Last week, as I began my multi-part answer to Tony's question about intimacy with God, I wrote the following: "The word 'responder' implies action. But it's a different kind and type of 'action.' A response to another's initiations is different from my effort to initiate something, but it's still a response and involves activity. But it's a very different kind of activity, motivated by a very different understanding of the why of that activity." I also said I would have to expand on these thoughts later, so today is the "later," at least for the question of motivation.
It's probably obvious that motivation varies depending on how we view a relationship with someone. We can all think of stories of one-sided or lop-sided love where only one partner was fully engaged and participating. But surely that's not true for our relationship with God, right? In reality, of course, the answer is "No!" But what about our perception of God's role in our relationship? Most of us would deny that we view God as reluctant or "playing hard to get," but the behavior of many believers says otherwise. I often find a striving and anxiety in many "seekers of God" that is totally out of line with a mutually passionate relationship, and I am convinced that the reason for this is that many folks really don't know God as the fiercely loving and pursuing God that He is.
As we experience the truth about God's love in our hearts, our motivation shifts from one of fear and frantic desperation (hoping we might find Him if we work hard enough, are sincere enough, etc.) to one of desire and expectancy that stirs us to go to any length to find Him. We find ourselves "waiting in ambush" for the God who is already after us! (There's a reason why "wait" in the Bible means "wait in hopeful expectation," isn't there? It gives us a picture of us waiting in ambush for a loving Daddy rather than chasing heartlessly after a rather disinterested God who plays "hide and seek.")
I won't talk about the activity of intimacy until next week, but please note that any action that flows from healthy motivation is even more focused and intense than action that's motivated by fear. Unhealthy, fearful motivation ("I hope He loves me," "If I can just make Him love me...") can never lead to a healthy relationship because we are attempting to build a relationship with a distorted image of God rather than with God Himself--you cannot have an intimate relationship with an illusion! Furthermore, we simply will not be able to allow our hearts to fully embrace One we fear more than we love and trust. On the other hand, if "I know that I know that I know" that I will find infinite love waiting for me, I will gladly allow the Lover to love me and will passionately pursue my Pursuer. Looking for the One we know adores us and desires us far more than we desire Him changes everything, and it opens the door to intimacy beyond comprehension. We can forever drown in the depths of His love--there is no end, not ever. Song of Songs 3:4 captures some of this, I think: "I found the One I adore, my Beloved! I caught Him and fastened myself to Him, Refusing to be feeble in my heart again." (Brian Simmons, The Most Amazing Song of All by King Solomon- The Passion Translation.
So my friends, if we really do grasp that God is the Initiator and is actively and fiercely pursuing us in order to be good to us and "love on us," it changes everything! But how do we get there? One thing that has helped me immensely is Papa's frequent reminder of the many love-infused times I had with my sons. The two pictures on this blog are snapshots of many, many fun and love-filled times that Jon and Josh and I enjoyed. I think of many walks down the beach, times going fishing, wrestling on the floor, etc. I also think of times when my love was fierce and aggressive: a time when I rushed down a hill to pluck Josh out of an anthill--nothing would have stopped me from reaching him! I think of how my sons were hesitant to tell me about anyone "messing with them" because of how fiercely I would move to protect them! My sons knew that I was fierce and unrelenting in my love for them (I still am), and God has used the images of my life with my sons many times to show me how to respond to Him. He is infinitely more loving and fierce in His love for me than I could ever be, even though I cannot imagine a love stronger than the love I have for my family!
But lest you think I write as one who has all of this down pat, I will tell you that even writing these words today has caused me to "repent" and adjust my view of Papa. How easy it is, this many years into this journey, to revert back to pursuing a God I believe is rather distant and committed to making things hard on me! (But the good news is that He still comes after me/us in my faulty perspective and attitude--amazing!)
And so I return to new motivation, responding to the Initiator because His love for me makes anything else worthless! I close with a "response" to the Lover of our souls from the Song of Songs (4:6)--another quote from Brian Simmons' Passion Translation that I think expresses well the deep motivation that comes from seeing our Lover as He really is: "I’ve made up my mind. Until the darkness disappears And the dawn has fully come, In spite of shadows and fears—I will go to the mountain top with You. I will climb with You The mountain of suffering love and the hill of burning incense. Yes, I will be Your bride."
Wandering in the depths of His love...
Tom, one Abba's dearly loved children