Of course Sofia would have to get sick the night before we were planning on seeing Jackie Chan speak in the park. Ok, yes, seeing Jackie Chan speak to a crowd, in a park does sound a little peculiar. It was actually going to be Francis Chan. I’ve had so many Freudian slips with Francis’ name. Strangely, it’s really difficult for me to remember ‘Francis’, but ‘Chan’ sticks, which leads me straight to ‘Jackie’. So by now, this ridiculous little slipup has happened so many times that it’s become a running joke between me and Adam. We now intentionally call Francis, Jackie Chan just to be silly. Anyway, I was kind of looking forward to hearing him speak.
As it turned out, I was able to watch him live, streaming straight into my living room. Aside from my little sickly one, the setting was pretty ideal. I didn’t have to shush any pint-sized people or think about where they might be wandering off to. It was casual, and entirely void of the usual northwest church distraction of the man leggings! To give a little context, (For those who haven’t experienced this phenomenon) it seems that the Northwest man is a proud wearer of insanely/inanely skinny spandex-ish pants (of course more in some circles than others). For males between the ages of 13 and 35, It’s apparently stylish, slightly edgy and Christian (??) to don this style. As TOMS were a decade ago, so the skinny pant (minus the cause) is today: the mark of a young, wholesome, Christian boy/man. Every time I see those…man jeggings, I literally thank God that it’s also “Christian” to wear a super long tunic/shirt that protects me from viewing what I should never feel so close to glimpsing. There is one bright spot to seeing these extra-extra slim pants, it’s that I’m instantly taken back a decade to a fabulous memory I have of my husband, just a couple of months after we got married. We thought it would be funny to try on each other’s pants. It was funny…and ridiculous! (Sorry babe for spilling our little secret). That image, burned forever on my brain of my Adam wearing MY stretchy jean-looking pants feels all too familiar when I’m surrounded by shrouded yet HIGHLY accentuated man legs.
So, while I was watching my distraction free, live stream of Francis, I was impressed by the simplicity of his message. It was stuff I’d heard thousands of times before, but I was captivated by the passion he had for basic spiritual truths. It wasn’t deep and it didn’t require a theology degree to discern. He spoke of the beautiful reality that we ALL have access to God; not just to encounter God but to interact with him on our own, and it’s amazing! We can read his words in the Bible and we can pray to God and he actually hears us, and periodically he’ll speak back.
Seeing Francis’ passion for simply opening up his Bible and reading, highlighted the fact that I’ve really neglected to hang out with God through his word. It’s been right there at my fingertips; an arm’s reach away but I’ve struggled to pick it up. My verse a day (sent from my Bible app), is my pathetic attempt. Truly there have been days where it’s all I was able to muster, and that was entirely OK, but most days I’ve just given myself excuses and options. I’ve hauled myself to church empty, hoping for another filling and wanting the encounter to last me a full 7 days. I’ve made time to analyze and think and pray because all that stuff happens easily for me and I can do it while washing dishes, folding laundry, daydreaming and sometimes in the midst of screaming at my kids, (yes, sometimes I scream). And I don’t ever just sit with him. Maybe that part I can feel ok with excusing myself on slightly. In my reality, I get absolutely no time to myself and even less time that includes peace or quiet.
For a while now, I’ve excused my lack of spiritual energy. I’ve been exhausted or short on time, or my house has looked crazy and my 4 kids are crazy too, but in the end I’m more tired of feeling empty than I am tired. For years, I called my lack of regularity “freedom”, and I think for a while it was in a sense. I needed to get free from the lie that in order for God to want me and to interact with me, I had to perform for him; meaning that I needed to spend “x” number of morning minutes with him a day. Departing from the traditional style of spending time with God allowed me to see that God and I were going to be OK regardless of what form my time alone with him took on. And missing a “quiet time” here and there showed me that God still wanted me and even more than that, I hadn’t committed a sin. Some may gasp at the thought that not reading ones Bible for a specific number of minutes a day, at the start a day, could be considered sin, but in some circles it’s heavily frowned upon; leaning toward guilt/shame behavior modification…I promise.
Completely rejecting structured time with God and instead interjecting it, wherever and whenever, brought life back into that relationship, and it allowed me to feel a sense of ownership that I craved. I resented feeling like others were manipulating my spiritual growth and taking pride in it. I wanted to be the one pursuing God in my life. Process has been my joy stealer, and for me it cracks opens the door of spiritual performance which quickly leads to a fear of being rejected by God. But rejecting structured time with God is no longer bringing me greater levels of freedom and ultimately I’m operating from a place of fear there as well.
I’m searching for the middle ground; the place where freedom and growth collide. In my longing for more I’m taken back to what “Jackie Chan” said. I'm just going to allow myself to grow in awe and passion for the God of the Bible; the God who wants me and wants to hang out with me regardless of how, when or where; without barrier or boundaries. Because I know that when I let go of my fear he’ll be there and even if I hold onto my fear he’ll be there too.