Real Mature – Psalm 139
I led a retreat last week and, as is customary, the ministry that brought me in asked the participants to share about their experiences. Here’s what one woman wrote:
“I don’t really have time for this kind of seminar these days. I am comfortable in my relationship with God, my husband and myself.”
As you can imagine, I won’t be posting that comment on my website under “What People Are Saying About Kelli”.
For one thing, because it says more about the participant than it does about me or the material. But, she’s not alone. According to a recent Barna study, the vast majority of churchgoing women are “comfortable with their relationship with God.” Three quarters of Christian women say they are mature in their faith (73%) and more than one third (36%) of churchgoing women say they are “completely” satisfied with their personal spiritual development. An additional 42% say they are “mostly” satisfied.
I gotta be honest–I find that shocking. Especially in light of today’s reading and my own experience.
As a young college student I attended Urbana, the college missions conference directed by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. One of the keynote speakers that year was Billy Graham. This was not a draw for me. Billy was an evangelist and I was already saved (in other words, I was too spiritually mature). My friend, Diane, however, felt differently. She’d always wanted to see Billy Graham in person and was committed to making the most of this opportunity. We arrived at the University auditorium four hours prior to his scheduled appearance and waited. Diane wanted to be close…and it worked.
As Billy Graham entered the room and took the stage, I sensed something I’d never experienced before. As he moved to the podium I was overwhelmed with a sense of the Holy Spirit. Like the Holy Spirit had entered the room with him. Of course, I realize the Spirit’s presence was among us before he arrived, but now it was a palpable presence. I knew I was witnessing a man on whom God’s presence was powerful. I hung on every word he said.
Twenty five years later, I remember one morsel in particular. This man, who was quite possibly the most mature Christian I’d ever met and by all counts should have rated himself as “completely satisfied” with his personal spiritual development, told the 20,000 students gathered that night that the closer he moved toward Jesus, the more aware of his sin he became. He shared about his walks with God at night where God revealed the wretchedness of his heart and his continual amazement at the simplicity of the gospel and his perpetual state of ”beginner.” This revelation forever changed how I viewed my life with Christ.
I believe David experienced a similar reality with God. In Psalm 139:23,24 he pleads:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
This is not the prayer of someone who is comfortable or completely satisfied with his spiritual condition.
This week I asked God to show me any offensive way in me. He did. As I engaged in the spiritual discipline of confession I was quickly directed to my actions toward a friend whom I’d neglected and mistreated. For a number of months I had ignored my poor behavior and gone on about my life. I continued my regular Bible reading and prayer. I served in my church and community. I mentored and counseled others.
I was really starting to feel quite satisfied with myself. Comfortable, even.
But comfortable is overrated. I am now experiencing holy dissatisfaction and discomfort and holding that in the tension of David’s earlier wonder about God’s intimate involvement in my design (“I am fearfully and wonderfully made”). And I’m filled with gratitude for God’s faithfulness, loving kindness and forgiveness.
“I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.” (Hosea 3:4,5)
Kelli Gotthardt is a writer, speaker, and consultant. She has spent most of her career in the corporate world, but God is now directing her into full-time ministry. Her current focus is women’s issues and she travels nationally and abroad helping women leaders develop life rhythms that will increase their capacity to listen, lead, and love. Kelli is a frequent blogger and a contributor to Christianity Today. She finds renewal in silence and solitude and exercise like running, yoga, and paddle boarding on the ocean. She has been married to Richard for 24 years, and they live in Santa Cruz, CA, where he is a pastor. They have three teenagers and are adjusting to the new reality of having a son away at college. You can learn more about her at KelliGotthardt.com.