Friday, October 21, 2011

being with

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:16-17)

There is a definite art to being with someone.  It involves being fully present to them—open and attentive.  It consists of listening to them and offering them space and room to be.  It requires that we not be occupied or preoccupied with other people or things, and ultimately asks us to let go of our agendas and control.  Being with someone involves and investment of time and focused stillness; it is one of the most important disciplines in all of the spiritual life.

Paul prays that the Ephesians might have a deep work of the Spirit go on within them, so that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith.   The word that Paul uses for dwell is the word used for a permanent and durable residence—not a short-term and temporary condition, but a lasting and enduring state. This dwelling has to do with the art of with-ness; God being with us and us, in turn, learning to be with Him.  It requires a bit of a shift from our normal mode of operation; a shift from doing to being.  It’s almost as if Paul knew that we all have a tendency to take the outside-in approach to the life of faith—to think of it in terms of behavior modification and sin management—when the truth is that faith is in actuality an inside-out process.  True transformation does not start with doing and then somehow magically impact being.  It starts with being and then works its way out into doing.  The work of the Spirit is a deep work of the heart that always finds its way out into the way we live our lives.  That’s how genuine transformation takes place. 

Therefore, we need to shift our minds and hearts away from our normal doing mode and become more proficient in the art of being—particularly being with God.  We need to learn to be with God in prayer; not just coming before him with an onslaught of words and requests, but sitting in silence before him, listening to him, and keeping company with him.  We need to be with him in his Word; paying attention to it and letting it speak to our lives and hearts in a personal and profound way.  We need to stop working on the Word all of the time and let the Word start working on us.  We need to be with him as we are with one another; paying attention to his presence and movement and work within and among us.   And once we become more adept at the art of being with God, a deeper and richer and fuller life in the Spirit is just ahead (Ephesians 3:16-19).


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