Awake My Soul (Rob Bell Blogalogue Part 5)
It's the Monday after Easter, and I couldn't think of a better day to talk about God being with us. Adam Ericksen wrote about the dance of doubt and faith on Good Friday, the challenge and beauty of embracing the fullness of the journey. Rob takes that all one step further in this chapter: With.
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There is, I believe, another way to see God, a way in which we see God with us— with us, right here, right now. This isn’t just an idea to me; this is an urgent, passionate, ecstatic invitation to wake up, to see the world as it truly is.
(Kindle Locations 1201-1203)
Suddenly I have “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones playing in my head. Excuse me for being a child of the 80s.
My take-away? This God doesn't choose sides like we do.
Last week we wrote about tribes and tribalism and were taken to task (rightly so, I might add) about our carelessness and insensitivity in the use of those terms. Are tribes good things? How do people organize? Are tribes necessarily bad or primitive? Welcome to white male colonialism. Any confusion about the terms is ours and not Rob's. I find it so challenging to talk about the with-ness of God without talking about the not-with-ness of how human communities can function. We love to divide ourselves ... oft to be at violent odds with one another.
Rob, however, is not talking about rivalry or the lack thereof in this chapter. I'm working hard to lose that habit. He's very clear that this is about that immanent God, that every-bush-is-aflame-with-the-fire-of-God God. But knowing the press Rob receives, I just want to check off the rivalry box one last time. This is the last time for me, I promise. But back to Rob. People have asked who Rob is accountable to.
Why does Rob write this stuff? Whose side is he on? Yours. Mine. Ours.
I want you to see. Not in a superficial, check-the-box, oh-yeah-now-I-get-it casual sort of way, but in an “Oh dear God, my eyes are finally open” sort of way.
(Kindle Locations 1212-1214)
Rob is on everyone's side. He's trying to live like the God who meets him when he's surfing, hanging with his kids and friends, walking along the city streets, or doing just about anything. He wants to be surprised. He wants to witness the fullness of each moment, the deep breathing of the Spirit (ruach) of God.
He's such a good evangelical. He's not trying to convince us of anything. He's trying to show us everything.
In this Rob is writing about those transcendent moments, those awesome moments when we get a glimpse of the magnitude of the universe and our very, very small place in it ... and the inconceivably generous grace that is communicated in the midst of our smallness. This is the kind of vision that he desires for us. This is how he wants us to experience the with-ness of God. God is with us. With. This powerfully. He wants us to see that these exceptional moments are signs of what's at work in every moment. He believes that Jesus is calling us to see this way. And he suggests that sometimes we let the tropes of our faith traditions get in the way.
It’s one thing to sing about God and recite quotes about God and invoke God’s name; it’s another to be aware of the presence in every taste, touch, sound, and embrace. With Jesus, what we see again and again is that it’s never just a person, or just a meal, or just an event, because there’s always more going on just below the surface.
(Kindle Locations 1500-1504)
In this way Rob shows his Brother Lawrence cards. He's saying the Jesus Prayer. He's a Pilgrim on the Way. He's got that Quaker inner light. He's locating himself as a pastor and a spiritual theologian, Ignatian even! He's come at it (as I keep saying) from the evangelical entry-point. Some will say he's an individualist. Perhaps, but welcome to the American evangelical tradition. But what Rob is showing us is what it might look like if one comes through the tradition, digs into its depths and comes out the other side. Those conversion moments where we give our lives individually over to Christ, where we are born again happen all the time if we open our eyes.
To be born again is to confess that God is with us in a radical way — a life-changing, soul-changing way. Rob is taking this idea and running with it … well, walking really slowly and intentionally with it. We are born again in each and every moment.
Because there’s always something more, something else, depth and fullness and life, right there, all of it a gift from the God who is with us.
(Kindle Locations 1534-1537)
How's that work for a Resurrection Monday?
There’s so much to this chapter that I could have written about. He's most clear about how this spiritual posture (dare I say, “truth”) guides his interaction with the spiritual-but-not-religious, the Buddhists, Hindus, and even the Jedi. He offers quite a lot of ink on the subject, but it's time for me to move on.
It's Adam’s turn. So ... God is “for” us. Uh. Oh. Will you bring Girard with you? Of course you will. Show us the Way, my friend. I'm looking forward to it.
*Headline with apologies to Mumford and Sons
Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.org. Follow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.
Photo: Young woman meditating, Luna Vandoorne / Shutterstock.com