Matt Redman wrote a song about returning to the heart of worship. He talks about what worship is when everything else is stripped away. That it’s all about Jesus. About knowing him. At the moment I’m feeling like quite a lot is stripped away. The GP has signed me off sick for another month. Apart from the bitter disappointment of it, I’m beginning to ask what my faith means when stripped away from the busyness of church and ministry. I am entering my eighth week of illness.
The title quote comes from the desert fathers. These were early Christians, in the second and third centuries, who went out into the deserts of Egypt to pray. They hid as far away from civilisation as possible because they didn’t want anything to distract them from knowing God. They would spend weeks, months, years in a hut or a cave, or a small room.
This was their cell. And when all was stripped away it was just them and God. And they’d learn all they needed to know about the heart of worship in that empty place. Because, with all the distractions of the world gone, all that was left was them and God.
Now, I’ve still a few episodes of the West Wing left. But I’m trying not to strive to get better as quickly as I possibly can. That patently isn’t happening. That target has been taken from me, at least for the next few weeks. So instead I will sit in my cell and let my cell teach me.
There’s a book called ‘Longing for God’ by Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe. It’s all about the Desert Fathers and what they learnt about God and themselves as they sat in their caves. I’m not promising to get a blog out every day. That’s just returning to my drivenness. It’s exactly what I’m not into at the moment. But the next few blogs will be about their longing for God.
What will the Lord teach me in my cell? If I’m honest, I’m not at all glad to be in this place, any more than Job was when the Lord removed literally everything from him. Or Naomi was when all was stripped from her and she changed her name to ‘Marah’ meaning ‘bitterness’. But if God has stuff to teach me that he couldn’t get through to me in another way, so be it. I will not despise the discipline.
Hebrews 12:6-7 “… the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
So I sit in my cell, turn off the TV and ask ‘Lord Jesus, what will you teach me today?’