Editor's note:

Every once in a while we fea­ture a piece of writ­ing here on ren​o​vare​.org 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.

We’re glad you’re here!

Help­ing peo­ple like you abide with Jesus is why we post resources like this one. Always ad-free, Ren­o­varé is sup­port­ed by those who know soul-care is vital. Would you join us?

Donate >

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