“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries…”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
There is a story in the Bible that recently caught my attention. Just one verse actually. It is in Genesis 28 and Jacob is running for his life because his brother Esau is furious with him (for good reason), furious enough to murder him.
Jacob is on his way to his uncle’s and it is quite a journey. Growing weary he stops for the night and in his sleep has an incredible encounter with God, a revelation through a dream that the veil between earth and heaven is much thinner than he realised.
And it is this line that reached in and grabbed hold of my heart:
‘Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
I began to wonder how many times throughout 2017 the presence of God was in a place, a person, a moment, a situation and I was not aware of it. How many times have I raced from one place to the next, one thing to the next, one conversation to the next, maybe out of fear, anxiety, stress, worry, pressure, imagined expectations? How many times have I been so focused on the destination, the vision, the goal, what’s next, my head, heart and spirit distracted by my own thoughts and emotions, that I have been completely unaware of the God who delights in revealing Himself, who loves to speak to us and show us things?
Scripture is filled with moments like Jacob experiences here, and those moments are precious, often the opening to something more, containing an invitation from God to participate in His Great Story.
I think of Moses and the burning bush. Genesis 2:2-4 says ‘…He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…’
“When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…” – wow! I think there is a part of Himself that God reserves for those moments that we “turn aside to see”, those times that we choose to slow down and open our eyes and ears to what is happening around us.
I think of the Wise Men who saw the special star at the birth of Christ and because they were looking, they were aware, they were awake and they chose to “turn aside and see” they met the Messiah. Or Simeon in the Temple who had all of his life been waiting on God’s promised Saviour and when Mary & Joseph brought young Jesus into the Temple Simeon had eyes to see what so many never did.
I think of Peter taking time to withdraw onto the rooftop to pray and the revelatory encounter with God he had there that changed the history of the gospel forever – all because he “turned aside to see” what God had to say.
This year of 2018, I don’t want to rush from here to there, distracted and wearied and my vision clouded by muchness and manyness. I want to live awake and aware, that I may have moments where I “turn aside to see”, where I am able to say “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did know it!”
Would you like to join me?
24-7 Prayer is posting weekly blogs on their website all throughout the month of January on living counter-culturally and embracing the slowness of God. If your heart resonates with what I have written above, then you will find these blogs helpful and inspiring.