[As a brief reminder, I am blogging twice a week on our ministry blog at The Leadership Institute website. Many are sharing that they appreciate hearing different voices from our Journey community over there.]
I recently had a very hard conversation to which I wasn’t looking forward. Those are always hard, aren’t they? But experiences like this have a way of awakening us to reality in a way that “life as usual” doesn’t. We find we need to say something we had hoped to keep hidden. Or we find we need to hear something that feels quite unwelcome. Reality. And there’s nothing quite like reality to awaken us to the Real.
I’ve quoted from George MacDonald novels before. In his The Highlander’s Last Song (one of the first of his novels that I read when I discovered him), he describes a scene in which two main characters are threatened by a flash flood. The coldness of the water and the danger of drowning was bracing to them both. In comment, MacDonald observes:
“When we are most aware of fact‑ness, we are most aware of our need of God, and most able to trust him. The recognition of inexorable reality in any shape, or kind, or ways tends to rouse the soul to the yet more real, to its relations with higher and deeper existence. It is not the hysterical alone for whom the great dash of cold water is good. All who dream life instead of living it require some similar shock. Every disappointment, every sorrow, every tragedy of life can work the same way–can drive one a trifle nearer to the truth of being.” (MacDonald, George. The Highlander’s Last Song. Ed. Michael R. Phillips. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1986, p. 160-61.)
How much of our lives do we sleepwalk? How often are we daydreaming instead of actually living? A bracing splash of cold water in the face is a helpful metaphor for those moments when God awakens us to what actually is—in us, around us, in others.
A few months ago when I was in Nigeria for the Journey, I had a conversation with a pastor who had just escaped from a muslim extremist attack on his village. He had narrowly escape at least eight different times with his life in just a couple of days. At one point, he was in a cornfield surrounded by armed extremists. He was rather certain that he was facing his final moments in this life. He then prayed that God would deliver him and his family. Within moments, a hard rain began to fall that scattered the armed men. He made his escape. To hear this pastor’s story was bracing for me. That pastor gave me a gift that I am still cherishing.
What hard thing lately has felt like an unwelcome splash of very cold water in your face? What has happened to you that you resist with everything in you? How might that become the sort of encounter with reality that could awaken your soul to the Real?
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