Falling in love is an euphoric experience which is like nothing else. Discovering you are loved by an Other. Magnetic attraction to the attributes of the Other. The joyful sense of belonging. All of these heighten the senses and cause the rest of the world to fade in the warm presence of the Other.
When the intensity of that birth of relationship subsides, as must happen, we discover the truth of the relationship and on what foundation it has been built. The longing in our hearts for the “falling in love” to continue in all its raging heat often causes us to miss the beauty of what we have. We strive to recapture that euphoric feeling, thinking there is something wrong with the relationship if it is gone. The desperate grasping for its return makes it seem even further from us and keeps us blind to that which we have in the present moment. We act as though we do not have, thereby assuring we will not have it.
When first my eyes were opened to the nearness of Jesus and discovered his disruptive freedom and wild tenderness, I was a man undone. I was swept up in his relentless flood of love, so crazy for me that my heart began to transform. I was set free. I was renamed. I was enough and accepted and worthy of love. My wounds and brokenness were revealed as beautiful. I experienced falling in love with Jesus with all the butterflies and distraction and walking on clouds. All else faded into obscurity in His presence.
Over time, that euphoria has passed into often-revisited memories. Memories I am greedy to keep. Remembrances I must keep. But by the tender grace of my Beloved, the Euphoria has been replaced by Certainty. The Certainty of Love, or the Certainty of Being Loved, colors the present moments of monotonous life. Colors so bright, that monotony begins to look a lot like adventure. A milestone has been passed, in that the quiet, abiding Certainty of the Loved pours out into everything I experience on the journey of life. No longer does Euphoria carry such a heavy, frantic importance. In the mess of relational experience there are periodic highs of euphoric romance, yet maintaining that high is no longer the obsessive goal. It is simply a Gift to be enjoyed. Abiding certainty of love and a deep knowledge of belonging is the powerful fuel which sustains us on our perilous journey. Life is lived in the Ordinary. But the Ordinary is exactly where the Extraordinary happens.
I live this morning in certainty. No matter what happens today; no matter where my story goes. Through my foolishness in word and deed; through the choices I make bad and good; through my turning away and returning back; through each present moment I abide in the Certainty of Love. The certainty of being loved by the Divine Lover. The certainty of being The Beloved. Abba’s love. Jesus’ love. The Spirit’s love. For me. A crazy longing for intimate friendship with me. A foolish love for me right now, just as I am in this very moment. An inexorable force of tender love for me. A wild, vulnerable passionate love for me. A warm, safe, inviting love for me.
“What do you want?” my Friend asked. “What is in your heart?’
It felt almost wrong to answer, or to think I heard Him actually ask the question.
We were sitting in our customary places before my hearth; firelight casting yellowed light on our faces as shadows danced in crazy rhythms on the walls. This is one of my favorite places to be with Him. It is a comfortable time of silence, flavored with occasional conversation. Usually early in the morning, sometimes late at night. It is a safe, comfortable place which at this time was disturbed by an uncomfortable subject matter.
“What do I want?”, I repeated back to my Friend as if not understanding his question. I fell silent. I knew what he was asking. For so long I have sought to ignore my desires, or at least hide them the best I could. I believed that what I wanted was probably “ungodly” or, at best, unimportant to the larger story. My years of feeling ashamed of the desires I had had conditioned me to see them as one of the least important things in my life, even a dangerous distraction to righteous living. The God I knew was highly structured and required discipline. Anything that hinted of wildness and passion was dangerous. The God I knew didn’t care what I wanted; His only requirement was obedience. He lived in the dark Thunderclouds of Displeasure, and I had to work hard to keep him from being disappointed in me. That was before I met my friend, Jesus.
In my years of shame I would tell God, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!”, and then wonder in discouragement at the silence which followed. So afraid of failure was I, that fear and indecision prevented my feet from moving in any direction. The day I finally heard Abba, his voice out of my despairing stillness whispered simply, “Seek Me”. And somehow in the darkness of my sorrow and pain, I did. That’s when Jesus came in compassionate love and started healing my brokenness and revealing the heart of his Father toward me in the most beautiful, tender ways. And he’s still at it. He invited me into their intimate family circle, and my heart has never been the same. Yet tonight I am uncomfortable with the question Jesus is asking me. What do I desire? What are those things which make me come alive? The wild things for which I was made….I know he is crazy about me; he likes spending time here together. And so I contemplate in the safety of familial intimacy, wondering at the question – and the Questioner.
“What do you want?”
The words hang between us, and it feels like this is a question that must be addressed now, in order for our intimacy to grow deeper. Like unfinished business.
He stands up. “Let’s walk.”
I reluctantly get out of my warm chair and follow him across the room and down the hall. Opening a door to the basement, he began walking down the stairs, not looking to see if I followed. In silence I did follow him, a growing dread in my heart as my feet began to feel heavier and heavier. He stopped at a closed door, and my heart began to race. “What is in here?” he asks in his gentle but firm way, eyes searching my face. There is no give in this man, I know that, but still I am reluctant. But I see love for me in his eyes, not the condemnation or judgement I expect, and suddenly, I feel foolish. My shoulders drooped as I sighed, letting the tension drain away. He has been so good to every room in my heart, some very dark indeed, why not here? Smiling at my own silliness, I murmured an apology. Fishing a key from my pocket, I unlocked the door and pushed it open, indicating with a sweep of my arm for him to enter first.
The door swung wide to reveal a small bare room with one cot pushed against the far wall. There was a threadbare rug on the concrete floor, and one window high up with bars set in stone on the inside. A figure sat on the edge of the cot with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. “Who is this?”, my Friend asked with a hint of sadness in his voice. I was pretty sure he knew exactly who it was. The man looked at my Friend and got to his feet, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth like an inside joke between friends. I wondered for a flash what their history was. I looked away and down, mumbling something unintelligible. My Friend waited patiently. I repeated a little louder, almost in a whisper, “Desire.”
My Friend looked at me, astonishment clear on his face, “Why have you hidden my gift down here, locked away and out of sight?”
I looked up, shocked, as my eyes met his. “Gift? What do you mean, gift? I love your gifts to me! They are my most precious treasures!”
With an expression of compassion, he said in a softer, gentler tone, “You ask Me what you should do. You ask for direction on life’s journey. You ask my will for you. I gave you Desire. ”
I looked at him, not quite comprehending.
He smiled. “Let’s go back upstairs.” As we headed up, I looked back apprehensively to see Desire following us. Coming to the the hearth, my Friend motioned for us to sit. Desire made himself comfortable in one of the chairs. The room fell silent, except for an occasional snap of the fire.
After many long minutes, my Friend lifted his eyes to mine. I saw in them such a tenderness and longing my own heart skipped as I kept silent. He took a long breath, paused thoughtfully, and then said kindly, “True freedom is the freedom to live as you were created. What is the song of your heart? Listen carefully to the words, follow the melody, get lost in the music. You were created uniquely. Your desire is your own. Set yourself free in My love. Free from the opinions of others. Free from your own opinions about how you should be. Free from fear and doubt. Abide in Me and I will give you the desires for which you were made. From whom does the breeze come which cools your brow? Or who has painted the sunset sky which gladdens your heart? Trust Me to take you further in my will for you as you listen to the desires I give your heart. Dream big. Do not worry about the destination. I will prepare the way before you as you hide your heart in Me. Trouble, Pain, Sorrow, Dangers, and Difficulty await no matter which road you travel, but I am with you to the end. I will never leave you. Who sends the waves to wash upon the shore, or who ushers in the seasons year after year? My peace I give to you over and over in never-ending abundance. Joyfully follow your heart’s desire in Me. I rejoice over you. In Me you are made fully you and truly alive. Who holds the power to shake the foundations of the earth? Believe. Press into Me. Walk boldly forward. Do not fear making mistakes or tripping. You will do both, and many times, but seek My face always and I will lift you up every time. My gifts are for you. My desire is for you. Take courage and walk boldly in the face of the ever-present unknowable future, knowing in the most unshakable way that I am with you in all of my furious love.”
It was on that day He came over to me and lifted yet another burden I was carrying, replacing it with one of his own very light burdens. I felt almost weightless in that moment as I realized yet again what true freedom feels like. Desire and passion is his good gift to me. My heart’s desires are valid because I belong here and am enough just as I am; they are important, because what I bring is unique to my design. I don’t have to know where desire is taking me as long as I stay close to Jesus. I don’t have to know what Jesus is doing as long as I know Him personally. I can remain vulnerable and carefree in my heart as I walk in the safety of Abba’s shadow. I can view the passions of my heart in the context of His love for me without fear, diving in headfirst, confident that he will lead me wherever He is going. I can passionately play and dance in the presence of the Wild One who loves me most, and He will laugh and dance with me.
No longer am I afraid of Desire. His passion is a welcome companion on my journey and often spends time at my table. What do I have to fear with such a good Father’s love for me and an intimate Friend leading the way….
Pain is difficult to write about. I sit in front of the computer, ready to compose the inner thoughts of my heart, poised and waiting for the mess to coalesce into something intelligible. How do you communicate a feeling? It’s easy to speak thought, but to fish from the deep, hidden well of the heart and translate what is pulled to the surface is more difficult. Sometimes its just an old memory of a feeling, or a forgotten dream for the future; often what finally comes up after a struggle is a writhing monster from the past.
The monster I am now trying to fish out is known by several names. Sorrow. Hurt. Pain. Particularly, my own pain and my attempts of avoid it. I try to avoid experiencing it, of course, but also thinking about it or feeling it. Ironically, that avoidance is the cause of much of my pain. I’m reminded of a quote that made me laugh the other day which read, “Courage is knowing it might hurt, and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s why life is hard.”
In my avoidance of pain, I suffered difficulties which were the unintended consequences of protecting myself from the painfulness of feeling pain. Even now, I feel like I am fleeing from my heart to the safety of thought. I can get excited by a profound thought and a good concept while divorcing myself from making it deeply personal, the result of which could be painful. “Box it up. Don’t let it breathe. Kill it. If you let it out it could consume you.” My fearful thoughts speak loudly in protest.
And so I must begin at the beginning by admitting I am an Avoider of Pain. “Hi, my name is Eric. I am an Avoider.” My default is protection of my heart and the safety of seclusion, hiding away my true feelings even from myself lest I feel my wounds. Yet suppressing one emotion or feeling cannot be accomplished without suppressing all emotion or feeling. They are each one joined to the other. If I avoid feeling the hurt, my ability to love and receive love will likewise be suppressed. I’ve lived that truth. In some sense, I am living it every day. In order to live wholeheartedly, I must risk. With a conscious effort I must seek to stay present in each moment and experience in full the seasons of emotion.
I stop again, unsure of where this is leading, but I feel the love from Abba pouring over my soul like cool water on the heat of my pain. He is so kind to me and is reminding me to pour kindness out upon myself as we explore this part of my nature. He has made me and it is good. There are reasons He has made me this way. I avoid sadness for myself, but I also seek to avoid sadness for others. My heart longs to play, laugh, and bring a sense of well-being to those around me. I was made this way, and find freedom and life in my true self. I was also made to think, and it is a struggle to connect with my heart. I am a problem solver, so my solution to the inner ache is to plan and live in the future, avoiding the present. As a result, I avoid the beauty of my own heart and how it was purposely created. God has placed in me me a sacred desire to soothe the hurt in myself and others by seeking laughter and peace.
My basic fear is becoming trapped in pain. This fear compels me to plan for freedom, so I continually remind myself that joy is truly sorrow unmasked. Pleasure and pain are different sides of the same coin. I can live present in Pleasure and Pain, Joy and Sorrow, Success and Failure. I don’t have to over-emphasize pleasure or minimize pain. I don’t have to be preoccupied with the future to avoid the present reality. Practicing living in the present moment can be difficult, but to enjoy each moment means hospitality to every experience – not just the ones I like.
My Father tells me that I am enough. Living in the enough-ness of my design is freedom. Pressing into my basic fear, I engage my wounds in a compassionate way. I am enough just as I am, not as I should be. Believing this about myself frees my heart to play, be curious, and experience this world with childlike wonder. In my freedom, I see and am seen. I will choose vulnerability over protection, knowing the truth of who I am to the Abba of Jesus. I will not fear my heart. I will enjoy His gifts of sunsets, coffee, beauty, and the comfort of a good book. I will see my work as a genuine expression of my design, and not try to be like or liked by others. I will live in each present moment as if it were my last, draining the cup to the last drop. I will come home to myself and know that I am enough and deeply loved by the One who made me. And lastly, to know that the full presence of joy and sorrow in my heart reveals the truth of something very precious given to me – Life.
There was trouble brewing in the kingdom. A declaration of war seemed imminent and the King’s advisers were huddled with him in chamber, strategizing and discussing measures for the survival of the kingdom and it’s citizens. There was an air of gravity and urgency in the King’s manner, no suggestion was overlooked or idea lightly taken. There was talk of the enemy already sowing seeds of discord in towns and villages across the country, spreading lies about what kind of man the King was and suggestions of evil intent. Spies and enemy dissidents were reported to have been whispering against the King in the cities. People were frightened, and the battle was in danger of being lost before the war even began. In the half light of the chamber, papers rustled over low and strident voices; the very air felt as if it bore the weight of decision.
In an outer hall a slender man wearing reading glasses stopped at the door and timidly peered into the busy room, a single sheet of paper in his hand. He was dressed in a well worn brown suit and tie, with no hat to cover his thinning hair. Looking uncertain, he stepped hesitantly into the chamber and stood still, waiting to be recognized; after a pause, he self-consciously pushed his glasses further up his nose and cleared his throat – to no avail. The heavy, somber atmosphere and urgent discussions continued unabated. He shifted in his suit, feeling hot and uncomfortable. Suddenly startled, he hopped awkwardly to one side holding the sheet of paper up over his head, as a small, curly-haired figure brushed against his pant leg from behind on its way past him into the room. The slender man watched in fascinated curiosity, his fear forgotten for the moment as a little girl, holding her blanket and some small toys, trundled her way undeterred through the clusters of advisers and strategists until she reached the King who was deep in conversation with two of his inner circle. Stopping by his side, she tugged firmly at his sleeve and loudly asked, “DADDY? WILL YOU PLAY WITH ME?”
The slender man noted a few subdued chuckles from around the room, and some raised eyebrows of mild irritation. The two with which the King was conversing stopped and waited in silence; He motioned for them to continue talking among themselves. Turning and looking down at her the King smiled. So somber was the room and so great was his smile, the very light in the room seemed to grow perceptibly brighter at his genuine expression of joy as he exclaimed, “Daddy missed you, my Darling! I am so glad you came to see me.” The King’s face glowed as he lifted her with blanket and toys into his strong arms and held her close. She kissed him on his bearded cheek; and the slender man thought he saw a momentary tear in the King’s eye at her touch. Then, to his amazement, he saw the King get down on the carpet and begin talking with her. The little girl chattered on and on while arraigning her toys, leaning on the King’s leg as he sat with her on the floor; He held her, his head nodding and eyes never leaving her face. He appeared delighted the whole time with her play and her questions.
After a time, the chamber having regained the full momentum of its discussions, its members appeared to accept this interruption with respect to the King and his child. The slender man, still awkwardly standing just inside the door holding his sheet of paper, presently saw the child’s eyes droop and then close, her head on her blanket and the King’s hand on her small shoulder. The King stood and, lifting her off the floor, carried her to a comfortable chair where he laid her sleeping, wrapped in the blanket. He then rejoined his advisers, apparently picking up where they left off in quiet conversation.
All this the slender man in the glasses witnessed, having forgotten even himself. Seeing the King’s tenderness toward just a child, he felt newly emboldened. Straightening his worn suit the best he could, he spoke, “Sir?” Yet the room continued to show no awareness of him. Louder. “Your Highness, may I have a word?” Eyes looked toward him curiously; the King turned from his previous conversation to face him. And, all at once, the slender man forgot his purpose for being there. The hard eyes of the King looked straight at him and through him, authority and majesty in his face and bearing. At once, the legs of the slender man began to tremble in his brown suit as he felt the weight of the King’s power, of all the difficult things being decided in that place, and how small it made his own request seem in that moment. Suddenly afraid again in the presence of such might and majesty, he without a word turned and fled out the door.
Oh, to be a child of the King! Without fear in His presence and not the least self-conscious. Oh, to be the one the King adores! To be the beloved who receives the love and good intentions of One so powerful. Oh, to be that little child, asleep in the presence of her Father, trusting Him to take care of her. Oh, to play with and in the presence of the King as he watches in unbridled delight. Oh, to interrupt with impunity – even more, for the King to delight in the interruption! Oh, to be taken into the arms of Abba Father, Eternal King of Heaven and Earth, and blessed by his words to me while being tenderly embraced; to be wrapped tightly in his strong arms of love. Oh, to be that child, full of faith and the full acceptance of belonging, vulnerable and needy and without shame.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 Jn 3:1
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us….” 1 Jn 4:10
“Is it time?”, the son asked, his strong features betraying the heaviness in his chest.
“It is time.”, replied the Father solemnly.
“Must I go?”
Silence filled the space between them as the father looked with love at the son he treasured. The bond they shared was not merely familial, but could inadequately be described as a union. United they were, and from time untold. The father’s whole being began to shake with emotion as tears fell in great drops from his eyes. The drops fell on his son’s feet like a precious oil. “Yes. Go.”, was all he said.
They looked at each other, Father and Son, King and Prince, ever united – and embraced passionately. The King stepped back after a moment, a hand on his son’s shoulder, and looked at him proudly. “With you I send all my love.”.
With a final look of longing mingled with a childlike trust the Prince nodded, turned, and walked away for the first time from all that was his. Journeying into the unknowable, he left his royal robes and became a fetus growing silently in the darkness of his mother’s womb.
Creator to created, Prince to carpenter’s son, heavenly palace to backwater Bethlehem, infinite power to infant babe, nursing at his mother’s breast. Sent to a bride who didn’t want him, to build an everlasting kingdom the world would reject, try to destroy, or use to imprison it’s citizens in a stained glass religion of duty.
This is the story of the Son of God becoming the Son of Man, a staggering event by all accounts. Who is this Son of Man? And who is his Father?
It is the word we must go back to. We must walk around it and study it like a piece of precious art to find the beauty and meaning it contains. What is it? What does it mean? Why does it matter?
It isn’t an abstract concept to be gravely discussed in the echoing halls of higher learning, but a Person to experience. Union isn’t merely a word to study, but a Fellowship to join. “To see Me is to see the Father.” (Jn 14:9), Jesus explained to his listeners. A bold statement for the self-proclaimed Son of Man. It sounds crazy. John explains it this way, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1) Son and Father from the beginning. There has for eternity been an “Us”. “Let Us make mankind in Our image, make them to be reflections of our nature…” (Gen 1:26) Friendship. Fellowship. Being In Love. Union. These things preceded us and were placed as points of longing in each of us. Made in the image of God, we long for connection with him. We long for connection and intimacy with one another. The desire to belong is at the heart of mankind.
This is the mystery. God longs for intimacy with us as well. Brennan Manning called it “the furious longing of God”. We bear his nature. The way we go about satisfying this innate longing is usually quite off the mark, but we are searching for that which God also desires with us. Union. “Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (Jn 15:4)
“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me.” (Jn 14:11) It is almost a plea. An invitation to intimacy. A deep desire in the heart of the Triune Fellowship for me to join in the intimate warmth of their Divine Belonging. It is as if He is pleading, “Believe Me. Believe in Me and my passionate Being-in-Love for you.” A request from the heart of God to our hearts for nothing less than union. The kind of belonging that lets out a sigh of relief mixed with abiding contentment in the safe presence of one with whom you are enough. Just as you are. Reclining at the warm hearth of Intimacy with Jesus, where there is no longer any condemnation or any weight of expectation other than simply restful abiding.
It is important what you believe in you heart. The mind may fight for control, and who can argue with logic? But get to know Jesus and his wild heart, and you will discover there is a mystery which logic cannot penetrate, but can only be approached by the heart in belief. The experience of encountering the living personality and wild heart of the invisible God is available to all who make the choice to walk boldly through the doors of Belief; or drag their wounded, broken hearts in desperation through the only door they haven’t tried yet; or discover almost accidentally while following the ever-present longing in their heart for the Divine Romance; or get chased through by the compassionate heart of the pursuing Lover. The beauty of the Father in Jesus is that the stories he tells are as varied as the characters in them, and together show us more of who He is.
“Must I go?”
Let’s not misunderstand the son’s reluctance to go. “Father, please take this cup from me…”. It was never a question of his love and compassion for us. How could it? The Drunk-with-love for us which is the Father would make that impossible! “For God so loved the world.” (Jn3:16) We know the Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son. The plea of Jesus, I believe, comes from the abiding spirit of the Divine Belonging. To drink the cup of death, to drain the dregs of our sin and brokenness would completely separate him at that moment from the Father. “Why, WHY have you forsaken me, Daddy?” (Mt 27:46) To die as the Son of Man would break the Fellowship as it had always been. Temptation, trials, hunger, weakness, betrayal, brokenness would all be taken upon Him. The Son’s question to the Father simply revealed his heart for intimacy. An intimacy which is now extended in friendship to us because of the sacrifice the Father and Son made. Extended in friendship? Even more, invited to participate in the Divine Belonging.
A young woman steps back and admires her work with pleased satisfaction, surrounded by unused items, scattered remnants, and the unique tools of her craft. Her heart is happy as she looks down at the final result of her creative effort. She tips her chin higher, blows a strand of hair out of her eyes, and smiles. She can’t wait to share this with her friends and family…..
An old man walks out his back door, a steaming cup of coffee in his calloused hand, and sits down on a creaking porch chair with a sigh of contentment. Spread out before him are the acres he has tended with care for so many years. Even today there is a list in his mind of things to do, but right now he just sits in silent admiration of it all. Hot days clearing brush and burning piles, building fence and spreading gravel, mowing grass and killing weeds – all of it to create a beautiful oasis for him and his loved ones in a crazy world. He soaks it in while taking another sip of black coffee, then laughs to himself. What a beautiful day…..
A small child proudly displays a crayon drawing of indecipherable lines to her father. Eyes shining, eager for praise, she says, “Daddy, look! I drew a picture!” She is pleased with herself having created this new thing by her own hand, and even more pleased to see her father smile and speak words of praise as he takes it from her hand and examines it with pleasure. She runs back to her pile of crayons and begins draw another colorful masterpiece…..
Wind whispers through tall grasses, swaying the treetops in a gentle dance. The soft rhythm of waves climb the shore, swishing their way backwards again in endless motion. The rustle of chipmunks at play in dry leaves, scampering in sudden quickness along the ground before corkscrewing up the trunk of a tree, leaping from branch to branch in a celebration of movement. Pink and purple hues paint the clouds crossing the blue sky as the morning sun prepares to make its appearance on the horizon. Dew clings to wildflowers in a grassy field as the gopher pokes his head up out of a mound of dirt and nervously surveys his surroundings. Abba, like an artist sitting back and gazing in pleasure at the work of his hands, smiles at what he has made, his heart rejoicing as he watches over it all. “Look at what I have made!” Grasses, trees, mountains, rivers, oceans, creatures great and small, snow, the colors of autumn, heat and cold, and even time itself pleases him. He is delighted at the rainbow, the purple hues of a deep canyon wall, and the splashes of color at sunrise or sunset. He rejoices at the sound of bubbling brooks, the thunder of waterfalls, and the silence of winter. He smiles at the softness of cotton, the smoothness of silk, and the coarse texture of tree bark. But most of all…..
Most of all Abba, sees me. A soul he carefully created from nothing. And that makes him dance. Not the stiff, formal dance of the well-dressed socialite. No! but a wild, loose-limbed happy dancing of the Celebrator! The kind of dancing which has no self-awareness, but is the spontaneous response of rejoicing at something very, very good! He looks upon me with adoration and a festival of rejoicing bursts forth! He is Love. The constant state of being-in-love is Abba. For me! And so I dance with him.
Who is my Hero?
“Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Saviour.
Who is my Romancer?
He will rejoice over you with happy song, he will renew you by his love, he will dance with shouts of joy for you, as on a day of festival.
Who is my Champion?
I have taken away your misfortune, no longer need you bear the disgrace of it.” (Zeph. 3:17,18)
You invite me……
“My love lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.
You convince me with arguments….
For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming it’s first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
You call to me…..
Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.
You coax me…..
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.'” (SS 2:10-14)
This morning, Sorrow knocked at the door of my heart as my Friend and I were sharing time together.
I waited a moment in silence, then with a sigh got up and opened the door. Inviting her in, I stood aside and watched as she hanged her coat on the rack and then gazed openly around the comfortable room. Her eyes stopped at my Friend standing by the hearth and they looked at each other. He nodded a familiar greeting, and smiled slightly. I hadn’t thought much about how they knew each other until now. I have not often invited her in; in truth, I have not invited her at all until recently. When she would show up, I sent her away as quickly as possible. The heaviness which follows her arrival is unpleasant, and I would much rather spend my time with her sister, Joy. But my thoughts had turned this morning to my children and then to mistakes I have made, all my regrets and the things I wish were different but aren’t. That’s when I heard Sorrow’s knocking.
I motioned her to a comfortable chair by the fire and sat myself down opposite, feeling awkward and uncomfortable. For the first time I studied her. I had always done my best to ignore her, averting my gaze and walking the other way, but now I looked – really looked. Her eyes, which I had always imagined were terrible and sad, showed something I didn’t understand. At first I couldn’t identify what it was, but then – love? It couldn’t be love! What does Sorrow know about love?!! But something else, too. Not pity, exactly. Maybe kindness? Suddenly I knew, because I had seen it before in someone else’s eyes. There was a deep and abiding compassion woven into the fabric of her gaze. Now, looking into her eyes, I could feel it. The heaviness her presence always preceded, which at first seemed unbearable (as I had never gotten past it), slowly softened at the edges. She smiled softly, a hint of that sadness I expected playing at the edges of her eyes and mouth. Then, she spoke.
“Do you know why I am here?”
I let the silence envelope us for a while as fire crackled in the hearth. “Because I let myself think on the things I could have done better in my life, and for my children. I wished they had not suffered for the things I have done or not done. And I missed them. Then you came.”
Inclining her head, she asked, “Would you like to know?”.
“I came because of Love.”
“You want me to love you?”
“Not exactly, though you may come to accept me as one who belongs as a member of your family. I am always with you, you know. But that is not why I am here.”
She looked over at my Friend, who hadn’t moved from where he stood by the mantle. He nodded.
“Where Love is present, true love, in all its childlike vulnerability, a door is flung wide open. You may try to close it, to keep me out, but you then keep Joy in all of her beauty out as well. To experience the fullness of Love, the door must be kept open. You call me Sorrow and say my sister is Joy, yet we are inseparable. I am Joy. She is Sorrow. The same well from which laughter springs is often filled with tears. The Joy that you feel is often drawn in love from that over which you have wept. Indeed, you weep over that which has been your delight. Is not the beauty of an island brought about by the fiery work of volcanic eruptions? Did not a tree give its life for your spirit to be soothed by the skillful playing of a violin? Does not the pain of childbirth result in the unmatched love of a child – a love which is the cause of so much pain later?”
Sorrow looked up at my Friend and then back at me. “He knows.”, she said.
A Man of Sorrows, intimately acquainted with grief.² The words of a prophet arrive unbidden in my mind as if spoken there by another. I look at my Friend and brother. I know his story. It is filled with the deepest grief. And the richest love. His sorrow over the loss of one is deeper than description allows. His joy over me, a broken nobody, is breathtaking.
“His love has been from the beginning that foolish kind which opens itself to all.”, Sorrow continued. “He has gone before you in everything and understands your feelings intimately. But I think you already know that.”
She sat silent for a while, staring into the fire. Shifting, she looked at me and I saw then in her eyes a pain like a million deaths. It rolled off of her in waves, filling the room with its presence, flowing in like the tide, weighing me down, crushing me. I began to cry.
“I am here because of Love.”, she repeated. “Where Love is, I must be. To reject me is to reject the fullness of what Love has to offer. You cannot have Joy and not have me. In me Joy is made possible, and in Joy I am always present. This fire gives its warmth and offers the intimacy of fellowship around its glow, yet the wood and coal is being consumed in ultimate sacrifice to give the fire it’s life. You love your children and therefore want the very best for them, which is the source of your sorrows. You want the pleasure of being near to them in heart and body, yet life’s road constantly diverges, sometimes taking them farther away, sometimes nearer. It is Joy which brings you Sorrow, and Love is the center of it all.”
As she spoke her words became a healing balm on my pain and I began to understand. Not why it is this way, but that it is this way. Drying my tears, I said, “I’m sorry.”
“For shutting you out. I only wanted happiness and Joy in my heart. I didn’t realize that through you came the possibility of healing. Through you Compassion is moved to action, and Kindness is felt. It is through you the fullness of Joy is known.”
Sorrow smiled. And in that radiant moment, to my surprise, I saw Joy sitting across from me in all her wholeness and beauty! I had been talking to Joy all along, for they were not sisters, but the very same person!
My Friend finally spoke. “The sorrow this world brings leads to death, but my sorrow brings a change of mind and heart. It brings with it the compassionate kindness of healing salvation, and leaves no regrets with its passing.¹”
To Joy and Sorrow he said, “You are welcome here, in this heart. It is My home, and I have prepared a place for you here. Reveal yourselves in the fullness of my loving kindness to this precious soul whom I adore.”
As my Friend and I continued our conversation from before, she sat in comfortable silence as if she had always been there. The Lover of My Soul, Joy, Sorrow, and I.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”.¹
Darkness. An inky, heavy void. Stale air in oppressive stillness. It was the stale air and inky void that bore silent witness to the first sign of life. A damaged hand convulsed slightly and then lost its rigor, relaxing into a more natural pose as its pale skin began to slowly fill with color. The kingdom of silence which ruled this space was disturbed by the slight rustle of fabric. A chest heaved, gasping as dead lungs struggled for air through layers of linen covering mouth and nose. Hand reaching up instinctively to face and removing the oppressive cloth – head back, mouth wide open, sucking in the stale air. Awareness. Dry eyes blinking. Lying still for a moment as reawakened senses struggle to align. He flexed his fingers and toes as if discovering something new, and then lay still, listening to the sound of his own breathing. Moving again, he felt his abdomen tighten as he swung his feet to the dirt floor and sat up, the cool, familiar sensation of earth pressing into the soles of his injured feet. Feeling at his waist for the wound, his fingers thoughtfully traced the deadly gash.
Outside, the pale light of early dawn was transforming into the new light of day. A young man dressed in soldier’s gear stood to one side of a great stone, his company tasked with guarding a dead man. A morning dove cooed in the stillness as the man’s thoughts turned again to the warm drink and rest he would soon have, thinking also of a girl he had spoken to only once but had seen the hope of more in her eyes. Nearly to the end of his shift, feet hurting, back stiff, his attention turn to the lightening sky, noticing the extraordinarily beautiful colors painting the morning clouds. A little to the right of his gaze a blazing pinprick of light appeared in the sky like a star – though the day was too far gone for stars. All weariness forgotten, his fascination began to fade into concern as he watched it grow – no, that wasn’t right – not growing, it was coming nearer! He felt the icy hands of fear grip his heart as the hair on the back of his neck stood straight up. A soldier nearby pointed and said something to the man next to him, who also looked up, their eyes widening in surprise, faces paling in the beginnings of terror. Rapidly approaching like an intake of breath and flash of lightning, the star became a form which stood before the young soldier quicker than thought. He felt his knees go weak as his legs trembled, the weapons hanging at his side rattling against his armor. Only feet away a young man, strong, with eyes like lightning faced him in robes so white it almost hurt to look. Almost immediately, another white-robed man appeared in a bright flash of light, but the young soldier had already fainted, unaware of it. The morning dove alights on a nearby branch and fluffs its feathers as it watches the two young men, with no apparent effort, begin to roll the massive stone away from the grave opening.
Breathing in the scented linen cloth which had covered his face, he feels the softness of it with the tips of his fingers, enjoying the sensations before laying it carefully to the side. Legs tightening, he stands up, muscles working stiffly beneath his skin. Then, slowly removing the linen wrappings binding his limbs and torso, he folds them neatly before placing the rolls of fabric on the ledge. He stretches his arms high, back arched, up on tiptoes, letting out a contented sigh. The crunching grind of a rolling boulder interrupts with its sound, and the black void of the cave is suddenly split by golden rays of morning sun. Fresh air rushes in as he breathes deeply of its life. He grins.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.
Out of Divine Delight I was created and have being. The face of my creator lit with joy and excitement at the prospect of me. Eagerly I was fashioned. With infinite care I was made. My personality was assembled with a unique body, joined with a particular mind, then lovingly fitted to the soft light of a brand new living soul.
His eyes shining with delight and heart bursting with love, Abba brought me forth.
I exist out of Love and find my being (existence) in Love.
The love of my Abba for me is the single most important thing about me, and the truest thing about me is that I am made in Love’s image.
Let my eyes gaze in wonder at Your Beauty.
Take me into the mystery of Your boundless love.
Invite me along on Your disruptive journey.
Carry me into Your compassionate embrace.
Drown me in the fury of Your longing.
Raise me up to dance and play in the warm belonging of Your adoring gaze.
So many years I lived believing the lie that my heart was evil and not to be trusted. I believed the lie that rational thought was the only safe and best way to live, and so I let my head call the shots while keeping my heart in chains far below where it could do me no harm.
My head agreed that this was probably best.
Then I met You, and one of the first things you told me was that my heart was good! You made it that way by your Presence there – how could it be any other way? I was still afraid to let it out because of how wild my heart is, but you held me close and assured me that that’s how you designed it – just like your own!
With Your help and trembling hands, I set my heart free. At your gentle Word I let my heart dream, desire, and make decisions in its crazy, unpredictable way.
My mind rebelled at first (and still does sometimes), yet your kind, calm voice quiets my fears. My mind is Yours. My heart is Yours.
With Your loving guidance they will work together as equals, and someday (I hope) be good friends in love.
My head is like a shrewd and careful businessman. So strong and decisive with wonderful abilities of risk assessment, analysis, good sense, and planning. He has the knowledge of information and thoughtful learning; and he advises me against attempting things I shouldn’t, yet sometimes holds me back in fear from things I should.
My heart is like a wild gunfighter. Ready to fight and be strong for the defenseless. So fearless and willing to dive into new adventures, full of wild desires and big dreams, able to risk it all with courage and grit. He has the knowledge of the magic and mystery in life; and he is constantly pushing the envelope and encouraging me to grow, yet sometimes forgets the natural laws in his desire to move forward.
My head and heart really need each other.
Abba, help me invite both of them as equals on this journey you and I are on. Help me to show the same hospitality, kindness, and attention to them as You show to me. Let not one or the other rule me, but let us be Yours in unity as equals.
May my Head and Heart rest in You as they run free to be true to what you made them to be in love.