the kingdom...

When I first entered ministry, I felt dauntless. The world inside me was teeming with possibility and promise. I felt like I wanted to "change the world"...i felt like I could. I would daydream all the time about making the world in my head come to life on the other side of my skin, the side where things weren't as the could be or should be. I lived out of the unseen world believing against all odds that it could come true if I leveraged my whole life to see it realized. I closed my eyes when I sang and imagined myself in the midst of millions of worshippers even though I was in a room with 35 uninterested teenagers who couldn't wait for youth group to end. I lived with lively expectation even though so many had given up. I awoke with the hope that things could be different if only I could cast the vision that filled my mind in such a way that people caught the fever. I read my Bible and memorized Scripture so that I could feed the fury of my dreams with the fuel they needed to stay alive and active. I prayed believing that miracles were but a breath away. I remember praying all night long with the students asking God to move as in the days of old...all night long. I remember preaching so hard that I would get a cramp in my left love handle. I remember seeing the waywardness of students and crying out to God to let them see what I was seeing in my mind's eye, my heart's eye.

I'm learning that what I used to call this "world inside my head" was nothing short of the "Kingdom of God" that Jesus promised to put in our hearts. Here's one of my favorite quotes in the Bible:

The kingdom is within you. --Jesus

I didn't know it at the time, but what I was calling "vision" was really the kingdom growing ever more massive inside my heart. I could see the King smiling on His throne high and lifted up. I could watch all of creation join together lifting an anthem of worship to his holy and happy heart. I could see myself tucked in the legions of angels crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almight, who was, and is and is to come." I was there while still living here. I was seeing that while still experiencing this. And all the while I was asking God to make the world inside of me bleed over into to the world of outside of me. I lived believing it could be so..."if only".

I was really asking, without knowing it, for the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. And no one could tell me that it wasn't possible, no one. I remember someone telling me, "It's just not realistic to think teenagers are going to read the Bible like you're expecting them to." I just couldn't accept that. I was seeing the greatness of God and it seemed reasonable to devour the Word like a ravenous wolf. I remember preaching my first sermon in "big church" and an older lady came up to me afterward and said, "Enjoy your passion when you're young because when you get older it's gone." I just couldn't accept that. I couldn't, for the life of me, comprehend losing the fervor I felt for the Kingdom in my heart. It was too huge! The King was too huge! Sure, I felt discouraged at times with the chasm between the world inside and the world outside. Sure, I wept at the incongruency of what I desired and what I experienced. Sure, I would get overwhelmed at the seemingly insurmountable odds I was up against...but I was chained to the glory of the kingdom come and coming. It's taste was in my mouth. It's sound was in my hears. It's vision was burning in my eyes. I was "all in" as they say in Texas Hold 'em.

But I've been wondering something lately. I've been wondering if the kingdom that Jesus said is in my heart can shrink. If the walls can close in and cave in. If the grass can wither and the flowers fade, if the streams can run dry and the sun set. It just doesn't seem to be as vast and vibrant in there as it used to be. It doesn't propel me with the force it once did. It's there, but it's weaker, thinner, more easily drowned out with the kingdom of this world. I know this because things of this world seem to affect me more than they used to...pinched finances, failing brakes, annoying potholes, disfunctional garage door openers, red lights, endless rain, uncooperative children, chipmunks digging up my landscaping mulch, broken people who are staying broken, car trouble, house repairs, etc...these things become huge when the kingdom isn't anymore. When the kingdom inside shrinks, the kingdom outside expands. I'm seeing this trend more and more acutely as of late...and it's sad.

Maybe that women was right, maybe my passion will decrease with age. Maybe my dreams will become more realistic and reasonable with maturity. But I have to tell you that the prospect of that is disabling to me. The thought of living according to the standards of this world and not the standards of the kingdom within is nothing short of paralyzing. I'm serious. My stomach is getting sick just thinking about "killing time" until the rapture. It's nausiating. I can't let that happen...God, you can't let that happen!

I want the kingdom to expand inside me again. I can't stomach the possibility that those days are over and I'm on to the more sophisticated and sterile leg of my journey. But with every day that I feel the kingdom leaking out, I become more concerned that I will not get it back.

Jesus said in his dying day, "My kingdom is not of this world, if it was, I would fight." Lately I've been feeling the opposite...allow me the latitude to play with this verse..."My kingdom is of this world, and as such, I will fight." And that is what I've been doing inside, fighting. My life is a fight to stay hopeful, happy, and humble. A fight to not be angry with my kids. A fight to keep loving broken people. A fight to not be ticked at the gas prices. A fight to not want to run someone off the road for cutting me off. A fight to not covet what other people have and to mourn what I don't. A fight to trust people after being hurt. A fight to feel close to God in the midst of these emotions. A fight to lead people while struggling. The fight is on. And I want to turn it off. I want to relax into the idea that my kingdom is not of this world and to put down the sword like Peter and fight for the kingdom inside my heart. That is what I want to fight for again, God's dreams, visions and passions. That is the fight that makes all the worldly fighting seem like playground squabbles over swingsets and sandboxs. It is the fight that matters.

The kingdom is in your heart. --Jesus


ShepherdRick said…

The passion does not have to pass, and the flame does not need to flicker ... I would rather live as Don Quixote and be misguided, than to live as a Judas who was in the midst but lived in a mist.

In spite of whatever ways I have failed you as a friend, I can honestly state that the darkhorse journey is rich, solid, and an invigorating relational with our King!
Some thoughts. . . *The Lord uses you to change the world, one, ten, a hundred worshippers at a time. *God's vision for the Kingdom never shrinks. *When I was a teenager, if someone had given me the tools to search the Bible, I WOULD HAVE! (By God's grace, He has led me to one resource after another to understand His Word more!) *That was just one lady. Don't let those words haunt you for the worse, only to encourage you to not let it happen! Keep fighting!
Jecca said…
I can relate. I want to fight for the kingdom in my heart again too instead of fighting the kingdom of this world.

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