Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Exquisite Romance of Grace

"No, no, no. It's not the cheating. It's the hunger. The hunger for an alternative and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness". Sarah Pierce - The film Little Children.

"I love it when passion rips open that dull, nine to five facade and bares the writhing orgy of need underneath". Tim Kredier - The essay, The Creature Walks Among Us.

"I've never gone so wrong as for telling lies to you
What you've seen is what I've been
And there is nothing I can hide from you
You see me better than I can
".  Lyrics from 'Till I Gain Control Again'.

There's a wonderful moment in the song of songs that says so much about passion and genuine love, but before we get to that, I wanted to refer to another touchstone, for me, on this vital subject. It's found in Jim Mc Neely's superb book, The Romance of Grace, which is simply one of the best works in print on the value of desire and the astonishing love of God.

The book is littered with gems, but it's chapter 4 - Grace is the Air Love Breathes - that I want to draw from today.

It starts with focusing on a very universal truth - we are not in control of our own desires. We often "feel" we want things in a particular direction, but because that impulse is usually without any real centre, we "might as well try and grasp the wind or embrace the ocean"... and yet, our passion really counts. When love becomes something wonderful, it really does colour everything in a brightness that furnishes all of life. It allows us to overlook faults, work through troubles, care unselfishly and even unceasingly for someone that was once a total stranger. Love alone actually enables us to totally give ourselves, not out of duty, but out of a yearning to please and delight that one who fills our world.

There are, of course, countless songs, stories, poems and other expressions that bear witness to the power of such affection, which is no doubt why, at the very heart of our bibles, we find a truly vivid, no holds barred, love story.

One of the questions asked at the end of this insightful chapter is "is Hollywood right in conveying that we fall helplessly in love with someone and have no real control over our affections?

The Song of Songs answers with a resounding YES!
Take a look at this typical passage from the work:

"My beloved says to me, 'Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away" (2:10). The object of desire, hearing this call, then yearns eagerly to be with the one who loves her (see the opening of chapter 3).

Its exactly the same in regards to the love of God.

The Apostle John notes that we know we're redeemed and shall be reassured in our hearts, even when feel condemned, because this redeeming love of God is far, far greater than our hearts, and the one who loves us this way knows everything (1 John 3:19-20).

In other words, as John also says, we can now love because we were first so totally loved (1 John 4:19).

Our surety isn't in the whims of our own turbulent desires, or our "doing well" one day and badly the next - it's in the love that nailed Jesus to a cursed cross so that He could take all our iniquities and end all our diseases.

That's the love we respond to - total and unconditional (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

It has to be this, or nothing, because the alternatives (depending on something other than eternal, steadfast, love) are dire. 

There's a 100% sure-fire way to sell Christianity short.

Turn it into religion.

Turn it into something filled with 'shoulds', 'musts', 'wills' and 'cans' instead of a hunger to be loved, to be carried up by the sweetest bliss of being one totally desired by another (however vile we may be), and you'll end up stoically trudging the road to reverence to something that, if you try hard enough and long enough, you deem (believe) you can plicate, but let's be clear - it's not those who "will" and thereby "run" (Romans 9:15) that make it... It's those who believe that God came to rescue the wicked (us) and trust in that unmerited love that do.

Occasionally, we will no doubt know moments, perhaps even longer spells, where our desires harmonize with the beauty of the holiness God brings to us in His beloved, but if we're honest, we're often usually pretty distant from that. The way to see further than ourselves is to focus on the love that God pours out, without measure, upon us, in Jesus.

As Charles Spurgeon once noted, "If God would have held anything back, it would have been this, His beloved. When He gave us His Son, He gave us all".

Spend some time today thinking about that.
It might do your affections some good.

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