with His Love and the things of the Spirit. Life is still largely in the natural realm with increasing exposure to the supernatural. It’s possible that He’s given a prayer language; not necessarily.
The main characteristic about one’s readiness to head to the deep waters is the hunger. You want more.
The deep water really represents a departure from living life in the natural realm and stepping into life in the supernatural. When you begin to dabble with the idea of regularly living in the supernatural, you really have no idea what that means. All you are focused on is that you are hungry. Every exposure to the deeper life is priceless. Every prophetic word seems to pierce you and feel like there is a *now-ness* about it. You never dream that there could be lessons and growth areas that stand between you and life in the supernatural. Yet all that God has done in your life up until now has been in preparation for you to make some decisions. This is not about having Him as your Savior. That’s certain. This is not about Lordship, even. You can absolutely live life in the shallow end, and still have Him be Lord. This is about choosing to live a supernatural life, life in the Spirit, moment-by-moment.
Living a supernatural life, a life completely led by the Spirit, to interpret life through His lens, to heal and set free, to raise the dead, to bear incredible fruit … these things require aspects of the Supernatural that many of us have been exposed to but are uncertain about how to live this kind of life, day in and day out. Life in the Supernatural is a bit like leaving the house without undergarments. Most people simply wouldn’t leave the house without…at least without a high sense of awareness. You are completely dependent upon the Father for covering, because you are so given over to trusting Him, so given over to His purposes for your life that you are almost uncovered in the physical realm. It’s that raw.
In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul is speaking to the believers at Corinth and he is very transparent. He talks about the way in which he approached them, “not with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I was determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” This is someone who desperately wanted to carry the glory of God to this body of believers no matter what it cost him personally. He wanted the believers’ faith to rest “not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God”. He talks about how the wisdom of God is wrapped in mystery, and that we learn life in the Supernatural only through the Holy Spirit, and only to the extent that we release our hold on our natural mind. In the event that we miss the point here, he reiterates it in Ephesians.
“…if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Eph 4:17-24
If I’ve kept a journal about my life, and I have for more years than I even know, with entries as often as I can. Something that surprises me when I look back through the weeks and months is the realization that I’ve not recorded major events, major decisions, etc. There’s simply no way I can record everything. I can only put words to paper, and even inspired words, cannot always capture everything about the essence of my LIFE. In the same way, this walking in the deep waters of the Spirit is about deciding to live LIFE in the Spirit, to not insist that it go the way that I think it should go, to not quarrel when it feels uncomfortable, to simply go back to the Father, in the quietness of my personal times with Him, and to wrestle through my questions there.
Everything about the Supernatural is foolishness to man’s way of thinking. There simply isn’t a line and verse for everything about life in the Spirit. It’s almost a guarantee that everything about going into the deeper things of the Spirit will go against everything you’ve assumed about God, and how this journey is supposed to go. Yet, you don’t have to go. The main thing that I want to convey is that this bit about choosing to live life in the Deep water of the Spirit is just that, a choice.
I offer what I know from my own experience. I’m still learning to swim in the deep. Sometimes I lose heart and slip back to the shallows but it’s not long until I’m out in the deep, learning to rest in the Father even though the water is over my head, and I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s 100% relational. In 1 Timothy, Paul called Timothy his “son” over and over. It’s completely about choices. You don’t have to do this but once you decide to pursue this kind of a life, you make commitments with people and they take you at your word and you stay with it. You have to find someone that can lead you into this lifestyle. It may not be in the circles in which you currently gather. You may have to search for someone with whom you have a connection, someone you can grow from. It might be in a house church but it may also be in the traditional church. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” They won’t come and find you. You must find them. Then you need to make a decision about their role in your life. There is nothing wrong with simply being friends. Or you can turn it into a learning relationship. Then you need to decide to respect their authority as a leader in your life and actually let them lead you. This might go on for a year or so, but there will come a time when you shift out of that relationship, by your choosing, and move into another growing relationship. Don’t run, though. That friend will stretch you, and you will be uncomfortable. But be intentional.
We have friends with whom we have been meeting as a house church, and they have modeled so many things about the supernatural lifestyle; they have modeled hearing from the Father, deliverance and freedom, healing prayer, prophetic blessings…so many things. Now we’re at a crossroads where each of us needs to make a decision about whether to go forward with Father into that deep supernatural lifestyle, or to stay in the shallow swim area. Both in Scripture, and in our own lives, we can see that the Lord frequently has us choose what it is we really want, and whom we will serve. You may decide that your current fellowship can’t take you there, or that you are not ready. But honestly? Find someone. Find a place where you are going to grow, and then be “all there”. Set your phones and computers aside. Maintain eye contact and really commit yourself to sharing your lives together.
Once this choice is made, to grow in the deep things of the Spirit, there will be more than one person who will influence you. But allow yourself to become committed to just one person for now. Grow with them. Be humble and become a Timothy to them. Timothy came along beside Paul and learned from him. He was not worried about his reputation. He actually encouraged Paul a great deal. And Paul recognized him as his son, and sent him to cities on his own, in his place. What an honor! I have done this many times in my life. I’ve recognized that a woman has a bit more maturity in the Spirit than I do, and built a relationship with her. I’ve taken the time to encourage her, to learn from her. I’ve cooked and cleaned many houses as a way of just spending time with another woman. This stuff is caught not taught.
I think of a baby bird sitting in its nest, demanding that the worm that is brought to him be just so juicy, about so long, and be brought to him on-time. Well, that’s a pretty safe place in the nest. We can be the very same way, insisting that the things of the Spirit be “just-so”, and that everything fits into my paradigm of how it should go. The Kingdom of God is truly an upside down kingdom. I guarantee that you will offend and be offended over many things until you begin to swim in the Deeps, trusting the Father.
Even if you don’t enter into a mentoring relationship with someone, please know that the way to really grow and bear fruit in life is to become connected with another person. The Bible demonstrates both mentoring relationships as well as covenant relationships. These are relationships where one person says, “I’m with you for the duration of the journey. I am committed to your success in your journey with the Father. I want to be there to encourage you, through thick and thin.” The world has nothing on this. It’s not something where you assume that they “feel close to you” and you “feel close to them”. Real community in the Spirit is verbalized by you, not by those who lead you … “We are in this together. I want to learn. I’m going to listen with an open heart. I’m not going to be like that baby bird making demands.”
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves