I’d like to tell you about a pivotal encounter in my life 15 years ago that has continued to live in me. My hope in doing so is that others may encounter the Presence of God still moving between us. May it call to mind a moment of encountering the presence of God in your life. As I recall this event, it reminds me of a phrase I’ve lived with lately: quit trying to be like Jesus—he wants to be himself through you.
I’ve lived under the burden of trying to be like God for a long time. 10 years of ministry have convinced me that many others also suffer a self-inflicted discipleship. My first two years of seminary were indicative of this struggle. I was trying to be like this fascinating Jesus I heard about day in and day out—in class, chapel and in the testimony of others. I tried to do what he said. I tried to see life as he sees life. But, in the end, my imitation of Christ was the source, I realized, of my being worn out in life.
I woke up three times a night saying, “Jesus, where are you?” I felt no answers for two years—sometimes there still seem to be no answers. There was no sense of the Presence of God in my life—or in me. God was out there—somewhere high and lifted up—but far out there. Whatever was going on early in seminary, it took me two years for God and me to have a meeting within. It happened during the last chapel service of the year at communion—becoming one within The Other.
There was a shift that occurred in this encounter. There was a movement from trying to be like God (and annoying everyone around me) to knowing God on the inside. This simultaneously did two things. First, it humbled me, because I could no longer act like God. I now knew there was a God and I was not Him. Second, with this humbling, there was a power that came from on high. I no longer had to do this on my own steam. It was more than an encounter. It was a Living Presence that took residence in me (c.f. John 14:17).
I’ve not always lived consistently in The One who has been living in me since this time. I still have days and seasons when it feels like I’m drinking sand in the ocean that is God, in which we swim. The big difference now is knowing my living like Christ is only a result of His Life Overflowing in me and nothing that I do. It’s been a great relief to know power inside for the journey even if my experience of it is intermittent.
Duke Walker is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective. Thanks, Duke!