If you love me…

Have you ever been in love? When you’re in love you will drive for hours to be together. You’ll arrange your schedule around that time. If you need to you’ll go without food or sleep or anything that would cut into that time with the one you love. When you’re apart, you long for your lover, and you jump at the chance to be together again.

I have to admit that my love for my wife isn’t as intense a feeling as it once was. I love her, but it has become an every day sort of thing. Sometimes I look at her and I remember how beautiful she is, how much I love being with her. When we’re apart for a few days I realize how much I miss being with her. But a lot of days, unfortunately, I just don’t think about it all that much. I love her, but love becomes common.

On the other hand the part of my love for her that is my commitment and partnership and walking with her every day hasn’t diminished. In fact, it becomes stronger as time passes. Some days the feeling of passion burns fiercely, but not every day. The feeling that I couldn’t imagine life without her, that I can’t imagine dealing with the challenges of life if she wasn’t walking through them with me, that love stays strong and gets stronger.

How does my love for God compare? Psalm 63 sounds quite a bit like that experience of passion we have when we first fall in love:

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
New International Version (Biblica)

Why isn’t my experience of loving God more like that? How often does my love for God keep me up at night? How often do I thirst for God like a dry and weary land where there is no water?

To be honest, most of the time I don’t remember my love for God. I don’t remember the awe. I don’t remember how magnificent he is, how creative. I don’t even remember his love for me. Occasionally something happens that reminds me, but most days it doesn’t have a huge impact on how I live. The love doesn’t go away, but it becomes common. OK, maybe that’s just the feelings, like the passionate feelings of marriage don’t always feel intense. How am I doing on the “daily walking and living with my lover” kind of love?

This week I read Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it. It got me thinking further about loving God, and what that looks like. He talks about having an over the top love for God, the kind that makes you do “crazy” things. The kind that looks like you really love God, and believe what he says, that looks like it actually impacts how you live. Shouldn’t I respond to God’s amazing love with a crazy love of my own, the kind where I would do anything for him? Crazy idea, isn’t it?

The challenging part of this book is that Francis Chan talks about it like it isn’t optional.

The Bible talks about love in the extreme like it’s expected. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.” 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that if we have fantastic faith and prophecy and tongues and everything else, but we don’t have love, we have nothing. In Luke 14:33 Jesus said “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” 1 John says that if you say you follow Christ but you don’t love, you are a liar. These aren’t half way, everyday common sorts of responses to God. Here’s the deal: God doesn’t accept left-overs. We can’t please God with anything other than whole hearted surrender. God told the church in Laodicea that because they were lukewarm, he was going to spew him out of his mouth. To God, lukewarm is repulsive. Chan points out that being a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron. Jesus said “If you love me, you will obey me.” That’s not a suggestion or even a command. Its a description. That’s not a half way kind of thing. There isn’t any such thing as a lukewarm Christ follower.

Chan also talks about the parable of the soil, the one where the seed is scattered on the path, and on rocky soil, and on soil with weeds, and on good soil. Then he says something kind of shocking for those of us who have heard this story so many times: Don’t assume you’re the good soil. Most of us in the American church are full of thorns. I’m learning that the level of commitment I had before isn’t enough. I have to give it all to him. I have to get rid of the thorns that choke the good news from my life. We can actively pursue God, or we’re giving him the left overs. There isn’t any in between.

It isn’t a matter of trying harder. Trying harder doesn’t work. You can’t try to love someone. Love cannot be an obligation. The answer is to let him change me. To surrender. The further I go, the more I find I have further to go.

Oh Holy Spirit! Teach me to love! Take all of me and make me yours. Fill up what’s missing so that I can love you fully. Oh God, have your way with me!

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