One of the worst looking covers I have ever seen, but an incredible book. Here's a taste:
For each of us the way lies straight ahead. There is, immediately in front of us, an assigned task, a call: some difficult, clear, utterly simple thing the Lord is asking us to do. It is not a general admonition to whoever might happen to be standing about. It is instead an utterly private request whispered, as it were, into each one’s ear. What the Lord is asking me, He is asking no one else. More than likely, it is a request with no particular glamour or notoriety attached to it. And if I pay attention, the Lord leaves me in no doubt about it. Especially if I ask in prayer, He tells me very clearly. (Which is why, sometimes, I don’t hurry to find out.)
And I cannot accomplish this thing God asks without grace. The call, this request is completely beyond my grasp, quite impossible—without His help. Yet even as He asks it, He makes it clear that His grace will be poured out. He will not leave me abandoned or alone. He does not ask the impossible. Our God does not play tricks. Or, to put it another way, when He asks the impossible, we remember that nothing is impossible with God.
But why are we surprised by this? We knew from the beginning that prayer would bring us closer to the mind of God, more able to know His thoughts and do His will. We knew that, yet when by a kind of radar we sense it, when we feel ourselves being moved and led in a given direction, we feel awe, we are afraid. Afraid perhaps that we are acting, actors in a drama we did not design. Somehow the story has been set in motion and the characters are mainly two: God and I. It is a dance! It is a suspense story. It is leading to an unknown destination. It is once-upon-a-time, and now, and what-is-yet-to-be, all at once. It is now and forever, and yet it is not a dream. It is happening and it is real.
And now there is no turning back. The commitment has already been made: The escalator is ascending, the elevator door is closing, the plane is moving down the runway. Something very definite has been set in motion, is gathering momentum, is picking up speed. It seems we can hardly stop now, especially when the journey is starting to get interesting! Even so, we are fearful. Now that the cabin door is closed and the motors are revving, the shudder and the trembling are perhaps not so exhilarating as we had thought.
Yet, we have signed on for this. We are here by our own consent. Even if there should be pain interwoven with this commitment, some intimation of suffering to come, there is, at the very same time, a knowing—we know Who it is that’s asking and this intimate sense of a God who loves us is present even when He is leading us into the furnace or the deep. Our God will not betray us. He is just and fair and tender. He does not forget us in the time of trouble, He that keeps Israel does not slumber or sleep.
So we go on, straight ahead, with no more sense of direction than just to make the next step and the next. We are not out to make high jumps, to take the next three steps at a time. There is no longer much question of spiritual ambition or advancing in prayer. We have no sense of height. We can’t tell whether or not we are ascending. If we are climbing (and we are), we sense that only in our muscles and bones. The climb is costly. But it does not feel upward. It is not high. It is neither consolation nor desolation.
It is ascent, but not ecstasy. In a sense, it is deeper than ecstasy, or perhaps one could call it the ecstasy of every day, a union that continues while everything else is also happening, existing within whatever activities are necessary, an abandonment known only to us and God, ecstatic only in that it is so very complete.
This abandonment is the very heart and essence of Christian prayer, and it has nothing in common with strategy and second-guessing. It is the pray-to-win mentality turned inside out, and yet it is not s pray-to-lose mentality. It is the prayer that has moved beyond intending, directing, steering, second-guessing God. It is the dancer moving completely in the rhythm of the partner, prayer that is utterly freeing because it is completely at one. Utterly beyond asking, beyond the anger that rattles heaven’s gate. Prayer that does not plead, wants nothing for itself but what God wants, it is the will-not-to-will, rooted in grace, that makes it possible to be abandoned, free, and then (by some further miracle) able to act with a semblance of coherence and freedom even when completely surrendered to and possessed by the loving will of God. (Clinging by Emilie Griffin)
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