I wasn’t sure what to call this, so I went with “revelations,” because that’s exactly what this note contains. God has brought “revelation” about certain things and it has caused me to reexamine things within myself, as well as turn that revelation outward, to us, as a church, at large. I’m not sure it’s even going to make all that much sense, because it is still in process…but I feel led to write about it, anyway.
I didn’t grow up with a true sense of church history, not the way I have it today, but I did grow up with an awareness that believers did exist before our modern times. I might not have understood them all properly, but I did have the realization that faith was bigger than just myself. I’d hear bits and pieces of their lives here and there, but I never connected nor understood them in the context of myself, or how they could relate to me in any semblance. I figured they were big, important, holy figures who were much more important than I would ever be. If I wanted to learn more about these people, I had to go find an authorized account of their lives in a book. I remember the days before the internet. We spent more time reading and less time talking. We weren’t so opinionated. We had more facts and less random thoughts that somehow turned to “facts” when we put them online. I remember when the internet was new, and I was still in school. We had to dial out to Binghamton University (thus making it a long distance call as this was before cell phones) and that was a big, huge deal. The internet only had a few sites then, and the information we received was much like an encyclopedia or other accurate, professional source. There was less assessment of things, and more experience of life. I have always been a good reader. I like to read. I am still not up on all the tablet technology (even though I do have a Kindle). I don’t like doing a lot of reading on the computer, it hurts my eyes and is hard for me to see. Nothing to me replaces a book; we can’t improve on it. Books changed the entire world.
But, I digress.
One thing that has always fascinated me in literary experience – and truly excited me when the internet was newer – was reading about the experiences people had with God throughout the ages. For the first time, back when we first had the internet, we were able to actually read the documents themselves as recorded by the individuals who had these experiences. I am a big believer that God reaches out to us through what we know, just as He did with Abram and all those who came before us in history. When we discover God, we aren’t in a perfected state. We bring with us the baggage of our current level of understanding and our colored perceptions based on religious and cultural experiences. God reaches out to us, where we are, in a way that we can understand – and be transformed. When reading about the different saints of the ages, I understood this. Every little detail might not have been perfect, and there was much I knew I probably didn’t understand, as times, language, and culture had changed. The message, however, was the same. God reached out then, and God reaches out now.
Which brings me to my own revelations.
Before the internet, we might have had chronicles of people’s lives, but we were not as easily able to read many of their literal revelations and experiences with God. We read bits and pieces of those revelations as were inserted in a professionally written text, which was often far more accurate in content than people’s assessments and opinions of them today. Church historians carefully documented and assessed the various cultural and church influences a person had, and gave us the information they wanted us to have (or felt was most pertinent) to their lives. While there is no question church historians allowed us to only see the viewpoint of Christian individuals they wanted us to have, it seems like the same is true today, just in a different way. Now, it seems we are inundated with documents and various people’s opinions of those documents, only without the history and understanding to back them. People today will start a website, post their opinions as if they are facts, mix in a ton of totally false information, and dissect the Christian believers of past ages, as if that one arrogant person with a website somehow has secret access to God…and the rest of us can just steep in our own ignorance. God forbid you disagree with their assessment.
Of late, God keeps reminding me of purpose in positioning. Even though we may be influenced by the culture and backgrounds we all have, we are also positioned to influence the world in which we live. This is what God’s people have done throughout the ages, each in their own way. They faced oppositions not unlike ours today, with one main exception: instead of dealing with people misjudging them on the internet, blocking them, or saying a few unkind words behind their back, Christians throughout history faced imprisonment, torture, rejection and exile from the main state churches at the time, or worse, death. The root, however, is the same: people misjudged their experience as this, that, or something else because they did not themselves understand it. They were positioned for change, they were positioned for their purpose, but they paid a price to have the incredible encounters they did with God. It separated them further and further away from a church that was too worldly to understand.
We really think ourselves wise today. I hear it all the time: every time someone uses the word “religious” in the context of a demonic spirit (when the Bible never makes such a distinction – the Bible identifies legalism as a problem), they separate themselves further and further from our faith-filled ancestors, all of whom considered themselves “religious” people. We really act like we know something today that nobody else in history could possibly know, even though we often lack the faith and complete trust our ancestors had throughout their more difficult lives. I hear it every time we want to forsake the old for these “new” things that didn’t even exist fifty years ago, such as a “megachurch.” I see it every time I hear people tell me they only live their faith by “witnessing to people on Facebook.” Then I watch the immaturity of believers – as people fight and quarrel their way through the internet, through the church, and through this world, with nasty spirits and hateful attitudes toward their brothers and sisters in the faith. I see so much emotionally charged leadership, it’s not even funny anymore. There’s no doubt our world is more emotionally charged than ever, and apparently not much wiser than it was in times past. The one consistency remains judgment. Whenever we hear about something that someone experienced with God, the first thing we do is make a judgment about it based on our own perceptions and experiences with God. I have nothing against truly assessing an experience against the Word or assessing something based on the test of truth, but I’m not hearing a lot of that today. I see people assess and base how they feel about historical figures and the revelation historical figures received on their own feelings, what they think or feel is right or wrong, and leave it at that. There is no growth, no understanding for “positioning,” and no extension of individuals beyond themselves.
Before each and every one of us living right now were ever born, there were people who lived, had faith, and experienced God in ways they could understand based on the best knowledge they had of Him at the time. Maybe some of what they did was a little extreme, maybe some of it seemed a little out-of-balance or austere to us today, but they were believers, doing the best they knew how, with what they had. They were figuring this “faith thing” out, much like we are today, with less to go on than we have now. Many of them were illiterate, many did not have the opportunity to go to school or learn, and along with learning came sacrifices most don’t even entertain today, such as celibacy or monastic life. Many of them reached a point where they could not interact in a “normal” way with others, because their desire for truth, life, and purity because so intense. Despite the peripherals, they were people who sought God intensely, loved Him with all they had, and wanted to experience the wholeness of God, receiving all He had for them.
I look back on my own sixteen-year journey in ministry and think about the many pursuits I endeavored to take just to be “normal” or “fit in” with others: whether it was bad relationships, marriage, going to the “right church” or trying to tailor my ministry to the things other people told me I needed to be doing, I can clearly see more and more of a difference between where I used to be, where I am now, and others than ever before. I have been positioned for revelation and instruction in this age, and people don’t always “understand” that. They judge me for it, just as they judged those in history who also had the same experiences. Instead of reading about my life chronicled in a book, you are seeing it live, in the here and now. My experience with God is causing me to look back on Christianity’s historical figures differently, because I am experiencing the same sting they did in their day. Being positioned comes with a price, especially as we move further and further away from the comforts and “norms” of the spiritualities of our era into another dimension that brings about change. I understand now more of why historical figures did what they did, were the way they were, and even though I might not agree with all of it in practice, I certainly can see how many of them got where they were.
Luke 17:22 says: ‘Then Jesus said to ·his followers [the disciples], “The time will come when you will ·want very much [long] to see one of the days of the Son of Man [the full revelation of the kingdom at Jesus’ return]. But you will not see it.” (EXP) This Christianity thing certainly isn’t always a walk in the park. We pay a price for purpose. We pay an even greater one for revelation. Then again, history teaches us that isn’t new, either. Maybe people do not see the fullness of the Kingdom, they do not see the things they claim to want to see, simply because they don’t want to. It would require seeing things beyond a personal perspective and seeing them from a divine viewpoint, a light and experience that they don’t really believe is possible. Faith is believing in God, yes. It is also recognizing His work in us and beyond us, within, among, and around us – transcending time. To be a part of faith means to be a part of more than the work of a single generation. It is the echo that: “
He must increase, but I must decrease. [He must grow more prominent; I must grow less so.]” (John 3:30, AMP).
The more God reveals, the smaller I get; the bigger He becomes. That’s the point of positioning. We’re just the vessels here to impact our era. He’ll impact history until it is no more.
(c) 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.