We value God’s presence. He can be known experientially and relationally. The Creator who made us body, soul and spirit fashioned us to know him with the fullness of who we are. We experience him in the spirit, for he is Spirit. In our soul, we experience God in our thoughts and emotions. With our will we surrender to him, long for him, prefer him above all. Even in our bodies, we find that our flesh cries out for the living God.
Though our experience of God happens within all three of these categories (spirit, soul, body), our experience is not divided, for these aspects of our being are not divided. Our spirit and soul and body are distinct but they are not divided. They are an integrated whole. Because of this, it is normal that our experience of God is integrated and whole.
Some live life only experiencing God inwardly in the realm of spirit and intellect. Their interaction with God is rarely if ever emotional or physical. It is unlikely that in these cases the limitation is on God’s side. More likely we are ourselves divided within ourselves. We are not living integrated whole lives. We do not experience God in all of our being because we are not ourselves truly present to all of our being. Our culture has divided the material and non-material. Our churches have divided sacred and secular. Our sin has divided heaven and earth. We have too often conceded to this brokenness and divided body from spirit. Jesus died to make us whole again.
We hunger for more of God’s presence. We pray for more. We believe for more. And this is valid and biblical. Though God doesn’t change, it is apparent biblically that our experience of God can increase and change. Peter, James and John experienced the cloud of glory and the audible voice of God on the mountain of Transfiguration, an experience not shared by the other nine disciples. The same believers who experienced the mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire in Acts 2 and the shaking building in Acts 4 did not live with a constant state of wind and shaking and apparent symptoms of drunkenness. Peter went into a trance on Simon’s roof, yet he was not always in a trance. So we recognize that it is possible to experience varying degrees of the manifestation (unveiling) of God’s presence. We long for more.
God does seem to move in various ways in different times and places. I have no doubt that this ebb and flow through church history hinges to some degree upon God’s own sovereign choice and plan while, at the same time, happening in partnership with our stewardship and initiative as co-laborers. We are waiting on God to move, yet we are not passively waiting. We are actively partnering. It is like a dance where God is leading and yet we are actively moving in step with his movements.
Lately, my emphasis in prayer has changed somewhat. I am spending less time asking for more of God’s presence (though that is still a valid prayer). I am spending less time asking God to be more present to me and instead choosing to be more present to him.
To be more fully present to God, my own internal divisions must decrease. It is hard to be fully present to God if there are entire aspects and categories of my own being to which I have little or no awareness or access. Even when I pray, “come Holy Spirit,” what I mean is less an invitation for him to draw near to me and more of my choice to be fully present to him. When I draw near to him, he draws near to me.
May I become a person who thinks and feels and desires with a powerful depth that is actively integrated with body and spirit. May I be that kind of person in every relationship. May I grow in being fully present in and to myself. May I become more fully present to the world around me. May I learn to bring the fullness of who I am to God, knowing him with my whole being.
Psalm 84:2 (ESV) My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.