What if Presence is the Only Revelation You Need?

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I woke up with a start the other day and remembered those colored beads and tattered imitation leather rope stringing them all together. After summer camp, I wore that bracelet for months. That rainbow of beads to tell us the story of salvation—all about creation, sin, Jesus’ sacrifice, growth in faith, and going on to glory. We made them during church camp under the shadow of mighty oaks up a California mountain.

The week built towards the final night at camp, where we circled solemnly around a roaring campfire, with the drums beating. It all felt so meaningful, like we were entering into something unshakable, something a bit like liturgy—that stretched behind and beyond us, that surrounded us. It was something bigger than any of us–something we were welcomed into. And I wanted in. I longed to be a part of this symbol- and myth-making moment, where there was poetry in the fire, where God would somehow show up.

We walked in silently and watched the fire crackle and dance. We sang camp songs and ones about Jesus, united as we were, over newly learned words and rhythms strummed on acoustic guitars. The camp director, who’d just yesterday launched a kid two stories high off the “blob” into the lake, told us about following Jesus. I don’t know if it was the Spirit, or the fire or the music, of just being a part of something bigger than myself, but year after year I found myself up front “rededicating” my life to Jesus. I hoped that the passion I had a camp would translate down the mountain. I wanted something to hold onto, something like that rainbow bead bracelet. But a few weeks later, I’d feel defeated when I’d lost the emotional spark so attainable by the fire at the top of a mountain. I’d turned Jesus into rules and I’d lost a Jesus who smiled at me.

I thought revelation came through emotional faith experiences. I thought revelation always came from the mountaintop. Sometimes it does, but this is not the whole of the story. Sometimes–usually, perhaps—revelation is born right from the dirt of ordinary. But we have to have eyes to see.

We have dance parties around my house a lot. They help keep me sane when the noise and crazy of six people moves from chaotic to deafening (especially since this brood is parented by two introverted noise-sensitive adults). So I blast Taylor Swift, run around the house like no one cares and shake my booty. My boys think it’s funny, my husband thinks I’m cute, and my daughter stomps and spins with the rest of them. On this particular day, my two-year-old daughter and I had our own solo dance party while the others were away. I kept asking Harriet to dance. I wanted to see her own creativity poured out through her limbs. I wanted to see her get lost in the beat and throw her hands in the air. But Harriet just watched me. She moved her foot when I did. She shook it when I did and, after about a minute, she just wanted to be held in my arms. With her pressed close, we spun together and she giggled and said, “Agin, mama, agin!” time after time.

She wanted to feel the music with me.

In her two-year-old way, she wanted in on something larger than her dancing in the corner of the kitchen. She wanted to experience my joy as close as she possibly could. She wanted in on the liturgy of the family, the life-on-life of an ordinary day, in an ordinary room. Harriet needed holding.

And I supposed I wanted to marvel at her childlike freedom by watching her. But I picked her up, smiled at her outstretched-arms request. When we circled the kitchen together, my joy was magnified. I realized that revelation isn’t so much about a one-time moment; it isn’t limited to a “mountain high” at camp, or emotional faith-filled experiences. It’s not even necessarily momentous, or the stunning reveal of special knowledge. In fact, I’m learning revelation is not so much about what than it is about whom. Revelation happens in the ordinary being-with. It’s finding again the gift that’s always been right there. Revelation is getting as close as we can to the source of life and then, asking to stay right there, pressed in close even as the world spins.

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I’d love to hear from you: Where are your hands outstretched waiting for revelation? What’s your experience with revelation?

 

Ashley Hales

Ashley Hales

Writer and Editor at aahales.com
Ashley Hales holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But she spends most of her time chasing around her four children and helping her husband plant a church. She writes at AAHales.com and loves to make friends on Twitter.
Ashley Hales
  • Perfect for this time of Epiphany, which I had never paid attention to until this week when my pastor (we have a house church in the Chicago subs called House of Saints and Sinners) talked about the revelation the lowly shepherds were invited to experience…the shepherds who would have to go right back to their mostly ordinary days of watching sheep eat grass. He shared an interesting quote from GK Chesterton about how, like a child never tires of repetition, neither does God seem to. Instead, with an “eternal appetite of infancy,” he tells the sun and moon and us to do it again, because he is “strong enough to exult in monotony.” So, yes! Our revelations, as you say so beautifully, may be born from the dirt of the ordinary.

    • I LOVE that Chesterton quote and I’d forgotten about it. “Strong enough to exult in monotony.” It IS so hard to be present and to delight in the mundane. Thank you for sharing here Amanda! You bring so much to the discussion.

      • Great posts do that to me. 🙂 That quote is something else, isn’t it?

        • I’m gonna put it up on a bulletin board, once I buy said inspirational bulletin board. 🙂

  • God is love and God is with me. I think those two things are all that I really need to know. I loved the picture of this that you painted here, Ashley. Thank you.

    • Thank you for being here. And yes, God is love and God is with me. I sing “Jesus Loves Me” to my daughter each day and I’m struck with how very profound and simple the words are. I used to think they were simplistic but now I’m realizing they’re perfectly sufficient.

  • Oh girl, it took me YEARS to realize I was still hearing from God if I wasn’t having these big emotional experiences I came to expect in my youth. I thought he was silent for so long until I realized he spoke in different ways. My hands are outstretched in this ordinary time waiting to find God in the rhythms of daily life, in the ordinary, in work that has to be done but doesn’t light up my soul.

    • It’s the terrible beauty of becoming isn’t it? This “adulting” is hard.

  • Like Nicole I had to stop looking in the rear view mirror for an old faith and start trusting for a faith-in-the-moment, which is not so much a feeling as it is a knowing — or the out-of-nowhere strength to do what’s next.
    I love the sound of the energy in your house.

    • Ha! There is WAY TOO MUCH energy most of the time, and yet, I realize I’ll miss it when it’s gone. It is, after all, good and creative. I love the rear-view mirror analogy. And yes, sign me up for the “next best thing” brand of faith. Thank you so much Michele for lending your voice here.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Ashley, this is so powerful. Revelation does come from a sense of God’s presence, indeed. I haven’t felt it in the ‘usual’ ways these many months past, as my life is filled with a demanding part-time job and Life in General. Your piece here echoes what I keep hearing–God’s right here with us. Dancing.
    I loved this.

    • Thank you, Jody. So thankful for you and for your words. LOVE that he dances us around. It’s such an image, isn’t it?

  • Ashley, I really love this. I could feel the excitement as you picked up your daughter and spun around the room. I’ve done that with my kids when they were little and also some of the grandkids! And yes, the ordinary has so much extraordinary if we only open our eyes to see. Blessings to you!

    • Oh, thank you Gayl! Thank you for your presence and encouragement — even virtually! Blessings to you; I’m so grateful that you’re here.