FALLING BACK into the BOSOM of GOD
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
FEBRUARY 13, 2016
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11, RSV)
The title for this writing came from a recent phone conversation with a dear old friend. I was listening to his account of all the stressors in his life right now and how frustrated he feels by his inability to get things back to normal, whatever that is. He knows that I’ve been through many similar things and that God has sustained me through them all, and so I was led to tell him was to stop struggling and fall back into the bosom of God. Immediately, he asked me, “How do I fall back into the bosom of God?”
I’ll approach this in the manner that another friend described this way: “As my imagination wanders, it sometimes puts me into strange corners which I cannot withdraw from without writing my way out.” What a wonderful way to express what I’m feeling right now as I try to explain.
Falling back into the bosom of God is one of those mystical experiences like walking in the Spirit or speaking in tongues or practicing the presence of the Father, which is better felt than told. Why? Simply put, there are things of the spirit that don’t translate into words, which is why Jesus spoke in parables and stories that people could understand, provided God had opened their hearts.
The way I attempted to explain falling back into the bosom of God to my friend was to share how I do it, which is not the be-all nor end-all nor how-to for anyone else. It is just how God works with me. As I wrote that, the Spirit plopped Jeremiah’s statement into my heart: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23, RSV) His ways of dealing with us are as unique and varied as we are.
I used to hear from God when I jogged, but old age and joint pain have mostly put that on the shelf. Lenny used to meditate, but that doesn’t do it for me. I sleep on my stomach, with a pillow over my head. It’s very comforting, cozy and sort of like being in the womb, except the womb I visualize myself in is God’s womb. There I encounter peace and enjoy the place where trauma, trouble and worry cannot molest. And like everything else He gives us, we receive it by grace. It’s a place where I can tell him all my worries, my concerns, my fears, my “What am I going to do now, Lord?” questions. In this place of rest, his mercy and grace envelop me and what happens more often than not is that I drift off to sleep. What a wonderful gift, because it was the questions and thoughts running continuously through my mind that were keeping me awake in the first place.
There are many ways Christians practice feeling the presence of God in their lives, knowing that, He himself is the Pearl of Great Price. Genesis 15, verse one, has always struck me as marvelous and delicious, deep and wide. By this time in his walk with God, Abraham was a very wealthy man, with men servants and maidservants, cattle, asses, camels, and much silver and gold. And yet when the word of the Lord came to him in a vision, God said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, YOUR VERY GREAT REWARD.” (Genesis 15:1, NIV)
What was true of Abraham, father of the faithful, is most certainly true for us today. As we head into the Easter season for the church world, Christians are busy doing many things which they believe will bring them closer to God or worse, to convince themselves and God that they are worthy of his grace.
In that way, we’re very much like Israel under the Law. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos railed against the things people did for God, which in fact, did not bring them closer, but actually put distance between them and the Lord. Isaiah is my favorite Old Testament prophet because he had a way of slicing through the fog, dispersing the clutter and getting to the meat of the matter. He wrote, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up of only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (Isaiah 29:13-14, NIV)
What is the wonder upon wonder that our Father will use to astound the people and cause the intelligence of the intelligent to vanish? I believe the wonder is Christ himself, God incarnate, God clothing himself with flesh so we can experience him up close and personal. In a recent writing, Fr. Richard Rohr said something to the effect that God does not give you his grace and mercy because you are good. He gives these things to you because God himself is good. His point was the very one I’m making here which is that we Christians sometimes get it backwards.
One preacher commented, “If you want to dance with God, you have to turn loose of the rails.” Profound. It’s the essence of why I speak of falling back into the bosom of God. When you turn loose of whatever you’re clinging to, it feels like you’re falling. In the process, you personally encounter Father God.
The simplicity of the gospel often leaves me breathless and astonished, because God’s plan for us is so simple, and yet we have made it so hard because as Jesus said to the Pharisees, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” (Matthew 15:8-9, RSV) He is quoting Isaiah here, as He often did.
We have been, as Paul described it, like children, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” (Ephesians 4:14, RSV) I don’t say these things to make you doubt your Christian teachings, but merely to suggest, that God isn’t impressed by what we do for Him. Why? Because He knows the end from the beginning. (Isaiah 46:10) Jesus was NOT plan “B.” He was always God’s answer to our sin and hardness of heart. Paul affirmed that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), BEFORE we did anything good or bad.
This is why if I only had one verse in the Bible to cling to it would be Romans 11:32: “For God consigned ALL men to disobedience, that He may have mercy upon ALL” There’s no better way to fall back into the bosom of God than to ask him to reveal the deep meanings of this verse. It is the explanation of how God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son to give us everlasting life. Probably every Christian can quote John 3:16, but many fail to go to the next verse which is even more glorious, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world THROUGH him.” (3:17)
It seems to me that in our desperation to believe we are okay with God we have been compelled to add to what God did for us through Christ. Paul underscored the point: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God, not by works, so that no man can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, RSV) The apostle Paul was no stranger to works, nor to the hubris of the human heart, which is why God had to knock him off his horse and blind him, turning his focus away from his own self efforts, causing him to understand our free gift of salvation in Christ. The Apostle of grace spent every waking moment from then on, declaring that God, “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ..” (II Corinthians 4:6)
If you are struggling with one of those all encompassing dilemmas which seem about to choke the life out of you, I encourage you to give up and quit struggling. You’ve done your best and it hasn’t helped. Turn loose of your own efforts; fall back into the bosom of God, and give him a chance to work it out for you. You will have a front row seat to watch your Abba doing what He constantly and progressively does, saving you from yourself.
Father, we thank you for the place of rest in You, where we can lay down our self efforts, and snuggle into Your bosom. There, we feel Your presence, Your grace, Your mercy, Your kindness, and Your unconditional love for us. Make us light bearers and love bringers for those who don’t know You, for those who still think they must add to what You freely give us in Christ. We join our voices with all the Saints around Your throne, with “the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!” Amen.