The Cross of Encounter

So this past week I attended Onething conference out in Kansas City, Missouri, hosted by IHOPKC. It was a fantastic time of meeting new people, seeing a few old friends, and just learning and worshiping in the presence of the Lord. The previous two weeks I had been just spiritually dry, and a passive spirit of boredom bounced around in the corners of my mind. Yet I desired more depth in my walk and so I went into the conference expecting, wanting, desiring, that it would change me. That it would wreck me. That I might gain new vision. A fresh dream. A crazy experience. A mind-blowing encounter.
Come Lord, come.
But speaker after speaker spoke, and song after song was sung, and I remained unaffected. Sure, the messages were good, but none gripped me. Sure, the worship was good, but none wrecked me.
Then, a small whisper, all-too familiar.
“Are you seeking Me, or an experience?”
Woah, God.
I AM seeking you, I just wouldn’t mind a crazy emotional experience to go with it. Is that too much to ask?
“If you can’t pursue me in the desert, you will neglect me in the oasis.”
Woah.
Was I seeking an experience? Or God?
Heart check.
So often I can lean on people, experiences, or emotional highs from conferences and trips to push me back to God with a fresh fire for Him and His glory. It’s easy for us to do. Experiences change us like nothing else. We’re relational creatures. We strive to relate to the Uncreated, Invisible God. We crave encounter and emotion. But the Father of Lights hasn’t called us to a life stumbling from one emotional experience to the next, one dream to the next, one vision to the next: no. He called us to a life radically abandoned from the world and addicted to pursuing Him and his Kingdom, no matter the cost.
What if it costs me good feelings?
Take up your cross.
What if it costs me experiences?
The splinters stretch out and pierce my flesh as weight and wood sink into my back.
What if I never get that amazing encounter?
My muscles struggle beneath the large beams, their embrace persuading me into the ground. My knees tear into the ground. Blood escapes skin.
What if I don’t see the fulfillment of my dream?
Crude metal rips past sinew and bone, and the pain blinds me, makes my mind reel, blackness threatening to overtake my vision. I breathe, and my lungs fill with air and dust and blood. This cursed thing clings to me like a child now, and wood and flesh become one. Blood pours.
Emotions are God-created. Experiences are divinely wonderful. Visions and dreams are incredible. Encounters are a blessing. All of these things are great and wonderful things. But just as walks in the park do not define the entirety of a romantic relationship, so encounters and emotions and experiences do not define the relationship between us and God. You have to do life with your lover, you can’t always be a lover.
Do life with God.
Conferences and feelings and dreams will cease.
God will not.
Pursuit is an action. Not a feeling.
Praise him in the storm.
Love him in the valley.
Pursue him in the desert.

 

 

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

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