Thursday, 6 December 2018

The Houses of God

Last year I took my eleven-year-old son, Tully on a three-week holiday to Europe. My husband, who is not a willing traveler stayed behind and kept business and home together.

One of my travel goals was to see as much as I could in the short time we had. We certainly accomplished that. We covered the main centers of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. It was a whirlwind trip of a lifetime, and one we will never forget. 

One of the biggest spiritual lessons I learned while I was away was that God doesn’t have a ‘house.’

We were blessed to cross the thresholds of many famous Christian churches on our trip, including some of the most spectacular examples of architecture this world has to offer. Huge structures decorated with priceless artistry. My photos accompanying this column really don’t do them justice.

The word that was constantly on my lips was ‘magnificent.’ While they were a feast for the eyes, I was disappointed to realize most didn’t inspire a spiritual magnificence within me.

I don’t know exactly what I expected to feel when I stood in the middle of these buildings, but I was often aware that I lacked a spiritual connection, a feeling of belonging. It disturbed me—after all, these were the houses of my living God, the God I serve and love. Was there something wrong with me? Was I lacking as a Christian? Did I not have enough of the spirit within to feel the presence of the Lord?

I took this back to God in prayer, asking Him how this was so. He reminded me of the many places I did keenly feel His presence.

At our bush camp, looking out at the magnificence of my homeland, Bible on my lap, kookaburras laughing in the trees, and the wind whistling up the valley. On the beach, sand beneath my feet looking out at an expanse of blue and green that filled the horizon. And sitting on my ‘prayer couch’ outside my house sipping a cup of morning tea, my dogs beside me.

I came to the sudden realization that God doesn’t have a house. His kingdom lies within me, and His presence fills His creation—every corner, every surface, both in the buildings constructed for Him, and throughout the entire world.
I was satisfied with this. I didn’t need to feel a spiritual connection with these cathedrals, but I did know God was there for those who sought Him.

Then, just when I thought I wouldn’t find a spiritual connection in any of these magnificent cathedrals, I entered the Sistine Chapel. It wasn’t the largest or the most ornately decorated place of worship we entered, but it certainly did stir my spirit. I don’t know why.

Maybe it was because I had just been told the story of Michelangelo’s personal dedication, sacrifice, and perseverance in completing his ceiling in spite of the odds. Maybe it was the content of his work. Within his beautiful paintings there were dedications to male and female prophets. There were stories of our imperfect natures, stories of God’s great love for us in spite of ourselves.
The small chapel was jam-packed with tourists. No photography, and strictly no speaking. We were forced to stand, and study. I do believe it was perfect. The perfect spiritual connection in the perfect place. I didn’t need to feel it in every church I entered—I just needed to wait and enter the right church for me.

So, dear reader, if you find yourself without a church to attend at this moment in your life, do not despair. Maybe the Lord is directing you to find Him elsewhere. Maybe He wants to show you where He lives in this creation He has made. Maybe He is taking you over many church thresholds so when you cross the perfect one for you, you will know it in your spirit. Maybe He wants to grow His spirit in the one place He tells us He really wants to be – Your heart.  
My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways, Proverbs 23:26 (NIV)

I hope you enjoy some of our cathedral holiday snaps. Unfortunately, you will not find any of the Sistine Chapel—no photos allowed—but I urge you to ask the Lord to show you His version of magnificence. I know He will delight in revealing His awesome works to you, far more awesome than anything a human hand could ever produce.

... nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Luke 17:21 (ESV)

Rose was born in North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her Resolution series.
Two of the three Resolution novels have won Australian CALEB awards. She has also released The Greenfield Legacy, a collaborative novel highlighting the pain of Australia’s past policy of forced adoption, as well as standalone novel, Ehvah After. Her most recent release is the novella, A Christmas Resolution.
Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and her desire to produce stories that point readers to Jesus. Rose holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, and resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband and son.

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  1. Really enjoyed your post Rose. Thank you for the feast of pictures too. What a fabulous trip it must have been! I can understand too that some of those beautiful Cathedrals didn't have a sense of God in them. God is often found in the least likely of places I think. I've been fascinated of late reading two books ('The Grace Outpouring' and 'The Way of Blessing' both by Roy Godwin) about a retreat centre in Wales (Ffald-ye-Brenin) where God's presence is tangibly felt and where people encounter God in amazing ways. Non believers find Him and sick people are healed and many are overcome with His love when they visit. I'd love to go there. That's interesting that you sensed His presence in the Sistine chapel. I just googled it and had a look at it. Wow! It does look amazing. I sense God's presence mostly out in the beauty of creation as you do. I am also blessed that our church has a very strong presence of God and it was that that drew me in to join it. Praise God we can find Him anywhere and everywhere and that He is always present. Thanks for an inspiring post.

    1. Thank you, Anusha. I instantly 'Googled' that retreat. It looks fabulous. I'd love to go there too.
      I recently saw an amazing photo of the ruins of a church in Armenia. It reminded me that seasons, places, buildings come and go for good purpose, and God's presence is where He chooses to rest it. The kingdom of God is surely never as powerful as when it rests and works within us. :-) xoxo