I was playing the church organ when I first saw her that June Sunday morning in 1974. A week later, when we first kissed, an explosion of emotion made me delirious with desire. Six months later we were married. Our honeymoon was just what it ought to have been. Then, came life. In two years, there was a child, then another. By year 7, she was a tired Mommy of toddlers and I was at work, in those days preoccupied with making a mark in the world. I’d be lying if I said I did not sometimes long for another honeymoon. And yet, it was the steadiness of our love, our interdependence, that made each of us better together than we could possibly have been apart. What that young man could not imagine was the kind of love that would be discovered beyond passion!
It is a treasure of inestimable value. Bev and I discovered the importance of life-long love just after our 39th anniversary when cancer came uninvited into her life. For 20 months we walked, hand in hand, together up to that moment when death tore us apart. It the most intense experience of love we had ever known!
Too many marriages end around year 7 when passion is maturing into something new and often not all that appreciated. For some the feeling of being ‘in love’ is more important than love itself. They want to experience the honeymoon again and again. Unwilling to move beyond the heart-stopping emotions of early passion, some end their marriage before it becomes something their present knowledge cannot even imagine!
That is not to say that marriage has to ‘settle’ into some kind of dull drudgery! There is an experience of love that can be developed that goes beyond hormones and roses! That old couple that finishes each other’s sentences, that sit together silently communicating, have found a kind of ‘love’ that a couple in their first year does not even know exists.
The Bible often uses marriage imagery to describe God’s relationship with His people. It is an apt illustration. We come to Christ, often in a time of crisis or deep searching. Our initial experience is a kind of honeymoon, finding the Love of God, the relief of guilt and shame, a sense of purpose we had never known. But, then passion ebbs and we find ourselves bored. We read the same passages of Scripture once thrilled us with hope and think “read that before.” We pray but our words only seem to echo in the room. We fidget through church, the ‘worship’ more going through the motions than a real act of adoration. Too often, instead of anticipating the deepening of intimacy with God, we long for another honeymoon.
What many do not know is that beyond the boredom there is a kind of mature life-enhancing faith that can be found in the practice of spiritual disciplines, in faithfulness to Him through the silence. Thinking that there is something wrong with their Christianity they find another church, or even abandon the practices of faith succumbing to seductions of life or slipping into spiritual apathy. Raised in Pentecostal practices, I now realize that much of what I heard described as “revival” was really a kind of longing for the emotional excitement of new faith. True spiritual renewal does not look back; it reaches forward to find the Spirit’s life for this time, this place, these challenges. Yesterday may be a sweet memory, but we cannot relive the thrills!
In this Season of Advent may I suggest that you look for a deepening of your love for Christ?
Will you let go of your demand for church services that leave you all tingly with excitement, that you start to work on forming a life-long relationship with a church body, building strong relationships that will serve you well in times of crisis that will surely come your way?
Will you learn to love God beyond the emotion, beyond the ‘happy,’ with a kind of devotion that endures the periods of silence, that presses through the tests and temptations?
Pray for faith to grow, to be led into an experience of the Holy that you cannot even imagine exists. Learn new forms of prayer. Appreciate the importance of the church in your life with God, a body of Believers whose shared worship and service carries you through times of spiritual dullness. Read books that go beyond the experience based devotional material, that speak to the depths of your soul, calling you deep into the life of the Spirit of the living God.
Hope in God! Here is a word from the Word. Though from a passage that is likely familiar, spend some time pondering the call to mature love, then go love God and live in the fullness of His joy in your world.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:7-13, NLT)
If my heart is overwhelmed
And I cannot hear Your voice
I’ll hold on to what is true though I cannot see
If the storms of life they come
And the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith I will believe
I’ll remind myself of all that You’ve done
And the life I have because of Your Son
Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
And I am Yours I am forever Yours
Mountain high or valley low
I sing out remind my soul
That I am Yours I am forever Yours
When my heart is filled with hope
And ev’ry promise comes my way
When I feel Your hands of grace rest upon me
Staying desp’rate for You God
Staying humbled at Your feet
I will lift these hands and praise I will believe
‘Cause I am Yours and I am Yours
For all my days Jesus I am Yours
And I am Yours and I am Yours
For all my days Jesus I am Yours
(Oh) I am Yours I am Yours
All my days Jesus I am Yours
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