Some believers have a story of Jesus suddenly crashing into their lives and changing everything in an instant. They have a “new birth” day that they recognize each year, the day when the light dawned, and their entire consciousness was altered.
Others have a story of a more gradual awakening to truth through the hearing of the word of God–studying it, testing it, and finally believing it with their whole heart. Either way, there is a “B.C.,” –a life before Christ, and an “A.D.,”—after the death of our old way of being. This is the anno domini, the year when the Spirit of the Lord came in and everything changed.
I am in the second category. In 1983, I fell in love first with the Bible, and within a few months, I had encountered the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and fell in love with God. It truly was a romance. Colors were brighter, food tasted better, friendships were sweeter. Peace, joy and exhilaration flooded my life and soul. I had an insatiable appetite for the word of God. Since then, I have endeavored to follow Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not perfectly of course, but earnestly.
But I recognize that at some point life happened and domesticated me. Marriage, houses, children, jobs, moves, money pressures, stress, traffic, illnesses, relational conflicts…the good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderful. All of it caused me to lose some of my intense awareness of God’s loving presence within and all around me. The wildness of first love became at times a dull and dutiful devotion.
On my recent solo retreat, I wrote this little reflection in my journal:
The explorer, the true adventurer occupies the best room in the house of my personality…to be ever curious and aware and never let anyone or anything squash my passionate heart like a paper cup. I want the wildness, the wildly wild wildness, that somehow can live in this world of people and things but prefers the company of Jesus–the wildest, most wonderful person I know.
Welcoming the influence of Brother Lawrence in this new year, I long to remain in constant awareness of the beauty of God’s presence, maintaining the intensity of our wild romance. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, to consistently “practice the presence of God.” Brother Lawrence’s epiphany did not come through study or fasting or suffering. As his friend chronicled,
“He saw a tree stripped of its leaves, and realized that within a short time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear. He sensed the grandeur and sovereignty of God over all the world in that epiphany, and that understanding has never been gone from his soul since then.”* I love that!
I got to thinking this morning about some Bible people who were wild at heart (to borrow John Eldredge’s phrase), and then somehow had their senses dulled. Perhaps David is one, looking over the parapet of his palace at the naked Bathsheba. Could it be that he had allowed his dancing, worshipping passion for God to become dull and stagnant, thinking that a sexual dalliance with her might restore what was lost?
Or Solomon, who experimented with every sensual and material pleasure seeking satisfaction, and concluded that it all was vanity, a chasing after the wind. Or Judas, who was used by Satan to betray the rabbi with whom he had enjoyed such intimate friendship and fellowship. His love was snuffed out and replaced by greed and bitterness.
We who live in the 21st century encounter exactly the same temptations: using sex, pornography, or illicit romances to meet our need for affection, stimulation and excitement; abusing substances to drive away the pain of our disconnection; chasing after experiences and things, hoping to fill the empty spaces within; betraying and deceiving others in an attempt to gain power or wealth.
I know in the deepest part of me that these sin-addictions will never satisfy for long. From the beginning of our life with Christ until we are eternally joined to him in our immortal bodies, we can only find true satisfaction in our love for him, his love for us, and our shared love for one another. This kind of wild, unrestrained heavenly love is what we seek.
Let us never grow old or cold and forget our first love. This is my prayer for you and me.
*Brother Lawrence, Practice the Presence of God, with Devotional & Study Guide, by J.D. Nelson. Lexington, KY: Johansson Garcia Publishing.