And Forceful Dogs Lay Hold of it …

It’s 8:00 Saturday morning, and I’m sitting here in the quiet drinking my coffee, trying to catch up on my mail.  Zack, one of my dogs, has been sitting at my bedroom doorway, grunting a bit to get my attention.  He’s already been out, had his morning snack, and it’s too early for his morning feeding.  His immediate needs are taken care of, so what’s this grunting all about?  Can’t be anything important, I think, so I turn back to my computer screen and resume my reading. Suddenly he jumps up in my lap, nearly making me spill my coffee, forcing himself between my arms as he makes himself comfortable. But he’s content now, cuddled here in my lap even as I type.   His need for attention and affection apparently would not wait.  

But his assertiveness compells me to stop what I’m doing and think.  There’s a powerful message here, something stirring in my memory, a moment of spiritual recognition of truth.  And it suddenly dawns on me: this is how we should be with God and with our lives. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Mt 11:12).  

Zack knows I love him.  He knows I’m willing to hold him, to pet him, and that I’ll interrupt what I’m doing to attend to whatever he needs if he’s persistent enough.  And sometimes, like just now, he won’t wait for me to initiate the affection. 

This is what we are supposed to be like.  We all know that God loves us, that he cares for us, that he wants the best for us.  Jesus describes him as the loving Father, yearning for our presence, to gather us in his arms, and eager to help us.  And like a Father, expecting us to grow, become mature and functional in life and in our relationship with him.  He expects us sometimes to take the initiative.

The advancing Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus speaks about is not a place, it is simply the reign of God in our daily lives. It is the divine presence at work in us and through us, touching the world around us.  The Kingdom of God is an active force in this world now, energized by God’s power, governed by his principles, enacted by his people as we put his teachings into practice.

What is striking to me as I consider this, is that this leaves no room for passivity — either in life or in our relationship with God. 

How often do we complain (even if just secretly to ourselves) that we wish God would show us his love more, or in a more personal way?  How often have we quietly expressed our frustration at the lack of “real” signs of God’s power in our lives?  Where are the miracles, the signs and wonders?  And why don’t things work out better, a little easier for us, or the way we expect?  Sure, sometimes we’re not ready to have our prayers answered, and God withholds things from us for our own safety, but what about when we ARE ready?  Maybe we’re too busy — too busy waiting.  Perhaps we’ve settled comfortably on that verse that says “those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.”  But what is that renewed strength for?  More waiting, or inactivity?  

The power of God never falls upon those who sit passively with their hands folded, eyes perpetually turned to heaven.  Jesus walked the earth, healed the sick, cast out demons, taught and mentored those seeking the truth.  He went off by himself to rest and to reconnect with the Father. He spent time with friends, built loving relationships, went to weddings and dinner parties, fully enjoying being with people.  So much so, in fact, that the religious people of his day called him a drunk and a glutton.  He went about all the routines of daily life, just as we do — but he allowed the love and power of God to be expressed through him in everything he did.  And when he did, it was “by the Finger of God, the Kingdom has come upon you” (Mt 12:28).

So when my relationship with God feels dry and stale, God’s love is waiting for me.  When my life seems uneventful, pointless, and stuck in the mud, he’s made his strength, his power, and his wisdom available to me to help those around me.  Maybe I just need to shake myself out of my passivity, to stop waiting with folded hands for a personal invitation, and get up and do something.  God’s love and power only flow through action. 

Zack could have stayed at the doorway making those little grunts, or he could have given in to the sense of futility and walked away.  But then his need, his desire, would have gone unfulfilled.  Instead, in confidence (dare I say, “in faith”?), he forced his way onto my lap and was rewarded to his satisfaction.  Sometimes in order to experience the love and power of God we’re looking for, a little assertive activity may be required on our part.  Like Zack, sometimes you just have to jump into it instead of waiting for it to come to you.

Just something to consider …