I'm currently exploring Jewish spirituality as a way to broaden my own understanding of what it means to be Christian. A good place to start is the beginning, as in "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). In other words, the beginning of The Bible.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy - these five books combined are the central teaching for Judaism and referred to as Torah. Christian scholars refer to these same books as the Pentateuch. Here we have five books that share text while at the same time finding a home in two separate spiritual practices.
The texts were originally (mostly) written in Hebrew and within them a message of doing and then understanding can be found.
What's that mean exactly?
Have you ever done something and at the time you're not sure why you're doing it and then later on it makes sense?
For example, you may have looked back on times I'm referring to and thought, "I don't know why I'm doing this." Then after you did it and had time to look back and reflect you might have thought, "That was a horrible decision! I'll never do that again." On the contrary you may have also looked back and thought, "I am so glad I did that! It was like the missing puzzle piece to a bigger picture that is unfolding in my life right now."
What does doing and then understanding look like in the Bible? Let's take a look at the second book. The book of Exodus.
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, "We will do everything the LORD has commanded. We will obey."
(Exodus 24:7 New Living Translation)
One translation puts it this way.
And he took the book of the covenant and read in the audience of the people, and they said, All that the LORD has said we will do, and we will hear ( Exodus 24:7 Jubilee Bible 2000)
We will do and we will hear? Seems out of order right?
Rabbi Lawerence Kushner explains it this way in his book Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians. Some actions can not be understood until they are performed. By doing we understand. This is a spiritual practice that says one way to know God is by doing what He has called us to do.
Some might call that a mission.
If you are unclear about what your mission is then you must do.
Do and obey. Do and hear.
You know that idea that you have in your head that you keep talking yourself out of and making excuses as to why you can't do it? It is more than likely the very thing that you must get to doing so you can start the process of observing.
Doing is a pathway that can lead to my new favorite word. Devekut. Here's the definition.
Devekut (Heb. דבקות; Mod. Heb. "dedication", traditionally "clinging on" to God)
Clinging on to God?!
And here are the characteristics:
- The borders of yourself are erased
- It's not a goal. It's a gift.
- The idea is to simply serve God with all your heart and sometimes in devoting yourself to that holy service you are so absorbed and present in what you're doing that you don't even realize it's you who's doing it.
If you are unsure of your mission think about the things you do that you "lose yourself" or lose track of time while doing them. We bring holiness to the world through everyday actions. Explore those areas more. You can see what it's like AFTER you've been there. Sounds weird I know. Here's what it looks like Biblically.
In Exodus 33 we find God telling Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the land He has promised them. God says he's not going with them because the people are too stubborn and rebellious and if He went with them he would destroy them along the way (Exodus 33:3)
Later in chapter 33 Moses says to God. If you don't go with us then how will anyone know that we are set apart? God agrees to do what Moses asks and Moses responds with "show me your glorious presence" (Exodus 33:18) Here is God's response.
20 But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. 22 As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” Exodus 33:20-23 (NLT)
Take a moment to yourself to get a visual of this. Seriously reread the verse and visualize it. Pretend your Moses and God is talking directly to you.
Ok, can you see it? Maybe a better question is do you feel it?
It's like God is saying get in there, get to it, take action. Be so present in what you're doing that you lose yourself in doing and when it is complete you will look up and see His back and only then will you realize He was there, in it with you, the entire time.
It's an example of God calling to God and it describes the moment when we are so enthralled with what our mission is and so present in what we are doing that the edges of our self fade away, we lose track of time and fail to realize we've been communing with God the entire time and then realize it after the moment has passed.
If you are unsure about your mission then a good place to start is by doing. All it takes is just one step in the direction you feel you are being pulled in order to look back, reflect and observe. Make that phone call you've been putting off, write the business plan out that's stuck in your head, start a blog, have a difficult conversation.
Do ANYTHING that takes a step in the direction you feel you are being Called to go and then observe.
If you are sure of your mission then it is imperative that you continue your work in it and through it because it is a way of bringing holiness to the world.
Both situations are necessary. Both are sacred.
May your days be filled with compassion, your faith remain strong and may growth be your compass.
Reference material. Jewish Spirituality A Brief Introduction for Christians Rabbi Lawrence Kushner