Introductory Note:

Every once in a while we feature a piece of writing here on from Renovaré’s former president, Chris Webb, who just happens to be one of our favorite contemporary writers on spiritual formation. Chris has just written a beautiful new book, God-Soaked Life, and we’re thrilled to announce it will be the first title in this season’s Renovaré Book Club.

We hope you enjoy the excerpt below, which is adapted from the prologue of God-Soaked Life. Want to read the whole book—under the guidance of the author himself—with our wonderful, growing community of book lovers? Registrations are NOW OPEN for the 2017-18 season of our Book Club. Join today, and we’ll see you in the stacks!

Renovaré Team

Excerpt from God-Soaked Life

Imagine the day after your death.”

You find yourself waking up to a new and glorious reality. This place —what shall we call it? Heaven? Eternity? Whatever its name, it is achingly beautiful. Formed by the artistry, imagination, and creativity of God, how could it be otherwise? You feel you could explore the intricate wonder of this place for a thousand years and still daily come across new marvels. 

As you walk through this landscape you become aware of others around you. You realize that however beautiful your surroundings may have seemed at first, they pale in comparison to these creatures of glory. These people are breathtaking. The place through which you are walking may well be a work of God’s art, but the people walking with you are somehow bearers of God’s very life and breath. To look on one of them is to gaze into the face of God, and it is magnificent. Every one of them has a beauty that could bring you to tears, were you to look on it clearly enough and long enough. 

Imagine you slowly become aware that these others are not simply wandering around, they are engaging in all manner of activities. As you watch all this activity, you gradually begin to realize that among all this runs a single golden thread: love. This is how these people are able to show love for one another. By creating beautiful art. By building homes and schools. By teaching, by cooking, by growing food, by delighting in one another’s company and in the world around them. You begin to see, behind the endless variety of seemingly random activity, the unifying presence of the community of love. 

Perhaps a tiny nagging doubt pesters at the back of your mind: Why aren’t these people gathered together in some gigantic temple, surrounding God and endlessly singing hymns and chanting psalms? Isn’t that what heaven is supposed to be all about? Why isn’t eternity more religious, less obviously secular? While you’re wondering where you might find God in the midst of all this, you start noticing something else: God seems to be right here already, manifest all around you. Like the gentle breeze blowing through the trees, the Spirit of God is everywhere present and moving through all these lives and these activities. 

As you continue to explore, you become conscious also of this: that these people are constantly expressing their love toward God. Some of them are gathered together and singing hymns. But others are loving God by loving those around them, those in whom they know God’s life so wonderfully dwells. Some are loving God by delighting in his creativity, and some by echoing that creativity in their own. But these people together are singing a great song of love, in words and music and silence and action and stillness, a song that rings through all creation and says: in life, in love, in one another, and in you, God — we rejoice! 

But there is another song that runs around this hymn of the people, a song that weaves its harmonies through the skies and seems to tremble under the earth itself, the hymn of joy and delight that brought this place into being from the beginning and continues to sustain it. You still yourself to listen more closely. This song is astonishing in its utter beauty. It is ravishing. You feel as though your heart will burst open with every unfolding note. It unlocks a deep longing in the very center of your being, a longing to hear this song more deeply, more fully, to let it soak into your flesh and bones. 

From the moment you begin to hear it, you start framing your life around that deeper song, the song of ravishment and delight. Wherever it can most clearly be heard, you go. You notice that it seems clearer and purer when you are with certain people, so you spend more time with them. As you love them more deeply you find the song rises in its joyful intensity even more, so you open your heart as much as you can and love them without reserve. Sometimes the song seems to respond to your singing, so you sing yourself hoarse; at other times it is fullest in your silence, so you learn to keep perfect stillness. 

You know this song. It is the song of God. In this place, people have discovered how to make their lives an offering of joy and delight to God. But God also sings over them. You are learning to experience his joy and delight in all that he has made. In the beauty of all that is, in people, and in you. Yes, in you. You are discovering the delight of God in you, and in his song you have also discovered yourself: your value, your worth, your purpose, your significance, your identity. Finally, enraptured in love with God and entirely given in love to others, you have found you. And you have become free and happy and complete. 

Imagine this place. 

Now imagine one more thing. Imagine that this is not the day after your death. Instead, it is today. This is not your dream of heaven; it is God’s dream of creation, a dream made real by his limitless power. You already live in this achingly beautiful dream; you dwell in eternity now. At this moment you are surrounded by people made in his glorious image, and they are magnificent. They are capable of the greatest love, and they can express that in a thousand different ways in the ordinary business of daily life: in their art, their work, their neighborhoods, and their family life. They are worthy of your love. And all through the dream of creation God is singing his song of ravishing delight for those with ears to hear. There are ways you can open your soul to that song: places where it is more easily heard, practices that attune the ear of your heart, people who will help you listen. And in that song you can discover who you really are, even become who you really are. 

Do you know where to find the dream of eternity? Take a good look out of the window. Hear the gospel whisper in your ear: the kingdom of God has come to you” (Luke 11:20).

Let’s explore.

God-Soaked Life by Chris Webb (2017) is published by Intervarsity Press of Downer’s Grove, IL.