De ja vu anyone? So it’s another lockdown. How did you feel when you first heard that announcement?
Fear? Frustration? Deflated? Thankful that something is being done? Or something else?
I’ve got to admit, when I first heard the news I just felt tired. Tired of trying to keep up with what we can and can’t do, of countless conversations about what’s going on or not, at the thought of not seeing people yet again, at the thought of the pain and struggle for so many people who I want to help but often have no idea how.
But then I began to pray. I was reminded of this incredible image in Ezekiel 47 of a river that flows out of the temple. In the Old Testament, the temple is God’s house, a physical building in the middle of Israel where God’s presence lives. But this temple was destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again. Hundreds of years before Jesus, through the prophet Ezekiel, God promised to step into the mess of this broken world, to create a new place for His presence, and to bring people home to Him [to understand more watch this]. Chapter 47 is speaking about this new temple, this new place….but what’s incredible is that God is not locked inside his house anymore….
…instead Ezekiel paints a picture of a stream that begins to flow from the temple doors. Shallow at first it gets deeper and deeper rising from ankles to waist to so deep that you have to swim if you want to carry on in it. It’s an image of the presence of God, of His Holy Spirit, and everywhere the river goes life comes – trees with huge fruit line the banks and as the river flows into the most barren place on earth (the Dead Sea valley) the river turns the salt water fresh.
A powerful picture…but what’s the point?
As I prayed I strongly felt that with this lockdown comes a promise and an invitation.
The promise is that God is not locked down. He is not trapped inside His house but has a habit of breaking free and a delight in entering the darkest most broken places and bringing life. He’s still doing that today.
The invitation is to join in with Him – to respond to the news of lockdown by deciding to take a step deeper into the river of God’s presence.
The image of the river is one of going ever deeper into God. It’s about moving from the place of ankle deep – having a little bit of God on the edges of life, perhaps someone to pray to in a crisis or as a vague hope in something bigger and kinder – but we can as easily step out of faith and step in. To moving to a place of complete submersion – where we are now out of control allowing God to shape and direct our lives, where we have so shaped our life around intimacy with God and relying on His presence and word that we cannot live without Him.
If we want to, this next month (or however long it may turn out to be) of lockdown, can be a time of going deeper into God…a time where we take steps to shape our lives around His presence. That can look like different things for different ones of us. Perhaps we need to make some space to actually read the Bible, to allow Him to speak into our lives every day; perhaps we need to pray like Anna wrote in her last post, maybe choosing to turn worries and anxious thoughts into prayers; perhaps we simply need to give time to be with Him, to tell Him how much we love Him or that we want to know Him more; or perhaps we need to take a step to connect with other people who love Him to – whether through one of our hubs or calling a friend or another church family. Or something totally different!
How near are you to God right now? How much do you actually need Him in your life? How deep in that river are you?
And do you want to be nearer, more in need of Him, deeper?
Each of us will know the answer if we pause and honestly ask the question. And if we take even a short moment to ask Jesus, He will show us a simple next step to go deeper into Him. Why not do that right now?
This is the invitation of this time of lockdown. It’s part of our core value of being Defined by Dependence on God that we talked about last Sunday@6pm video. And it’s this, our being submerged in the river of God’s presence, that enables God to then use us to bring His life and love to every place He puts us – to make a difference to those around us, to bring life even in lockdown.