I recently came back from Denmark. In my previous blog post I wrote of my state of mind prior to going and why I went away. From time to time a read a Christian devotional called ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ written by Oswald Chambers (again see last blog post for more on him). This is the reading for the 3rd April, a few days before I flew away, which pretty summed up my state of mind at the time:
If Thou Hadst Known!
If thou hadst known . . . in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. — Luke 19:42
Jesus had entered into Jerusalem in triumph, the city was stirred to its foundations; but a strange god was there, the pride of Pharisaism; it was religious and upright, but a “whited sepulchre.”
What is it that blinds me in this “my day”? Have I a strange god – not a disgusting monster, but a disposition that rules me? More than once God has brought me face to face with the strange god and I thought I should have to yield, but I did not do it. I got through the crisis by the skin of my teeth and I find myself in the possession of the strange god still; I am blind to the things which belong to my peace. It is an appalling thing that we can be in the place where the Spirit of God should be getting at us unhinderedly, and yet increase our condemnation in God’s sight.
“If thou hadst known” – God goes direct to the heart, with the tears of Jesus behind. These words imply culpable responsibility; God holds us responsible for what we do not see. “Now they are hid from thine eyes” – because the disposition has never been yielded. The unfathomable sadness of the “might have been!” God never opens doors that have been closed. He opens other doors, but He reminds us that there are doors which we have shut, doors which need never have been shut, imaginations which need never have been sullied. Never be afraid when God brings back the past. Let memory have its way. It is a minister of God with its rebuke and chastisement and sorrow. God will turn the “might have been” into a wonderful culture for the future.
On the 11th April I flew to Denmark. On the 12th this happened to me. This is the post I put on Facebook at the end of that day:
Something happened to me today. Another one of those God things that have happened in the past. I’ve tried to blog about it here in my hotel room in Copenhagen but I’ve given up so here it is:
I came here to seek solitude and reconnect wit…h God. I’m meant to be having breakfast in the hotel this morning but the restaurant is full. I notice it’s sunshine and clear blue sky outside (a rarity in Denmark I’ve read). I decide to skip the breakfast I paid for and head out. I’ve started to pray again and keep on doing as I try to find my way to the Little Mermaid statue without a map. I find it. It’s beautiful outside. Then as I head back to the city on foot I hear words in my head. Not words from me. Words outside me yet in my head.
Open your heart to hope again.
Open your soul to believe again.
Open your mind to imagine again.
Things like this have happened to me before. I have blogged about it and put it in the public space for anyone to read. To try and describe how these words sounded would be impossible yet I knew they were not from me. I have had a few very strange encounters with God which I have openly blogged about. They are very, very rare. But with all my heart and honesty I attest to them as true.
The time this happened as I walked though the Kastellet, an old fortress and former military barracks by Copenhagen harbour. It was around 9:59am. Why do I know this? Not because I had a watch and iPad on me but because there is a church on the Kastallet – looking like any English country church – that started to peel the 10am chimes. Just before then I had stopped, got out my iPad and had recorded a note of the words I heard. As I finished the church bells started to chime. Those chimes ended in a full verse played by the church bells of a hymn we know well in the UK:
He who would valiant be against all disaster
Let him in constancy follow the Master
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a Pilgrim.
I stopped walking and just listened to the chimes. It was as if all my inner turmoil was being addressed in those bells.
Funny how my day would have been so different had I decided to stay at the hotel insisting on the breakfast I paid for.
For me, the words and the peel of the church bells spoke exactly into my life and where I was and am right now. The shock I felt has remained with me all day. This post won’t make sense to some of my FB friends or be welcome by others. I can’t apologise for that but if you have known me to be mates with me this long this will not come as any surprise. I am just me on here, warts, wounds and all. For my FB friends who understand and welcome this post. We are never too long in the tooth or too buried in life’s shit to be disqualified from a visit.
Then when I returned to London travelling to work on my first day back, I was still trying to take in my encounter in Denmark. I turned once again to that day’s reading in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’ and found this:
Can You Come Down From the Mountain?
While you have the light, believe in the light . . . —John 12:36
We all have moments when we feel better than ever before, and we say, “I feel fit for anything; if only I could always be like this!” We are not meant to be. Those moments are moments of insight which we have to live up to even when we do not feel like it. Many of us are no good for the everyday world when we are not on the mountaintop. Yet we must bring our everyday life up to the standard revealed to us on the mountaintop when we were there.
Never allow a feeling that was awakened in you on the mountaintop to evaporate. Don’t place yourself on the shelf by thinking, “How great to be in such a wonderful state of mind!” Act immediately— do something, even if your only reason to act is that you would rather not. If, during a prayer meeting, God shows you something to do, don’t say, “I’ll do it”— just doit! Pick yourself up by the back of the neck and shake off your fleshly laziness. Laziness can always be seen in our cravings for a mountaintop experience; all we talk about is our planning for our time on the mountain. We must learn to live in the ordinary “grey” day according to what we saw on the mountain.
Don’t give up because you have been blocked and confused once— go after it again. Burn your bridges behind you, and stand committed to God by an act of your own will. Never change your decisions, but be sure to make your decisions in the light of what you saw and learned on the mountain.
I am still walking in the light of all the above and will be flying away again very soon for part two of my personal retreat. I wonder what deeper insights await?