Longing – Psalm 36:5-10
God’s love is meteoric, His loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, His verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. How exquisite your love, O God! How eager we are to run under your wings, To eat our fill at the banquet you spread as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water. You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light. Keep on loving your friends; do your work in welcoming hearts. The Message
Those who have had dealings with God understand why adjectives of cosmic proportion are used to describe him. While the psalmist’s words sound like hyperbole, they are anything but. To even approximate the granduer and majesty of God, human imagination and language must be stretched to their limits, then be multiplied by infinity. I love The Psalms for this reason. They are not theologically precise discourses. They are more like convulsions, spilling out of honest hearts, expressing their deepest longings, making declarations of who God has become to them.
Because we are created in his image, there are longings within us. Those fortunate enough to never succeed in blunting them are referred to by Jesus as the poor in spirit to whom belongs the Kingdom of heaven. In cultures such as ours where affluence and technology create endless distractions as well as the time to indulge ourselves in them, longing can be blunted. It can even be killed. We are the wealthiest, busiest, best fed, most entertained culture that has ever lived. We are also one of the most ungrateful, impatient, unfulfilled, angry and empty ones. Why is this? How could this be?
We are told that in stillness we shall discover God for ourselves. We are told to only dwell on things that are true and lovely and worthy of praise. We are told to watch over our hearts with all diligence because that is where life begins. We disregard these most fundamental of commands at our own peril. While all of God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” our response to the particulars of knowing God often seem to be, “Oh no.”
Learning to respond with an inner “yes” to our longings will expose us to the radical extremes of God’s love. Our longings can lead us to Jesus who is our abundant provision. When we reciprocate with our “Yes” we are responding to his invitation to the banquet. Our ongoing encounters with him fill our lamps. Those who never slow down, whose hearts are seduced by the spirit of this age, who could neither bear silence nor stillness, who never learned to stop and fill their own lamps, will find themselves standing outside a very important door.
But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.‘ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:6-12
I rarely lean upon fear as a motivator. However since reading Neal Postman’s, Entertaining Ourselves to Death, I have had some fear and trembling in my soul as I have been working this topic out in my own life. It is currently very out of vogue to have an “Oh no” response to any command since it might throw us back into the dark ages of legalism, quenching the grace of God and the liberty it affords us.
Can we have an ongoing experience with the meteoric love of God through the keeping of a list of thou-shalt-nots? I don’t think so. Can we have an ongoing experience with His cosmic goodness by ignoring his warnings and admonitions to live a circumspect life? I don’t think so. So, are we stuck? I don’t think so.
There is a pathway in the Spirit where obedience is no longer a means toward an end. As we walk in the Spirit, obedience is a natural byproduct of a new and grateful heart. Thou-shalt-nots create a tight-rope upon which the saint must balance where his energies are consumed with holiness and sin-management. While this lifestyle sounds noble, it produces nothing but guilt and pride.
On the other hand, those walking in the Spirit travel in a wide open space where all things are permissible, yet not all are profitable. These saints do not convey a life of white- knuckled obedience where well being is dependent on personal discipline. Instead, in simple joyful ways, they convey they have been caught up into something grand and beautiful. Consequently, their hearts will provide the safety and refuge of God’s grace to many.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. Matthew 13:31-32
Father, teach us to see and nurture our longing. May longing grow full-term within us. May it be birthed into the fulness of Christ’s life. May our hearts radiate the contentment of those being loved by you and the satisfaction of those who dine with you. Oh God, in simplicity and rest, may our lives eloquently state just how exquisite is your love! Amen.