I get inspired every now and then, excited more to the case. My walk, journey (for some reason I don’t like the language of ‘journey’, but there it is) with Christ has just been amazing, and continues to be! Its primary theme is ‘hiddeness’, what I mean is that the way I have experienced and encountered Jesus are in ways that have been anything other than what “I” would have expected. This does not seem to be a far fetched thing, I mean we are celebrating the first coming of God in the flesh this advent season; which might be the most ‘hidden’ holiday Christians and non-Christians celebrate on the calendar year. In keeping with this reality about how God works, my life in Christ (and I’m sure yours) has been no different. Without getting too detailed, and sharing my full Christian testimony, let me just go back to the time after I graduated high school (I grew up in a Christian home, son of a Conservative Baptist pastor, and had my first personal encounter with Christ [was ‘saved’] when I was three years old). I thought that I had experienced what it meant to be a Christian by time I had graduated high school; in fact I remember being with some buddies from church, and we all came to the same conclusion: we felt that we were veterans of the faith (this is the language we used), at the wee age of about 20—because we had all grown up in the church (and I had been involved in lots of ministry with my dad, evangelistic, and otherwise). It was this attitude that led me into a lifestyle (for a few years, in that time frame) of lukewarmness, and collusion with the world; rather than with Christ. I was in Las Vegas of all places (I know some of you had heard me share this part of the story before), and what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas, for me. It was here that the Lord introduced a crisis into my life; an issue with anxiety, in fact I became so overwhelmed with anxiety (like an attack) at the same time of the night that my friends and I were getting ready to go out to the casinos for the night, that I was incapacitated to the point that I wasn’t able to go out with my friends. I came home, and this anxiety and oppression (it felt like) wouldn’t leave me. In fact it blossomed, it got worse; I began to have this nightmarish experience of doubting God’s existence, and I felt and lived in a sense of nihilistic angst. It’s as if the Lord ripped the veil from my eyes, as if he was saying: “Okay, Bobby, if you want to live like this world, be in this world, let me have you experience the nothingness an un-reality that really stands behind it all.” This season persisted, for years; I dealt with deep depression, anxiety, pure brokenness, doubt, fear, and a host of other things. And yet it was this that has led me to where I have come, by God’s grace today (and by the way, I haven’t arrived, by any means!); it was this experience that caused me to obsessively read scripture (even to the point of sleeping with my Bible), to attend Bible College/Seminary, and to read, read, read theology books (and other good Christian things, like biblical commentaries, devotionals, missionary stories, etc.). And so here I am.
I have since, as most of you know, lived through a deadly cancer, and gotten to experience the Lord in ways that were unveiled; ways that weren’t so hidden. But my point in this post is this: In the midst of all the turmoil, joblessness, under-employment, employment that I don’t like (like what I have right now!); God in Christ is overwhelmingly present. Even when it “feels” like he is most absent, I have come to know that he is most present! I know that he has cultivated this sense in me through all of my past experiences with Him, and that that is what He is continuing to do. I still, often, wonder what in the world He is doing; but I ultimately trust Him, I know that He does what He does because He loves me, He loves you in Christ. It still seems, so often, that God is hidden; that He is veiled in a way that I wish He wasn’t. But then He reminds me that we live by faith, not by sight; and that His veiledness has been unveiled through the broken body of Jesus Christ. This is not the way I am taught to think in this world of ‘seeing is believing’, but it is the way Jesus has been teaching me as His disciple for many years now. He simply wants me (us) to trust Him. He leads us into gardens of Gethsemne, to breaking points that are real, and sometimes prolonged, in order for us to truly understand what it is to participate in the power of His resurrection; in order for us to experience His presence in the way that we only can when we too are completely broken and dependent on Him. He loves us, He will never leave us or forsake us. He has never left me or forsaken me, and He never will! He has sealed this promise with His precious blood!! He might be hidden, but put on your spectacles of faith, and you’ll realize like Elijah and Gehazi, that the heavenly host, and Lord of Sabaoth is surrounding you, encamped about you (Ps. 34) in ways that this world will never understand. He loves us, and his veiledness is the wisdom of God that is only unveiled through the wisdom of the cross. The world considers this foolishness, but to those of us being saved it is the loving power of God.