What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those very questions. Today we invite you to sit down with Austin Smith, Watershed's Pastor of Operations & Creativity.
How do you get to the core of who you are and uncover the thing that wakes you up and gets you out of bed every morning? What kind of questions would it take to unearth the thing deep inside of you that is really steering the ship?
Over the past few years I have started to try to ask these kinds of questions. Not because I am necessarily on a quest to find out who I am and what I was born to do, but because I am curious. You see, these past few years have been a sort of awakening for me. It’s almost as if I was asleep for a long long time and finally I stopped dreaming and opened my eyes to reality. The natural progression of waking up would be, then, to get out of bed and to start exploring. That place is where I find myself these days.
As I’m writing this, we are almost halfway through December and deep into the Christmas season. I’m not too much of a Christmas music fan (especially before Thanksgiving) but there is one “Christmas phrase” that has become intensely meaningful to me: God with us.
There’s this scene in the early part of the book of Matthew where the stage is being set for Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph are engaged and she finds out she’s pregnant. Two pink lines that undoubtedly meant divorce for them. Verse 19 even says that “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Instead, Joseph has a life-altering dream in which an angel appears to him and tells him that Mary is going to give birth to the Divine. That his name will be Jesus and that he will be called Emmanuel, God with us.
For a long time, that was a really nice, almost moving story. That changed when I had my son. That really nice story of God entering into humanity as a baby came to life when I saw the helplessness of my infant. I’m not aware of a more humble position to be than to exit a womb and come into this world naked and completely unable to care for yourself. And in a very real way, we have this picture of God doing that in Jesus.
Here is where these two thoughts collide for me: in the Christmas narrative of “God with us”, I see and feel a motive from the Divine.
The idea of somehow getting a glimpse into the nature and purpose of God is exhilarating. If somehow I got the chance to sit down with God and ask “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”, I think at least part of the answer would include this: "being with you."
For someone like me, this is comforting, but, if I can be honest, also a little terrifying. I am a doer. A task-driven person. I like to-do lists, goals, reviews, action plans and anything that moves me towards more productivity and efficiency. “God with me” isn’t exactly the action plan I’m looking for. Sounds a lot more like a passive statement than an active one.
A few months ago I began to adopt a meditation practice. It started with an app called Headspace that focuses solely on breath work and sensation awareness. From there I started to use guided meditations with all different kinds of focuses. That’s when it clicked for me. Sitting on my couch at 5:30 in the morning, in the dark, with headphones on, I tasted what it was like just to BE. There is something other-worldly about the ability to just be. It seems to export me out of my current reality, culture and life style into a different place.
As I spent more and more time in this passive "being" space, I noticed something interesting happening: I began to see the motivations and desires of my active life with greater clarity and definition. I began to understand what's really driving me.
Here’s a glimpse what gets me out of bed in the morning these days:
I have a wife who is a little over half-way into the process of bringing another life into this world. And she needs me. She needs me to be strong and gentle. Caring and decisive. Aware of her needs as well as my own.
I have a second child coming into the world in a few months. And I’m not ready. I’m not the kind of person I want to be for him yet. I want to be a better dad. A better husband. A better provider. A better listener. A better man. I’m aware that there will always be more to do, but everything within me wants to have it all put together and in place before he gets here.
I see projects on the horizon that scare me to life. Projects that are well beyond my perceived abilities, and definitely outside the realm of anything I’ve ever experienced before. The uncharted waters of the future give me life.
For the first time in a long time, all of my family (dad, mom, brother, sister and their families) are living in the same area. And there are massive opportunities to experience relationship with them unlike any other relationship I could have. The pursuit of relational worth with them gives me great amounts of drive.
So how can you pick away at the question of what drives you? How do you get to that place?
There aren’t too many things that give me life more than uncovering the deeper parts of others and of myself, and if you and I ever get to sit down over a real cup of coffee, I hope we can do just that. But for the sake of this post, let me suggest three things that might help:
- Ask the question. Over and over and over again. What drives you? What wakes you up in the morning? You and I will continue to change, and the ability to change in light of who we are is imperative.
- Can you wrestle with the idea that God might want to just BE with you? Can you, before you try to tackle the endless list of how to live a Christian life or how to be a good person or how to understand right theology, just be with God?
- Can you sit alone with yourself? Can you listen and be aware of what is happening in you internally? And will you be brave enough to deal with what you find?
Merry Christmas, and may you experience "God with us" in a tangible, personal way this holiday season.