To me, closeness is better than greatness.
I grew up believing in one kind of God, but experiencing another. I believed in miracles, in the limitless and immediate supernatural power of God, but I never saw anything of the sort. My spiritual life was like ESPN in Julyº. All the exciting stuff existed, it was just the off-season.
But the off-season was all I had. I knew something was missing, and at 18 I started to put words to it. The words came easy, spilling over from a heart full of discontent. I didn’t have “peace” with God, that’s how I put it.
So when I first heard of a real miracle happening in America, on my home turf, I knew I had found my answer. The miracle-seeing people were much more “peaceful” than I, and I knew I could have peace, too, if I could just see God’s power for myself.
I think that sort of logic is true for a lot of folks, the Jesus likers and non-likers.
"If I could only see an obvious sign, then…"
But the logic is flawed. Well, I suppose it’s actually not flawed. There’s some truth there. The problem is that logic’s truth isn’t good enough.
At least in this case, logic can actually lead to an answer for our minds. The problem is that it was the heart, not the mind, that really needed to be satisfied in the first place.
That’s why people often marry people who aren’t their “type.” Your head makes a checklist, it sets expectations, but when the heart finds what it really wants, it’s hard to deny. Seems to me that when your mind does the choosing, you rarely end up in love. You just stay “in hope.” I digress…
I’ve seen obvious signs. Turns out God is pretty wild. I’ve seen uneven legs grow out, I’ve seen it rain indoors, I’ve seen cysts shrink, I’ve seen more in the last two years than I thought I could see in a lifetime and I’m extremely grateful. It’s great. But closeness is better than greatness.
Do you know that at my church in Redding, CA God shows up in clouds of gold dust? Re-read that sentence. Clouds of freaking gold dust, people. Here’s some video of it. It’s crazy. You might not believe your eyes, and that’s fine. Greatness isn’t as good at swaying our belief as closeness is. At least that’s what I think. It’s my best theory for why that video has been looked at only 10,000 times, while 10,000,000 people have looked at this.
Closeness defied my logic.
I remember a couple Septembers ago I was at church, at the usual Sunday night worship service. My friend William was leading us in songs, and my heart was heavy. I could feel the presence of God*.
What was He there to do? The God I knew was always fixing things. He always had an agenda, a checklist of things he had to restore. Often He invited me to partner with him on a project, and that always made me feel close. If there was ever an opportunity to prophesy, to heal, to help, to care for, I’d take it. Because the way I knew how to be with him was to do something with him.
"What are you here to do, God?" I asked a usual question, but got an unusual response:
"Tonight is about closeness. I just want to be close."
And He drew near to me. Nearer and nearer. I hit the deck with the heaviness of his presence. Heat pulsed through my hands as waves of goosebumpy tinglies came and went. I strategically positioned myself near the tissue box, and quickly emptied it on account of SnottyCryFest 2010. I yelled a few times, on accident. I couldn’t control these spontaneous shouts, and I eventually covered my mouth for fear of being “that charismatic guy.”
And I worshipped. I was in such awe of Him. I made wild declarations.
"God, I’ll go anywhere, I’ll do anything! You can take anything you want from me! Just please, let me know this Nearness forever!"
The music stopped, and people returned to their chairs. But this closeness I was experiencing was too rich, too intimate for me to remain in the room. I was going to go into Bethel’s prayer house, but I quickly realized I wouldn’t fit in with the quiet intercessors. Those random shouts hadn’t quit yet.
So I lied down on the deck of the prayer house for at least another hour or so, maybe more. Funny how time flies when you’re being messed up by his Nearness. I did a few more odd “charismatic guy” things, liking twitching around and spittingª in tongues. It was all very intense, yet completely relaxing at the same time.
After a while, I felt God remind me that I wanted to prophesy over some friends of mine. Normally I would have loved this opportunity: I get to do something with God! But this night was so different. I remember telling him, “Ehh…I don’t have to. I just want to be close to you.” He eventually convinced me to jot down a short word, though.
The next day I gave this word, which was only a few sentences, to my friends. I looked down for about 20 seconds to read it from my phone. When I looked back up at my friends, tears had welled up in their eyes. “You have no idea,” they said, “how deep that resonates in my heart.” I had prophesied before, but I don’t think I had ever felt such power released from my words.
I’ve seen this pattern in my prophetic words continue since then: when I prophesy from a place of deep Closeness, the words are typically much more powerful than when I prophesy as a means to get to a place of Closeness.
For so long I have wanted to experience and perform great supernatural exploits: prophesy powerfully, heal the sick, maybe help out a party by turning water into wine…
But in my life, by the time I got close enough to God to start to see those things, I realized that his Closeness actually satiated the deeper hunger in me, a hunger I didn’t even know existed.
I’ve wanted to be somebody great, too. Even now, I want to be important, influential, successful and all that. I want a black man to say to me, “Man, you got soul!”
But God’s Closeness is bizarre. Honestly, I feel my greatest, my most powerful when He draws near. Which makes sense. (The most important being in existence wants to hang out with me, NBD.) But the crazy thing is that the joy that comes from discovering my own greatness turns out to be no match for the joy I find in beholding His Greatness. The closer He gets, the less interesting everything else seems.
Closeness is better than greatness.
Hope that makes sense.
º You probably like watching baseball in July. But that’s about the time when us Cubs fans start saying, “well…there’s always next year.”
* It always looks different, and I can never seem to completely explain it. I did my best, but you can rest assured it’s actually much, much better.
ª Nope, that’s not a typo. I had never spoken in tongues before, but I remember a flurry of jumbled word-sounds erupting spontaneously that night. So, it was actually closer to vomiting in tongues, I guess. Gross. Lemme think of a better metaphor…