“I want you to lie down on the floor.”
Sometimes, Jesus picks the most unexpected conversation starters, such as telling me to lie down on my face during a recent Sunday night church service. I responded with some feeble attempts at convincing Him that this extremely charismatic worship service where no one was paying any attention to me whatsoever was no place for me to be distracting everyone by lying down in a corner, but, for some reason, He continued to prompt me to do it.
Reluctantly, I shuffle over to the corner, bend my knees, and decide to ease into it by first assuming the more socially acceptable, meditative kneeling position. You know the one. Open hands in lap, head dropped, angst-y facial expression.
“Do I really need to go any further?” I ask, making one last attempt.
“Okay,” I whisper as I clumsily stretch my legs out, flop down on my belly, and situate my hands underneath my forehead on the floor.
“Jesus, I feel super awkward.”
“Anna Avery, I want you to learn how to be comfortable on the ground.”
After a second of fighting it, I decide to do as He says and try to get comfortable, especially considering the fact that I have no idea how long I will be lying there. Attempting to make use of the time I have to think, I begin searching my brain for any scripture references of “ground.” The first verse I think of is Exodus 3:5, right in the middle of Moses’ encounter with the burning bush, when God says to him, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
“Lord, why, in the middle of this incredible, miraculous encounter You had with Moses, as He was hearing the voice of God speak out of a bush that was literally on fire but still somehow not burning up, would You choose to stop and bring Moses’ attention to the ground of all things?”
And this was His response (both from that moment on the ground, as well as from my journaling reflections) :
“Because I wanted him to see the I AM revealed both in the fire and in the ground. Anna Avery, I want you to look down and see the holiness of the ground. Your burning bush is coming, but in looking to the burning bush, I neither want you to neglect to look down and see My holiness in the ground, nor to neglect to remove anything that is hindering you from coming into contact with My holiness. The holiness of humility is close to the ground. The power of encounter is close to the fire. And these two things go hand-in-hand. Your testimony will be empowered by the encounter you have with My voice in the burning bush, and your life will be sanctified by the encounter you have with My holiness in the ground.”
…the ground was feeling more comfortable by the second.
Context: I LOVE the “burning bush” moments of my walk with the Lord—both eagerly looking forward to them and eagerly seeking them out. For example, although I regularly attend a baptist church in Dallas that I love, twice a month I also go to a charismatic church service in the evenings (where the previously mentioned face-on-the-ground moment happened), because those people have had some pretty unbelievable supernatural encounters with God. And, because of those encounters, they are passionate about continually seeking and asking for the Lord to reveal Himself in that way on a regular basis. And He does. And it is glorious.
But I think the reason why the Lord has not let me solely attend the more charismatic church, and the reason He had that moment with me on the floor, is because He knows my tendency to tip the scales. He knows that, if I could have things my way, I would make my spiritual life all “fire” and no “ground.” He knows that I would ultimately forfeit the fullness of the glory of God by seeking out His presence only in the fire; forgetting to also stop, take off my sandals, and see Him there, where I’m standing, in the dirt.
This past year has been a journey of discovering the “both/and” of the kingdom of God. It’s Spirit and Truth. It’s the meekness of the Lamb and the courage of the Lion. It’s the double-edged sword of scripture and the miraculous signs and wonders. It’s humility and power. They don’t contradict each other—rather, these seemingly opposite extremes are complementary, confirming the validity of the other. Tim Keller puts it this way,
“In Jesus we find infinite majesty yet complete humility, perfect justice yet boundless grace, absolute sovereignty yet utter submission, all sufficiency in himself yet entire trust and dependence on God. Jesus, who unites such apparent extremes of character into such an integrated and balanced whole, demands an extreme response from every one of us. He forces our hand at every turn in the story. This man who can be weakened by a touch in the crowd on His way to bring a little girl back from the dead is a man you dare not tear your eyes from.” (Jesus the King, 169, 177)
It’s not “either/or.” It’s “both/and.”
When we see His holiness as something so magnificent and overwhelming that it permeates even the very ground that we walk on, it changes our entire approach. It forces us to look down, recognize our own inadequacies in His Presence, and remove our sandals so that we can walk a little closer to the ground. And when we experience His power in a miraculous way, hearing His voice and seeing the fire, it changes our entire approach as well. It gives us the confidence to live courageously, empowered by the authority of the I Am, the One Who enables us to lead slaves from captivity into freedom. We walk in the extremes of total humility and complete power, following in the very footsteps of Jesus.
I am seeking to live a little closer to the ground. I am recognizing the things that keep me from coming into contact with holiness. I am asking, like Moses, “Show me Your Glory,” and I am learning to be content with Him revealing that glory both in my pursuit of His holiness and in my pursuit of His power. I am seeing the fullness of the I AM—the fullness of the One Who chooses to reveal Himself both in the fire and in the ground.
“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is His Name?” Then what shall I tell them?’”
“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”’” Exodus 3:14-15