Early this morning, I came across this transcript buried in some computer files. It was a conversation from years ago, but it left an impact on me. A friend of mine asked if he could come by my office to share some things that he had been pondering. He came to faith in Christ during the Jesus Movement of the 1970’s, and that old bohemian lifestyle still infuses the cadence of his speech and the train of his thoughts. Late one rainy evening, by the warm light of a couple of floor lamps, we sat down to discuss the things that were on his mind. Though I could not record the entirety of the exchange, this was the part that stood out to me and the part that I captured for safekeeping and sharing…
He settled down in the leather chair across from my desk and made small talk. Soon, he turned the conversation to spiritual things. He said, “I need to live like God wants me to…in the Spirit. He’s made me a new creation, so I should have a new nature, right? I try too hard too many times to do or be the right thing without Him, you ever do that?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Yeah, me too…I should just depend on Him, you know, being natural is a lot easier than attempting natural. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by stuff. Sometimes I get worried about what other people think of me, just fearful, you know?”
“Yes, I do.”
“You get that way?”
“Anxious, nervous, ‘what-if-I-say-the-wrong-thing-stuff.’ But I really believe that what others think of me is none of my business. I can’t control what anyone thinks. God is in control, right?”
“We say He knows all and has all power and He can do whatever He wants—whadya’ call that?”
“Sovereignty. God is sovereign.”
“Yeah, He’s in control. Now when I know that, and live like it…let’s see…They say it’s ‘the peace that passeth all understanding,’ which is fine if you’re King James, but I call it ‘I can live now.’ You see, I can get on with life because He’s in control, gives me peace…
He stared at the ceiling and thought for a moment. “Functional relaxation…that’s what I have when I’m remembering He’s in control: functional relaxation. I can go on and do what He wants me to do and function, without being worried and getting in a wad about things. When I forget that, I act like it’s a ball game that I started, and God just showed up to play on my team. When really it’s His game; He made the game, and He made me to play on it and made me for His team, and He tells me how to play it. Speaking of that, you know why we get in a wad about so much?”
I nodded. “I have my own motivations, yes.”
“I mean do you know what we’re thinking of God then?”
“When we get ‘in a wad,’ to use your term? Is that what you mean?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Okay, what are we thinking about God at that point?”
“We think He doesn’t know us—that’s what I’m thinking, at least. But I’m wrong when I think that, that He doesn’t know us…He knows us double. First He made me, then He “became me”. He became human and walked among us. How could He not know us when He made us and was us? He did a stretch in this wrapper when He came down here. But God knows me. We think He doesn’t know us because we think He has degrees of attention, you know, like us. We overlook things and think He does too. God knows everything and is everywhere, so He doesn’t have degrees of attention, He just knows. He doesn’t just pay attention to what happens; He can’t help it. How can you ignore anything when you know everything? We are the ones who miss stuff. Has God ever blessed you, and you missed the enjoyment? Lost focus on the blessing because you were thinking ‘bout something else?”
“Yes, have you?”
He nodded. “I miss it sometimes because when God gives me that—what did I say? Functional…”
“Functional relaxation,” I said.
“Yeah, functional relaxation. When God gives me that, instead of resting in it and enjoying it, I’m trying to figure out what I did–the formula, the steps, the process–whatever I did or didn’t do to make that happen so I can get it, keep it or regain it. I act like it’s all me, when all the time it’s Him. Never has been me. Just something He gave me and something He could take if He wanted to. It’s God and everything else is detail. He has to be priority one.”
He rose from his chair and began to walk around my office as he warmed to his theme like a tent revivalist of old striding across a sawdust-covered floor. He continued speaking with an ever-rising voice. “People talk to me about priorities, about what’s important. What I would live for and what I would die for? People talk about that to me. I don’t know if that’s right. Priorities are good, but I just don’t think that ‘What would I live for or die for?’ is entirely adequate. I’m eternal; I’m going to live forever, so my priority has to be bigger than my life or death. It has to be bigger than that, because I’m eternal, and I can’t turn anything off.” He nodded and pursed his lips. “Even as hard as life gets, there is so much more. Sometimes the situations and thoughts about the circumstances can set you for a spin.” His voice dropped as his promptly sat down again. “Ever go to the ‘quandarymat?’ he asked.
“No, I didn’t say ‘laundromat.’ ‘Quandarymat,’ that’s what I said. See, it’s two words—“
“I get it, I get it.”
“Yeah, funny, huh? But it’s true. You know, you’re in it, like you’re in a washer, just getting beat up over and over. God can use that, sometimes the ‘quandarymat’ is a good place to be. It’s hard though, when you are there, to remember that God loves you.”
He began to beam. “God cares about me. I’m not just a piece on the Jumanji board; I’m a child. One of His. I was watching Vin Diesel, the actor, on one of those late night shows last night—Have you ever tried to put the jelly in the microwave?”
“Have I tried to put jelly in the microwave? Where did that come from?” I asked.
“When you get so distracted or overwhelmed by something, and you realized that instead of putting the jelly back in the refrigerator, you’re trying to put it in the microwave? Your mind is somewhere else, and you catch yourself? That’s the way that God hit me last night looking at that show. Just made me lose focus on everything else but Him. Vin Diesel was talking about playing with his kid, his little girl, and he tried to express how wonderful it was and how he felt when we got to play with her, and he couldn’t. And he said it one way, then another, then stopped and after a while, he just said, ‘It was like, I was playing with her, and she was playing with me.’ And it hit me, that’s maybe how God feels…maybe He’s excited and pleased that we talk to Him because He loves us just that much. Maybe He says, ‘My kid was talking to Me, and I was talking to him.’ And I was so overwhelmed that God actually likes me that I probably tried to put the milk into the toilet last night.”
He shifted in his seat slightly and thought for a moment before speaking. “What’s your earliest memory? Or from when in your life is it?”
I thought for a few seconds. “Perhaps from 3 or 4 years of age.”
“What happened before then?”
“I really don’t remember, do you?”
“No, that’s what I’m saying, when you were a little baby, you just were there and totally dependent upon your parents. You didn’t worry about messing up, or getting sick, or what anybody thought; you just were safe and were overwhelmed with all the things that were going on around you—looking at that, tasting this, touching stuff, smelling smells—just overcome by it all, just being in the world, and being alive in it. Maybe that’s a lot like Heaven. I’ve always thought that it meant I’d ascend to maturity, maybe it’s more like I’ll descend to infancy. Just a place where I’ll never worry again and just be eternally overwhelmed by God.”