This is why meditation is so threatening to us. It boldly calls us to enter into the living presence of God for ourselves. It tells us that God is speaking in the continuous present and wants to address us.
– Richard Foster
What is it like to truly experience the power and the presence of the living God?
In the Bible the most common response is fear, sometimes terrifying fear, other times awesome, reverent fear. But the common factor is an awareness of being in the presence of something beyond them.
The Israelites experienced this when God first spoke the Ten Commandments to them. In Exodus 20 we read,
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
They heard the Lord speak and they kept their distance.
When Simon Peter first met Jesus, his immediate response was to say, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
What is it about the presence of God that terrifies us? Is it because he is forever and always beyond our control?
In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “Once [the Israelites] learned a little about God, they realized that being in his presence was risky business.”
There is a danger to practicing the spiritual disciplines. The danger is that we will actually experience the living God.
It’s much easier to go through the motions—read your Bible, attend church, sing some songs, etc.—and maintain what Foster calls “religious respectability, than it is to dive headlong into an attempt to encounter Immeasurable One.
God is above us, beyond us, out of our control. And that’s terrifying.
But in the classic words of Mr. Beaver in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, when speaking of Aslan, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
This week, as you continue to practice the first discipline of meditation, take five minutes each day and reflect on the fact that God isn’t safe, he isn’t controllable; you’re initial reaction will probably be to keep your distance from this God and ask for an intermediary to speak on his behalf.
But this God is good. This God is love. And every good and perfect thing comes from Him.