Picture this: it’s been a crazy busy week filled with clients at the gym, ministry on the block, more than a few bouts with self-doubt and no doubt several sweet hours of deep fellowship with close friends. And no time alone with Ben. Somewhere in the middle of all this, we’ve failed to spend anytime alone, talking, catching up, romancing each other and equally being romanced. Certainly, we fall asleep right next to each other each night, but by the end of each busy day, we are each far too tired to invest in each other as we drift off.
Friday morning Ben calls back as he runs out the door for work that he wants to go on a romantic date for dinner that night. “We haven’t spent any time this week, I want to hear about how you’ve been – get to know my wife again!” we both chuckle and agree to dinner as a date.
Six o’clock rolls around and Ben rushes me out the door to the car, barely allowing me time to slip into my shoes. He drives frantically, weaving in and out of traffic, all the while blaring ESPN radio and talking to his best friend Tyler on the phone. I wait patiently in the passenger seat for my husband to interact with me.
Five minutes later we whip into a McDonald’s drive through. Ben hangs up the phone and asks what I want to order. I, confused as to why we’re in a drive through on what is supposed to be a romantic date, give my response and Ben places our order.
Our food is delivered through the magic window number two, and we’re back on the road, zooming in and out of traffic two minutes later. Ben chatters on about all the things he would like me to do around the house while shoving French fries down his throat. “If you could clean the bathroom and sew those buttons on my shirt, OH! And make sure that laundry gets done that would be great! I’d really appreciate that!”
As we pull into the driveway he continues his unbreakable string of speech with “By the way, you’re an awesome wife, really great. I love you so much and you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He hops out of the car, “I’m so glad we had this awesome date! Bye!” and he jogs into the house, sits down in front of the TV and is in his own world for the rest of the night. We fall asleep silently as has been the norm, and wake up and head off to work without conversing.
I am left bewildered and confused, not understanding how he assumes we’re communicating so well when I’ve not had a chance to speak a word to him with his undivided attention. I long so deeply for a chance to speak with him alone, undistracted, for many hours to express my love and feel loved in return. Not just a list making session followed by some half-hearted, distracted admiration.
No, that’s not a true story. At least not for Ben and I. But it is very much like unto my relationship with God lately.
It had seemed to me recently that I was going through somewhat of a spiritual dry spell. My usual vibrant and open walk with God had dwindled the past few weeks to a series of mediocre and rushed five-minute devotionals multi-tasked in with my morning meal…and that was on a good day.
Foolishly, I thought to myself that God was being silent, and so I had less motivation to spend time listening. Why listen to One who will not speak.
The key word above is that said thought process was foolish.
I had a wide open morning today, which I was eagerly looking forward to filling with playing with Amos the puppy (no, we did not get a dog, we’re puppy-sitting for my dear distance-running friend Katie), getting coffee and grappling over cohort readings with my sweet friend Tina, getting in a solid workout and picking up some last minute groceries for dinner tonight.
(our spinach is running on empty, which necessitates an immediate trip to the store. Spinach and bananas are our milk and eggs)
However, God had other plans.
I felt convicted last night at Women’s Bible Study as we discussed “living loved” – having a consistent and powerful awareness of God’s love for us as individuals. I realized as we discussed how little I actually thought of God’s fantastic love for me…especially lately. So, I carved out a whopping 30 minutes to have time alone with Him this morning. And He didn’t even have to share with my coffee.
Well, 30 minutes turned into many more minutes, and the thoughts thereof have turned into this post.
I initially thought of naming this post “God doesn’t like quickies” likening my quiet times of late to the intimacy level of quickie sex…but I decided to keep this post otherwise fairly PG, thus constructing the world’s-worst romantic date scenario.
I’ve been reading through the psalms lately, and today landed in me in psalm 36…or at least the first half of it. I read over the text, and got hopelessly stuck around verse 6. I sat back, mulling over what it means to be loved infinitely and steadfastly, meditation overflowing from last night’s Bible study.
I found myself dismayed as I uncovered within myself the reality that all I know of love or consistency is twinged with brokenness and hopelessly finite.
As I sifted through memories, images and relationships in my mind, trying to find some illustration of “steadfastness” to wrap my brain around I was amazed how even my optimistic mind struggled to find a suitable match for such a word.
I thought of the sun rising, how steadfast that was. “but one day, the sun will cease to rise and shine,” the thought crept in.
I thought of Ben, and how his love reaches far beyond my understanding as he loves me deeply even on my worst, most irritable, irrational, moody days. But there are moments in our marriage where our own fractured humanity is so painfully evident that I found this to be an unsuitable example of steadfast love as well.
As I mulled through the thought of steadfast love and how little I meditate on God’s love daily. I found that I am far more often mindful of ways I should be allowing His Spirit to work in me to further conform me to His image.
More unfortunate still is my most natural tendency to think very little of God’s thoughts towards me at all throughout my day-to-day.
Certainly I think of God; how majestic and glorious and wonderful He is. I praise Him for His good work in my life, our neighborhood and church, and even for the hard things, the difficult to understand. Even now yet will I praise in this storm. I think a great deal about my thoughts towards God, but very little – if at all – of His thoughts towards me.
Oh that I would shut my big idolatrous mouth up and just listen to the Father’s love song over me!
But I digress, back to Psalm 36.
David begins the psalm like this:
“transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart…”
That phrase at the end “deep in his heart” is largely translated (by the Hebrew, syriac and Septuagint texts for those who care) as “deep in my heart”. David calls himself out on his own wickedness.
and whether or not I would own with my pen, my life claims the same confession every day.
“there is no fear of God before her eyes. She flatters herself in her own eyes that her sins cannot be found out and hated. The words of her mouth are trouble and deceit; she has ceased to act wisely and do good. She plots trouble on her bed; she sets herself up in a way that is not good. She does not reject evil.”
(paraphrasing slightly, mind you)
I’m so flattered to think my own thoughts (towards God or otherwise) are of greater listening value than His own whispers to my soul.
Words that fly so flippantly from my lips in the idolatrous name of “venting”.
(anyone else bow down to that golden calf…or is it just me?)
Plotting ways at the start or end of my day to make myself more self-sustaining and accomplished. My mind is so full of to-do’s and schedules it has no room for the truth of a steadfast love.
“I love you, leave your burden here.”
I find in my life that the greatest evils are not drugs, sex and rock n’ roll, but “good” things placed in a dangerously disheveled order.
Golden bangles given to me as a blessing as I danced my way out of captivity, I have melted down and fashioned them into a vile replacement for the God who freed me first.
(see exodus 12:35-36; 32)
And that’s a big “yet”.
“Your steadfast love extends to the heavens…”
“Steadfast love” – a concept which I cannot even understand.
love that reaches light years upon light years, extending past all galaxies in length.
And I forget to think on this?
My grocery list and daily work is a greater mantra on which to settle my focus?
“spinach, bananas, chicken breast…”
Laugh, but you know it’s true.
“dishes, laundry, sew on that button, bake bread…”
Nope, still no thought of steadfast love.
“three sets of squats, reverse lunges, and step ups. Crunches, plank, burpee….”
And at days end I’m exhausted and worn, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Chances are good I’ve lost value somewhere along the line because I currently insist on importing my value from all the wrong sources.
Mark Twain wrote once that he could live for a month on a single compliment.
I would add to Twain that when value is sourced almost entirely extrinsic from God, that I need at least three compliments to make up for every one negative thought or comment
And I just read a study that says the average American woman has nearly one negative thought for every waking hour.
That necessitates a lot of compliments. Not to mention the grace to take them properly.
Or perhaps, just an acknowledgement of the radical love song sung over us every hour of every day, waking or sleeping, regardless of whether we listen or not.
“I love you more than life itself. You are Mine, each and every part is kissed with a little mirror of me. If you feel I’m not close, please come closer! I want you to rest at my feet, to lie down in safety in my lush green field. Let me restore the places you’re ashamed of and build up hope in the parts you only see trouble. My love for you is so great, it never ends. You cannot change it, run away from it or stop it, but you can ignore it. But I won’t stop. I love you.”
Paul writes in ephesians 4
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in Your inner being…that You being rooted and grounded in love may have the strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses understanding.”
And this is my prayer for myself and each and every one of you, my fellow dearly beloved on this journey, that we would see our brokenness and wickedness for what it truly and fully is, and yet feel the unrestrained freedom of the Spirit at work, rooting and grounding us in love. That for His own glories sake we would be granted, by the Spirit, the strength and boldness to understand how high and wide, vast and deep is His great love for us. Steadfast, whether we comprehend or not, yesterday, today and forever.