I used to think of my relationship with God in terms of a compass. I always wanted to find “true north” in my relationship with Jesus. That is an acceptable metaphor, I’m sure, but I have re-calibrated my journey this week.
Dr. Steven Fettke is one of the most respected professors in the school of Pentecostal theology. He has given over 35 years to teaching the truths found in Scripture. This week, I have had the great privilege of sitting under his teaching again as a part of the Masters of Arts in Ministerial Leadership program I am pursuing through my alma mater, Southeastern University. He introduced the discipline of purgation to our class this week. This lesson has been nothing short of perspective-altering.
If you’re anything like me, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on the still, small voice of the Lord (as described in 1 Kings 19) when there is so much flying through your head. The discipline of purgation allows these thoughts to go through your mind, but as if they are traveling on a river. The thoughts will arise, but they will continue to carry on down the river as you practice this discipline.
Simply defined, purgation is the discipline of allowing the Lord
to purge your mind of every distraction.
Another word to replace such a lofty work like purgation
would simply be the word, centering.
Centering is the process of sitting before the Lord in utter and complete silence for a period of time before you ever pray or read. This allows your heart, mind and spirit to settle down. Dr. Fettke stated, “Many times, we want to bring our agenda to the Lord, but centering allows us to lay down our agenda and receive what the Lord’s agenda is for us that day.” He continued, “We need to realize that, many times, our agenda can be an idol in our lives because God is wanting to do something completely different in us that we would have not expected.”
I have taken the last five days and practiced this discipline in the morning and the evening. I started really slow, with my first experience only lasting two minutes (at the most). Honestly, it was uncomfortable. My mind was racing, but I continued to view my thoughts as if they were on a river, passing through and continuing on down the river. The next day, I spent more time in silence.
Today, my fifth day, I completely broke. I found myself in utter and complete shambles as the names of family and friends in our community and around the world started to come to my remembrance. Tears flowed as I realized that I was not alone in my time of silence, but an entire community was with me as I brought all of them with me to the feet of Jesus in prayer. I moved on from that time of silence and prayed for quite a while. The Lord had brought HIS agenda to me.
Would you try this practice for a few days? Start small. Start simple.
Maybe even just sixty seconds. No bringing your prayers to the Lord.
Just sit in utter and complete silence and allow
the Lord to bring his agenda to your day.
I used to think that I was continuing to find true north. Now, my daily journey is simply to find my center.
In the mental health world, this is similar to what we call this mindfulness. Acknowledging thoughts and feelings, but letting them go as you notice them. Like paper boats floating down a creek, a log on a river, ..I’ve had over two years to come up with analogies. 🙂 but yes, the idea is to be aware of thoughts and feelings, acknowledge and accept them, and let them go. No judgement, no “shoulds” or “oughts”. As I first began learning and practicing mindfulness, it was really difficult because I didn’t grow up in a truly grace-filled church environment. We had the list of does and don’ts that if we didn’t follow, we weren’t really Christians. So to learn to acknowledge and accept faults and failures and, heaven forbid, anxiety or depression (gasp!), was really difficult. But in the end, all those other voices eventually quieted down and His voice remained. It’s a very healing thing to be able to accept oneself as broken by nature but saved by grace. So be it purgation or mindfulness, it’s good, good stuff.