The Beauty of Holiness | Corri Ogburn
What does holiness mean to you?
Often religious words become irrelevant as time passes—or become entrenched with negative connotations. I think this is one of those words. To me, holiness means to be set apart for a greater purpose. It's not to be rigid, "holier than thou," a rule keeper, a judgmental person, prude or irrelevant. It's to be "set aside" for something greater than we ever imagined we could be, have or accomplish on our own. In the case of my relationship to God, it is to be set aside in life, heart, and mind for His purposes as He reveals them to me in His Word on a universal level—and through His Spirit in regard to my own personal make-up and purpose in life.
What day to day practices help you to feel holy?
I talk to God through the day as a friend. Carl Jung, a well known psychologist and companion of Sigmund Freud, had this inscribed over his door, "Bidden or not bidden, God is present." I think of that through the day to remind myself that even if my spiritual practices are not consistent or if they are consistent but perfunctory, God will show up every day, regardless. It is who He is. He does not abandon. His presence is not dependent upon my performance or lack thereof. That helps me to trust Him and it draws me toward Him as a loving Father—not an expectant schoolmaster.
Are there certain spaces or places that help you draw closer to God?
In my mind—it's the living room of my grandmother who loved everyone, taught us that God loves us and never leaves us, opened her arms to strangers and family, and introduced us to magical Christmas Eves, where we annually read about Jesus entering the world at night, starry sky above, entrusting his baby body to human hands and hearts. I often go there—or to her upstairs blue, flowery wallpapered guest room (where we would wait for Santa) and where I asked Jesus to come into my life, as a child. Every once in a while—if I'm in Denver—I drive to her home and sit outside in my car. Sometimes I can't believe that the space which is so sacred and set apart in my mind and experience is still here on this earth—with a different owner—but I'd sure love to knock on the door one day and visit it one more time in the flesh. The part of the space that is holy to me, will always be with me.
Why do you feel it is important for you to designate time to focus on holy practices?
Activity counts, constantly. Practices that remind me that my life is set apart for a greater purpose are important for grounding and constant evaluation, because I easily forget that. Silence and Sabbath are two practices that are important for me. It is too easy to get sucked into the schedule for the day, the week, the month, the year, with no thought or reflection—just movement. I have learned to differentiate between productivity (in a western/American sense) and fruitfulness (choosing what causes true growth). In a western culture being called unproductive is never a compliment, and yet it is what the practice of Sabbath calls us to—to stop producing and just exist in God's presence; one day set apart in the week to remind myself that it is not my personal productivity that gives me value, but it's who I am. A little silence each day, a Sabbath day of rest weekly, a weekend unplugged monthly, a consistent vacation time yearly—these times are set apart to remember that I'm set apart for a greater purpose.
What are some difficult choices you have had to make in order to feel aligned with God, and feel his Holiness in your life?
It was a little difficult to decide to set Saturdays apart for rest. People in my work group liked to plan events on Saturdays sometimes. Saturdays became like an absorbent towel on the bathroom floor, sopping up any overflow from a faucet that should have been shut off, but was allowed to run too long during the week. My workmates were annoyed by my boundaries, but they got used to it. My kids were annoyed when I wouldn't drive them around for errands, but they became accustomed. I am a person who has a hard time saying "no" to people, so it was a challenge to remember that saying no (often) to them, was saying yes to setting a day apart for a special purpose—to remind me who I am. After some time, people stopped asking for my Saturdays.
What do you do when you feel a lack of holiness in your life?
Sometimes I print off a weekly calendar and I map out my schedule and activity. I spend that time coloring in spaces, while thinking through my priorities. The weekly calendar is a great mirror. I see where I'm wasting time and where I'm spending time doing things that have nothing really to do with my priorities and commitments. I always make sure there is margin in there for what I love most—time with no schedule and time to do whatever "pops up." It's part of the way God made me. I am not a highly-scheduled person. I enjoy spontaneity and meeting new people and space to allow things to happen organically. I make sure I'm not maxing out my commitment and activity so much that I don't have any margin. God often shows up most tangibly in the margins of my life.
When do you feel most connected to your authentic self?
When I have margin, when I am taking a Sabbath, when I am interacting with people I feel most connected to my authentic self. My Sabbath days often include people.
Who has inspired you to follow a path toward God?
My grandma inspired me to follow a path toward God. She loved people. She was minimal in her information about the Bible and abundant in tangibly expressing her love for Jesus. The Word was flesh in her. I basically knew, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life." That was enough for me to go on as a child. It gave me attachment—to my grandma and to God. It made me healthy. I believe it healed the attachment wounds of being adopted.
What can taking time to be holy do for our relationships with others? How has it affected your relationships?
Setting time apart to remember who I am impacts others positively. I know who I am and I know who they are; I know their worth. People want to be around when they feel known and loved. One of the greatest challenges I've found in the Bible is, "Therefore we no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view." When we are viewing others in a worldly sense, we are asking, "What can I get from them? How can I use them?" Because God has set us apart and we have value, we can value others in a way that is set apart as well. When I feel tempted to "use" someone or I forget who I am, I ask God for "greater love"; love that gives and doesn't take; love that doesn't exploit or lust or use other people. This is the love that Jesus had: greater love.
How do you make holiness a priority in your life? How do you make it a concrete rather than an abstract concept?
Keeping Sabbath and unplugging make holiness tangible to me. Days are set apart, weeks are set apart. I can measure that. One thing that helps me is to roll out of bed immediately in the morning and kneel. I take a few minutes to wake up—I've never been a lover of the early morning hours, I need some space to come alive. I say out loud, "God, this day is yours—let me see what you have planned and let me be open to your plan, not only my own." Because I'm not a really disciplined person, I do try to have goals for the day, but not so rigid that I cannot set them aside if I feel a gentle nudge; talk a little longer to someone who needs to be heard, stop and ponder something when I'm in a rush, lend a ride and my baby items to a young family on our flight—new to Boston, sleeping baby, tired, luggage never arrived. Responding to those quiet and set apart opportunities can turn into greater opportunities in the future—for friendship, growth and awakening. Being holy is being set apart for a greater purpose and remembering that—seeing that, looking for that—as opposed to getting swept into the dead-end dustpan of busyness that American life often offers.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
— Proverbs 29 & 96
Corrie spent 20 years running a Christian student youth ministry in Massachusetts with her husband. She's currently pursuing dual masters degrees in counseling and cultural anthropology, and is a counselor with the ministry Living Truth. She considers it her Life Calling to help the Christian church become a shame-free zone for men and women who have been involved with sexual betrayal and addiction, and to help all involved feel human again and experience genuine intimacy.