“He seemed to live in such a real world and to have such a real, great God.”
Such was Maria Dyer’s observation upon meeting her would-be husband, the great pioneer missionary to China, Hudson Taylor.
I haven’t been able to shake off those words. They strike deeply into the heart of the theme written across all of Taylor’s life, one that I was beginning to grasp as I pored through his biography but couldn’t put into words until I stumbled across this quote. They encapsulate a life steeped in prayer and faith by pointing powerfully to the result: the way he lived out day-to-day life.
He lived in a real world.
So often I find myself segregating the reality of God from the mundane reality of life. I relegate my faith to my morning quiet time, evening Bible studies, or Sunday mornings instead of making Christ the reality through which I see every moment. But what this separation produces is a world that is, in my experience, less real.
Let me explain. I’m learning more and more that when Christ is an ever present reality to me, the rest of life becomes more real in my experience. I notice the birds singing as I walk to class. I stop and admire the sunset. And I relish the everyday blessings of an encouraging talk with a friend, time to sing with my sisters, or a rare chance to curl up with a good book. The joy comes not merely from experiencing the reality of these gifts but all the more from the ongoing fellowship I have with the Giver.
Even more, fellowship with Christ enables me to face the stark reality of the future with boldness and even laughter (Prov. 31:25). The Bible doesn’t promise that life will be easy, that my circumstances will change, or that my dreams will come true. But instead of having to escape difficulty in my life, I can live in a real world — be it a real world marked by suffering as well as blessing — with complete confidence that my Redeemer is just as real and present as the challenges I face.
How did Hudson Taylor come to so experience the reality of God? Interestingly, this theme shows up earlier in Taylor’s life when as a nineteen-year-old he lost a relationship with the young woman he loved because of his call to China. The decision marked a time of new consecration in his life, and shortly afterward, he recorded in his journal: “Unspeakable joy, all day long and every day was my happy experience. God, even my God, was a living, bright Reality, and all I had to do was joyful service.”
Do such sacrifices make God the more real to us? It certainly was the case for Hudson Taylor. Taylor learned early on that as He lived and breathed a life of prayer, every sacrifice could hardly be considered a sacrifice when compared with the infinite retribution he met with: more of God Himself. In other words, counting all things as loss compared to knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8) made Christ more real to him than anything else.
Which in turn made the world around him more real.
When the enmity between God and me was removed through Christ, I gained a transforming peace. Even more, I gained the right to access fellowship with this altogether lovely Christ every moment of every day. When I allow that truth to sink in, it changes the way I see the world around me. The old hymn, “Loved with Everlasting Love” says it best:
Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green;
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.
This year, my prayer is that I would better know the reality of Christ — and in turn, fully live in the real world around me. Will you join me in that prayer?
Your sister in Christ,