Friday, March 29, 2013

The LOVE of God

Love. Romance. Passion. God? "One of these things is not like the other..." Or is it?

Today I want to explore the parallels between human romance and the love of God. I am not planning to cover the various categories of love and their distinctions (for that, I highly recommend The Four Loves in which C.S. Lewis has done an excellent job). Instead, I'd like to take some observations that I've made from own recent romance and how I believe they apply to God's love for us. When I say God, I refer to Jesus, Holy Spirit, and of course, the Father, whom many in the Judeo-Christian world often think of as "God." I am using God as a blanket statement for all three persons of this trinity as I see him. So, let's begin!

I don't typically use bullet points for my blog posts, but bullets seem fitting for this one. So here are a few observations I've made on the connection between romantic love and God's love for us human beings.

1. Love creates a deep longing to be with the other. In my own romantic relationship, I have noticed a growing desire to spend loads and loads of time with the woman I adore. Her presence is somehow life-giving such that I feel parts of myself coming more alive when I am around her. Of course, the same could be said for how some of us feel about our relationship with God, that his presence is life-giving, and that seems to be a common experience for many whom I talk to who are engaging in an active relationship with God. However, how many of us have thought about our presence as being life-giving to God and him craving to be in relationship with us? The more that I grow in my own relationship with my girlfriend, the more I am convinced that God longs to be with those whom he loves, and he will go at great lengths to make that happen. Look at the cross, for starters. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, Jesus, that whoever believes in him should not be lost in death but experience life eternal, continually in God's presence for all time."-John 3:16 (paraphrase mine) Yes, I daresay God went to great lengths to spend time with his love and that he goes to great lengths still, though this was the most dramatic, costly and clear demonstration of such love. Amazing. How many of us would give the life of our own pet, much less our own flesh and blood (or ourselves for that matter) to create the opportunity for fellowship with those who might not even love us back? Wow.

2. Love does crazy things, especially when it comes to TIME. I have already touched on one of the crazy things that love has done as relates to God, namely that love makes incredible sacrifices to spend time with the loved one, but how does this translate to one's use of time? It has been my experience that when I am with the one I adore, my awareness of or value for my own time easily goes out the window! I enjoy spending time with this girl so much that one or two hours can easily turn into 4 or 5 without me even realizing that so much time has passed. And the funny thing is that I rarely care that I have continued in fellowship longer than I had intended or planned. The only drawback is that it often means less sleep if I have to wake up early for work the next morning, but even then, this is a sacrifice that feels worth it given the life-giving benefit of spending time with such a beautiful creature. And isn't it the same way with God? I don't know about you, but I have found that God often likes to do things way past the timeframe that I gave him to do it in. For instance, when I was in Edinburgh, Scotland several years ago with a group of internationals to share Jesus with the people of Edinburgh Fringe Fest, I recall getting ready for bed one evening, thinking that the best of the day was behind us, and we'd better get our sleep to prepare for what God might have planned the next day. Apparently, God wasn't finished yet, though it must have been 1:00 in the morning when we felt compelled to pray some group members present. And God did some AMAZING things in that prayer time! I thought, "God, you're crazy! Shouldn't we be getting sleep?" And yes, sometimes we should be. But I find that God is much more of a late person than some of us are at times. So I have begun to try throwing out so many parameters of time when it comes to my own pursuit of God, deciding on occasion to simply "waste time" on him, if it can be called a waste at all. He's worth being pursued. And he loves to pursue us. So why not, even if it's 1:00 in the morning? (The Genesis Creation Story points to each day starting the night before, anyway.)

3. Love is a lavish gift giver. I am betting that many of you reading this right now have also read or heard of a book called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. (If you haven't, I highly recommend it.) In that book, Chapman refers to different ways in which we as human beings like to express and receive love from one another, whereby certain forms, or "love languages," are preferential to others based on the person. One of my love languages is that of GIFTS! Whenever I receive or give gifts, I feel that something very special is being imparted. Does it have to do with the gift itself? For me, not so much. It is the thought behind it and the fact that somebody, whether God or an actual human being, wants to surprise me (or if I am giving the gift, that I get to surprise someone on the receiving end)! In a romantic context, I have discovered the utter joy of having a gift prepared with a delivery date that the receiver knows nothing about. The gift is in motion, I have paid for it and arranged for its delivery, but it has yet to arrive. And the anticipation I have felt is so great that it is hard for me to keep my mouth shut about the surprise that is coming. This caused me to recognize something about the love of God and his incredibly generous character. God has so much in store for his loved ones, much of which has a designated delivery date some time in the future which we are almost always in the dark about. Often, I myself whine about such gifts, having asked God to bless me with something (a romantic relationship, for example, which he finally did! And when he did, it was primo!) yet not seeing them coming fast enough and wondering if he forgot about me. All the while, God is on the other end going, "I've ordered it! It's coming! It's not there yet, but I know when it's going to arrive. I'm getting it ready, so just wait! It's on its way!!!" This kind of perspective, recognizing that God is eagerly anticipating blessing me in some way, though he and I will both have to wait for its arrival due to factors often unseen by me, has helped me to love God even more and to realize that he is not holding out on me. He's just much more patient. ;-) Of course, sometimes God can't even keep his surprises to himself and gives us a snippet of what he's bringing to us. One example of this is in Isaiah 42:9 when God was telling the Israelites about some incredible things he was about to do: "See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." If intimacy grows through confiding in one another, then this is surely one of God's ways of developing his love relationship with us.

I was going to list more axioms of romantic and divine love here, but given the specialness of the number 3, I will stop at that. For those of you who have mused on such lovely connections as these, I would love to read your thoughts. Perhaps I will write a second part to this exploration. For those of you reading this and going, "What? Is he crazy? I've never experienced God in that way, not in a tangible, romantic sense," I encourage you that such a crazy, loving God exists, and he is most clearly seen through the person of Jesus! As I write this on Good Friday, the downward/upward slope to Easter, I urge you to drink what the Giver of Chai is offering. He is not relegated to boring, religious ritual (though religious ritual can certainly help seekers and believers to experience God's presence.) He is, instead, a living, breathing, romantic who desires to drink a cup of chai (or coffee, if that floats your boat) with you. Won't you join him and let him caffeinate your soul? He longs for you and for the incredibly caffeinated, soothing drink that you are. The cross says it all.