Monday, December 15, 2008

Love and the Loosened Grip

You know when you're in love. You can barely eat, so nourished you already are by the filling thoughts of your beloved. It is hard to concentrate at work, because your spirit is that again of a child and a child is by nature playful at heart. Music, art, movies, dance--they speak with amplified poetry, your senses fully engaged. If the love is mutual, you soar with the wind and feel capable of vanquishing all earthly kingdoms. If it is not, the parameters of the void inside are beyond calculation and nothing feels relevant or useful or enjoyable.

I have been falling steadily in love again, and the object of my affections is one with whom I have loved before but whose voice and presence were less desirable than many human pursuits. The recipient of my conquered heart is the risen Christ, the hope of glory, his power perfected in my weakness, his righteousness a dazzling cloth that obscures my filthy rags. It is an emerging love more precious than the inaugural courtship, made richer by experience, intellectual pursuits, failures, age and time. It is a surrender to the Spirit who has chased me even while I was temporarily chasing after the wind.

I can thank my frequent spiritual teachers from across the past decade or so for helping to reignite my passion for the one whose passion led to the ready embrace of a crown of thorns, so that I might wear a crown of glory. Friends such as Wesley, Kelly, Foster, Augustine, Willard, Lawrence and a Kempis. The last teacher especially, in his classic work The Imitation of Christ, has been stretching me to consider the devotion I have toward the things God can do for me or give me--compared to my simple but profound devotion for Christ himself. It's humbling to scan the delta. And yet, ever-surprising grace compels me on, encouraging me to forget what lies behind and strive toward white lies ahead.

This applies especially to positive emotions. When I'm in the "God zone" all seems well. I can handle anything. But as a Kempis notes, the feelings come and go. The caliber of faith is proven in the dark moments, against the onslaught of temptation, inside the crucible of rejection. This is where I am praying the Spirit will strengthen and train me, for an ongoing journey of surrender to the Christ within in spite of whatever temporary circumstances are at play.

This morning as I drove home from the gym in a dreary rain, I contemplated what things I would be willing to place before Christ, to more fully trust in his hands. My house, my stuff, my paid-off Honda? Ok, I wouldn't like it but I could do it--they are such temporary items. The weakness of my flesh? Well, as much as I think I enjoy it, I would be far more productive and at peace without it. My career and talents and creativity? Hmm. That gets a bit trickier, cuts to the core of my identity. My health? Slow down, Lord. My spouse? Whoa, it's getting really personal now. My children? Unthinkable.

Yet Christ calls me to lay it all down, to be as Abraham when he was prepared to lay down Isaac before his hand was stilled. Christ continues to query of me, do I love him more than these...even these.

You know when you're in love, because you're willing to loosen the grip on things and people in ways you couldn't have imagined before.


At 4:57 AM , Blogger Kristie said...

John--catching up on your blog this morning. So many good thoughts, so many beautiful descriptions, and I just love this one. It is so hard to hand over what is most sacred to us, but it is also an acknowledgment that we are not in control, that as much as we love our families we cannot protect them anyway, that they are safest in His arms not ours. The idea of handing them over is frightening, but somehow there is peace in actually doing it.


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