“What does love look like?”
is the question I’ve been pondering
“What does love look like?”
“What does love look like?”
is the question I’ve been asking of You
– Misty Edwards (“Arms Wide Open”)
Over Christmas break my heart has been awakening to the call to love again. It began over my visit home, stirring in the few quiet moments amidst the flurry of activity as we made the rounds of families and friends. On our return to Kansas City, it intensified as I began reading The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence, one of my gifts this Christmas (I’ve wanted to read it for several years now). And as Derek and I joined over twenty thousand people at the Onething conference, I heard that same call to love fully echoed over and over, in the times of worship, in the messages, and in the cry of my own soul in response to it all.
When I began to read The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence’s simple descriptions of how he formed a habit of conversing with God continually and doing everything out of love for Him stirred me to the high and simple invitation to desire God above everything else. It sounded so simple. He didn’t share a three-step plan or five essential practices or a formula of any kind. He merely described his experience of loving God and falling back on His grace over and over. It sounded so simple. And yet, it also brought the painful realization of how far I am from that reality in my life. More often than not, I try to slap a half-hearted pursuit of God on top of everything in my life and pretend it’s all for Him. In reality, my motivation comes from so many other places but rarely from genuine love for God. I want genuine love for God to be the root of all that I do, but as I recognized the absence of that in my life I also begin to realize how little I truly understood about what it means to love God well. Or what it means to love Derek well, for that matter. This past semester produced a stellar report card and a new job, but what of my relationship with God? What of my marriage? Did I love well?
During the Onething conference, focused this year on “Jesus, Our Magnificent Obsession”, that invitation to return to my first love for God surfaced over and over, not just in the worship and the talks but in my own heart as I responded to what I heard. Over and over I was reminded that nothing was as crucial as loving God fully.
One of the most profound parts of the conference for me was Dwayne Robert’s talk that Friday morning. He spoke about how Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that we go through seasons of our life, yet eternity has been put in the heart of man. We were designed to connect with the Eternal One and nothing will fully satisfy us until we are dwelling with God. He cautioned that our careers and even our ministry cannot be our focus. These are our calling, not our reward, not the place in which we find our satisfaction. We will never be satisfied even by miracles or power going forth from our bodies. Instead, we must be compelled by the love and revelation of Jesus. He said that the cry in the inner room of those who walk in signs and wonders is, “Jesus, my magnificent obsession, I love you!” “I am not going to let this eternal cry be met by anything else but a Man with eyes aflame with love for me,” Dwayne declared. “My life is a failure if I enter eternity with my life dull to Him.”
At the end, he issued a call to be diligent in our calling, but to shift the goals and focus of our lives, to enlarge our hearts, to detach from everything that is contaminating our hearts and to do whatever it takes to break our addiction to the American dream. His words were cutting and powerful, but it was the passion behind them that spoke most deeply to me. As he spoke, I saw a man desperate to love God fully, to turn away from every other passion but Jesus, and to see others engulfed in that same passion for God. I recognized the puniness of my own passion for God lately, how little I truly loved this Man Jesus, how little I even know Him. But it stirred the coals of that fire a little more. I want to know Him. I want to love Him more fully. I want to see my life radiating passion for the Eternal One. I want to see that passion engulf every other passion and desire in my life until it compels everything I do.
So in this new year and new season for me and Derek, I have resolved to pursue God again, to open my life to a deeper knowledge of Jesus and invite Him to feed the flames of love for Him in my heart. Even as I turn my heart back to God again, though, I can feel the tug of my flesh in the other direction. There’s the constant temptation to draw away again, to feed myself with the world, to let my mind and spirit simply coast, to take the easy way. More and more I recognize my incredible need for God’s grace to seek Him and know Him. I am encouraged by a prayer that Brother Lawrence was in the habit of praying whenever he found that he’d failed in his pursuit of loving God fully: “I am used to do so; I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself” (The Practice of the Presence of God, p. 13). In the past couple weeks I’ve often found myself echoing that prayer in my own words, pouring out confession after confession of my own inability to relate rightly to God, and inviting Him to pour out His grace in the places of my weakness. Because weakness and all, that invitation is still there to love Him more.