Monthly Archives: November 2013

Godly Guru Part 2

Last time, we spoke of how God is someone we can turn to for wisdom and guidance at all times, not just in a church setting.  However, having recognized this, the question remains of how we actually listen to Him.  As the pilgrim seeks to listen to the guru, so we seek to listen to the voice of God.  To do this, we undertake a journey.  Not an outward journey, but an inward one, a journey of the heart.  What we are looking for is that quiet, solitary place where we can be alone with God to listen to Him or commune with Him.  We search for this place by learning to quite our interior life.

In a lot of ways, it is like trying to find still waters.  In such waters, we are able to see the ripples of each drop of rain that falls upon it from above.  When the water is choppy and agitated, it is next to impossible to see these ripples.  In different seasons of our lives it can be easier or more difficult to quiet the waters.  However, if we attempt to make the waters quiet through the force of our own efforts, we will not succeed.  As soon as we lay hold of them, they are stirred up by our hands.  We achieve the opposite of what we aim for.  The water will only quiet and become still by God’s work.  Thus, our part is to create space and time for the water to settle naturally, according to the acting and order of God.  One way we may go about this is to create a set amount of time we spend attending to God.  It may be by way of reading Scripture, prayer, meditation, anything that directs our attention to God.

Another thing that we must be aware of while on our journey to hear God is that there other things besides raindrops that cause ripples on the water.  The devil and our own sinful desires will throw pebbles into the water to create ripples to confuse and mislead us.  These ripples look very much like those created by drops from above, but are counterfeit.  To discern the difference, we need to look beneath the surface.  The drops from above deepen the waters, deepen our relationship with God.  The pebbles have the opposite effect, subtly making the waters shallower and making our relationship with God shallower.  St. Ignatius of Loyola referred to this deepening or making shallow as “consolation” and “desolation”.

This is far from comprehensive treatment of the question of how we listen to God; the tip of the iceberg, as it were.  God speaks to us in many ways, shapes, and forms.  However, when we learn to quiet ourselves and listen to Him, we come to recognize the sound of His voice wherever we may encounter it.  We then find that the guru we have sought so ardently has been with us and speaking with us the entire time.


Godly Guru

The wise, old guru, with his wizened appearance, perched atop a mountain in solitude, is a familiar image to many of us.  We most often encounter this character in conjunction with the pilgrim who makes the arduous climb up the mountain to seek wisdom or advice.  As a matter of fact, we rarely picture the guru without such a pilgrim in the scene, sprawled on the ground, exhausted from the journey and eager to soak up the guru’s wisdom and tranquility.  If only we, too, had the opportunity to meet with such a guru, then we would have the peace and guidance in our lives that we so desperately seek!  The fact is that we have access to One who excels all gurus and wise men in knowledge, wisdom, and peace.  It is God who knows all things and from whom all wisdom proceeds and whose peace surpasses all understanding.

If we have access to such a Counselor, why do we not turn to Him more?  Perhaps it is because we don’t view Him in that light.  If we only ever encounter God in a church or Bible study setting, it makes sense that we would perceive Him as a God who is only relevant in such settings and speaks only to such settings.  Therefore, we are only inclined to seek His wisdom for matters specifically within that context.  We must be in desperate straits to ask His guidance outside of what we think is His area of expertise.  However, God speaks to the entirety of our lives, not just the part spent in a church building.

Let’s consider what wisdom is.  Generally speaking, wisdom is knowledge for good living.  That is to say, knowledge for doing what is right, finding peace and contentment, etc.  These are characteristics of a life lived with God.  (Not ignorant of, not near, not around, but with God.)  God’s wisdom applies to all areas of our lives and is instruction for good living because it tells us how we go about living our lives with God.  As God’s written account of His involvement with humanity, the Bible communicates this wisdom via many genres of literature.  The Gospels in particular provide us with an account of the life and teachings of God in the flesh:  Jesus Christ.

Coming to grips with this fact that God’s wisdom is wisdom for life is one of the greatest hurdles we encounter in our Christian walk.  However, when we begin to grasp this, we become able to say with Peter:  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)  This conviction is what motivates us to seek God as ardently as the pilgrim seeks the guru.  For we seek to hear more than trite sayings and clever words.  We seek His words of eternal life that will transform and uphold us.  We seek to rest in His presence which gives us peace beyond all understanding.

The Fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord can be a vague-sounding term.  On the surface it seems to suggest that we are afraid of God.

Original image by Fiona the Awesome

Original image by Fiona the Awesome

However, this “godly fear” is not the same kind of fear which evokes our fight or flight response.  The fear of the Lord has its beginnings in our understanding that God is so much bigger than ourselves and is beyond our complete comprehension.   In this respect, the fear of the Lord contains an element of awe.  It is similar to the awe we might feel being up close and personal with a whale, elephant, or other large animal.  Another example is the sense of smallness we get when looking up at the vast expanse of the night sky.  The sheer size of these things commands our respect.  We might call this a reverential fear.  So it is with God.  By virtue of who He is, we, and all creation, are called to show reverence to Him.  Our recognition of God as God leads us to hold Him in special esteem.  Those who fear the Lord revere the Lord.

It remains to be considered how we are to understand Jesus’ statement that we are to fear God “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:27-31)  Christ is talking about situations when we allow ourselves to be motivated by fear.  Even at times like this, we ought to obey God rather than men for God has more power over us than any human ever will.  If we are going to let the fear of men dictate our actions, so much more should we obey God since He is able to do so much more.  However, this base, animalistic fear is not fear that is holy for even demons have this fear. (James 2:19)  Christ immediately follows up by noting that even though God has such great power, He also loves us more than we can ever know, even to the point of knowing how many hairs are on our heads.  A single sparrow does not fall from the sky apart from God’s will and Christ says “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  Our fear of God is based on awe as well as trust in His love of us.

To get a better idea of what this fear of the Lord is like, we turn to David, king of Israel.  When he had sinned by trusting in his military resources rather than God, God sent a message to him by way of the prophet Gad. (1 Chronicles 21:1-15)  David is given three choices for the punishment that he and the people of Israel under his rule must face:  three years of famine, three months of being defeated by their foes with the sword of their enemies overtaking them, or three days of the sword of the Lord—a plague in the land with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout Israel.  In the face of such frightening circumstances, David begs that he would fall into the hand of God and not men.  Why?  Because “His mercies are very great.”  David would rather commit his fate to God than to men because of His reverence for and trust in God.  David places all in God’s hands precisely because he has a holy fear of God.  It is this holy fear of God which reveres and trusts God that David’s son, Solomon, would later write is the beginning of wisdom.