23 July 2008

Glimpses of His Love

As previously mentioned, I’m reading The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge, and he discusses the six phases of the masculine journey. (I encourage you to read this book and Wild at Heart, whether you’re a man or a woman, because it’s very enlightening. I also highly recommend Captivating, which is about the feminine journey.) They are Adored Son, Cowboy/Ranger, Warrior, Lover, King, and Sage. I am just beginning the chapters on the “Sage” part, and to this point, the most difficult part for me to read has been the “Lover” section. However, one thing in the Lover part of the book struck a chord in me, and that was when Eldredge was speaking of this communication between God and man. He spoke of the way God has shown His love over the years, and that resonated with me, because I understood. I have been there. I know what you mean. Shortly after I read that section, I had one of those little things happen that communicated to me that God longs to be intimately connected with my life. That experience led to the poem that I posted yesterday and began this post brewing in my head. Some things are really clear in my mind, but become much more complicated when I try to get them out and put them in words, so I hope I’m not confusing this issue too much in the telling…

Someone once said that when you talk to God it’s called prayer, but when God talks to you it’s called schizophrenia. :) I still think that’s hilarious. Have you ever spent time thinking about the ways in which God carries on conversations with His people? Chances are, if you’ve spent any time in prayer, ever in your life, you’ve at least considered the reverse. Perhaps you haven’t spent much time thinking about it. Perhaps you’re one of those people who think that it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps you’re not even sure that God exists. On the other hand, maybe, like me, you’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about it and have begun to enjoy a more regular intercourse with your Creator because of your careful consideration.

The two typical interactions that people automatically assume you’re talking about when you refer to the voice of God in your life are the Bible, and other people. It’s true. Those are great sources of interaction with God. I firmly believe that the Bible is our primary source for understanding the Mind and Heart of God, because it is His love story that He put in writing for our benefit. I believe, like many before me, that the Bible is the divine Word of God, that it is a living Word, and not a dead writing. I believe, as the Bible says of itself, that it is “able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” In addition to Scripture, I believe that God uses people to speak to one another to convey His thoughts. In my life, He has used many people, even some unlikely sources.

This thought always reminds me of the little girl who was afraid of the dark. She called for her daddy, and he came into the room. She told him of her fear, and he said, “Don’t you remember that you learned that Jesus is with you all the time? You don’t ever have to be afraid of anything, because Jesus is there to take care of you.” She replied, “I know that, Daddy, but I just wanted someone with skin.” In our frailty as humans, we sometimes need someone “with skin,” and God faithfully provides that. He places people in our lives to help us through things, and for that we are grateful. On the reverse of that is the fact that sometimes you and I become the someone with skin to help others through. Sometimes we know it, and sometimes we don’t, but it’s a blessing to be that someone, either way. But I digress…

There are many other ways that God shows us that He is present, that He cares, and that He is interested in even the most mundane details of our daily lives. Sometimes He speaks directly to our spirit, using words that are almost audible in our heads. Sometimes He conveys an emotion or alleviates a negative emotion. There have been moments in my life that I could very clearly, in my mind, hear God’s voice speaking to me. Those things have not always been life-changing words, in fact, most of them were just moments shared between two close friends, but some of them have been very eye-opening. The first time that I felt God joking with me startled me and delighted me. But when I thought about it, I thought that if we’re created in His image and we joke with each other, why wouldn’t He joke with us, too? There was a time, a little over a year ago, that I had found a song that I loved, and I was listening to it one morning while getting ready to go somewhere, and I heard Him speak to me, in echo to the words of the song. That song has, ever since, been my love song with my Lover, my Lord: OUR song. Every time I hear it, I smile, and it renews my commitment to Him.

It’s interesting to note that trying to explain to someone else these moments is nearly impossible, even to someone else who understands. There’s such a POWER in the voice of God that it’s impossible to convey, so the re-telling of the experience loses something big. I’ve learned that those moments are generally to be shared only between the two of us, and in the sharing of those moments alone with Him, a precious intimacy is developed.

For those of you who know something of my spiritual journey, you know that it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve begun to grow by leaps and bounds. I had the foundation, being raised in a Christian home and being “saved” since the age of 4, but the personal relationship side of Christianity was, for me, a roller coaster ride. Sometimes I wasn’t even near the theme park, and sometimes I was at the height of the highest hill in the throes of the ride. I just couldn’t seem to get a handle on the supposed intimacy that God offered. He’s so big, and I’m so small. Why would He care about the little things in my day, when He has so much else to do? (This is why I intensely dislike the song “God Must Be Busy” btw. I understand it, but I detest the theology of it.) In thinking that He wouldn’t care about the little things, I effectively cut Him out of those parts of my life. When you consider the fact that the majority of our lives revolve around the little things, that cuts God out of the biggest part of who we are. I didn’t, at that time, see how those “minor” exclusions broke His heart. He wanted to be a part of those things, and I just didn’t want to “bother” Him by sharing them. It makes me sad to think about that.

One of the best things about God is that even when we hurt and reject Him, He keeps pursuing us. He keeps blessing us. As David put it in Psalms, “He knows my frame. He remembers that I am dust.” He doesn’t let it get Him bent out of shape. He doesn’t say, “Well, if she’s going to exclude me, I’m just going to forget it! Let’s see if she can make it through the day without me being there to fix things for her. Hmph!” He just continues to woo. He loves us, demonstratively, overwhelmingly, each day, even when we fail to notice. It’s really incredible.

You know, when I thought of the gifts of God, as I was growing up, I would think of the really obvious things: life, health, salvation, prosperity, etc. I didn’t think of actual gifts. My parents gave me the gift of life, too, but when I think of gifts they give me, I think of the littler things: a book, a memento, a card in the mail. It took a long time, but I started realizing that God gives little gifts, too. He gives us evidence of His love in tangible form, much the way a suitor would give his beloved when he’s wooing her. This is where we get the imagery of Jesus as the Lover of our souls. All aspects of human experience directly relate to aspects of divine experience. Our relationships among ourselves mirror the relationship we have with God, and He did that intentionally.

I want to give you an example, because this was the event that got me thinking about this post in the first place. I attended a business conference over the weekend, and Saturday morning I wound up parking a significant (in 4” heels, 8-10 blocks is much more significant) distance from the convention center and walking. It was the first spot I could find, and I was in a rush because I was running late. Little did I know that the distance was orchestrated by God. With hands full of the things that I “needed” to get through the daytime sessions and into the afternoon break, I was trotting down the sidewalk (yes, trotting) toward the conference, and something caught my eye. It was a flower, or rather a little batch of flowers off some bush like a lilac. I saw it, pristine, beautiful, recently cut, unbruised, untrampled on the sidewalk. I looked around for the bush, and I didn’t see it. I thought, “Oh, that’s nice, God, thank You,” and I kept walking. I felt a little twinge of guilt for not stopping to pick it up, but I was running late, hands full. I didn’t have anywhere to put it. I kept walking. “You could put it in your hair.” True. I could, but I’m a block away from it by now, and I’m still late and I’m still carrying stuff. “Alright.”

I thought about that flower off and on for the rest of the morning/early afternoon. Before the evening session, I decided that I needed to take some of my stuff back to the car so I wouldn’t have to deal with carrying so much after the late night session ended, so I hauled my proverbial cookies back to the car. I didn’t see the flower, but about a half-block down from where I remembered it being, I saw the bush it had come from and thought, “How could I have missed that bush? It’s so beautiful and has flowers all over it.” The answer was, “I meant for you to see the flower I wanted to give you, not the bush it came from. If you’d seen the bush, the flower wouldn’t have been as remarkable.” I took my things to the car, dropped them off, reorganized and started back, at a slower pace. I was looking for my flower now. It was still lying there, a little wilted from the heat of the day, but unbroken and untrampled. I thought, “Oh, it’s wilted. That’s too bad.” I got about 10 steps past it when I thought, “I’m an idiot. I’m not walking by that AGAIN.” And I stopped, turned around, and went back and got it.

Now, had someone been with me, they would have thought I was crazy. I turned around and went back and picked up a wilted flower. I carried it in my hand back into the hotel, into the restroom where I changed my clothes, and then placed it in my hair where it had belonged all day. No one said anything. It would have been beautiful in my hair when I arrived, because it just matched my dress, and it was fresh then, but I had, as a friend of mine says, “delayed intelligence.”

The rest of the walk, after I picked it up, I realized what it meant. God gave me flowers. He gave me a little bouquet, for no other reason than that He loved me and wanted me to be happy. He knows that the question of my heart and the journey of my life is the quest to be beautiful. He blesses me with little bits of beauty that He leaves for me alone to see because He knows I’m searching for beauty in my heart. He gives me beauty that complements my own beauty (matching my dress, even) as an affirmation and in answer to my question, “Am I beautiful, God?” “Yes, my Love. You are beautiful. You are more beautiful to me than anything. I love you. I delight in your beauty, and because you delight in the beauty in which I surround you, here is a token of my love. Wear it in your hair as a gift from your Lover.”

My primary love language is gifts. God was speaking my language, physically, so that I could hear, see, smell, touch, and experience His love. I love flowers. I’ve only received flowers from a handful of people over the years, and they mean the world to me. I told my daddy that if I ever got married that it would be his job to make sure that my husband knows how I love to receive flowers. He said, “When you get married, your husband should know that without having to have me tell him.” Well, God’s my Lover, and He knows my heart so well that He gives exactly the gift He knows will delight me. And, not being a gracious lover in return, or perhaps more accurately, not always being in the frame of mind of being the Beloved, I noticed, but didn’t really notice. It took Him several tries for me to acknowledge His gift, and being as boneheaded as I am, it took me a bit, but I got the message.

God speaks to us. He gives us glimpses of His love. He showers us with gifts, even tangible ones, and we are so wrapped up in our tiny, little lives that we miss them, but He keeps trying. He woos. He calls. He loves. He leaves it up to us to open our eyes, to be receptive to His love, and to share the amazing lives that He longs to give us. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to work at keeping my eyes open, at being available when my Lover calls me to come out and play, at hearing His voice. May you see Him in your life. He’s there, just pay attention, and you’ll see Him.

Much love.

P.S. Yes, the picture above is of the actual flower from God. And, yes, I still have it. :)

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