Have I mentioned lately that I really love living where I do? I suppose most of us feel some kind of regional pride. Years ago when E was a pre-school student she became friends with the daughter of a member of the airforce. He and his family were only in the northwest as long as his tour of duty forced them here, then they were hauling...er, all their worldly goods back to where they belonged--the deep south. They didn't understand how things work in our neck of the woods, the traffic, the rush, the crowds, the unfriendliness, the rain. Above all, the rain. Beve and I, serving them tea and cinnamon rolls in our living room, just shook our heads. We couldn't imagine wanting to leave here for the deep south, where the humidity equals or surpasses the temperature, where things move so slowly they seem to be going backwards. We stared across a cultural divide at these southerners. What we love, they could hardly wait to shake from their feet.
But just now as I watched Bob Costa fly in a seaplane across the bay in Vancouver, rhapsodizing about Stanley Park (a gorgeous urban park with a wonderful aquarium!), the Lion's Gate Bridge, the soaring mountains to the north and east, the glowing sunset to the west, and...us--our little city just south of the border. I continue to feel proprietorially toward Vancouver, having spent three (or was it four?) years of my life studying there. I loved those years at Regent College.
Regent College was like a three year long study leave for me. Talking about eternal matters on a daily basis with folks so much more learned and wise than me that I was constantly running to keep up. Teachers who believed in me, challenged me to think more, study more, BE more. Other students with whom I bent my head over the Word, and words, and the words that grew between us were always a revelation of the Incarnate Word who was clearly sitting at those tables with us. For those who want to experience Christ, there is no more glaring--in the best sense--place to experience Him than with others who are also bending their heads to make sense of what He's doing in the Word, the World, the marketplace.
I was thinking this morning of this whole idea of experiencing God (partly due to some thoughts from a nephew). Thanking God for all the ways I've 'experienced' Him over the long course of my life with Him. It's about like trying to identify all the ways I've experienced marriage--there are just sooo many ways, many of which might be too private to share!--but what is always true is that 'experiencing Christ' is not simply a feeling, anymore than being love is just a feeling. Corporate worship can be one way to experience Christ, but so can silence. Corporate prayer is another way to experience Him, but private prayer is also just likely. Wherever He is that we settle ourselves to find Him--yes, wherever He is!
The words we speak with each other, the words spoken to us by the ones called to 'accurately handle the Word of truth' --ie, pastors. When we sit down at tables together, pouring over books together, we can share Christ together just as we can when we break bread together, both physically and sacramentally. All these ways are ways we 'experience Christ.' And I've been blessed enough to have lived all of them, sometimes all in the same day. And my time at Regent, more than any other time of my fifty-odd years on earth, gave me all this in abundance.
But it was also at Regent when I had a conversation with a young man, earnest and desiring of God, who said he loved Christ, but didn't have much use for the word of God. He loved experiencing God via fellowship and worship, but not through the Bible, which was just so dry it put him to sleep. I was stunned by his confession. Yes, I realize that I am a person of words, in love with words, bent toward words, but still, literally stunned. Since then, I've actually had similar conversations several times with people with something of the same attitude. God knows what each of us needs in order to know Him, in order to be transformed by Him, conformed, made new, whole, complete. To be His. Not simply experiencing, but Being His. The words that came to mind that day in the Atrium at Regent College are the same ones I think today: "All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever." 1 Peter 1: 24-25 (from Isaiah 40)
PS. Did I mention that I really love living here? I'm pretty sure those mountains where they're doing the aerials on TV are the same ones I can see when I drive down our street.