Close your eyes. Sense naught but the warmth of the sun as it kisses unveiled flesh. Smell the wild and fragrant honeysuckle, and take it to your lips—it is for you. Now, rise and run unbridled through windswept fields! See the hues of stunning sky and dance beneath its splendor. Feel soft, green life on tender toes and fear not to bathe beneath the cloudburst. Hear the sounds of thunder and rain; of humming birds and every breathing thing. Hear them as sweet music longing to caress your waiting ears. Drink from crystal springs, and eat the fruit of trailing vines. Behold the world—a glowing canvas of purity and grace. Behold yourself! Young. Healthy. Beautiful. Alive. And as you sense this wonder, above all else, remember to breathe. Yes—fully and deeply, respire with purpose and awe. Breath is the foremost gift of your Creator—the genesis of being and cosmic intimacy. Take it, and know that your first breath has been His into you. Take it, and whisper His Name. There is no choice. His Name is in your very breath!
Awake, all creation, to the Bright Morning Star—and His love burning fiercely for you. Avert not your eyes from the Light of this world and from all that is good, pure, and true.
Sleep in darkness no more; He has conquered the grave—endeavoring sweetly for our life to save.
Arise to the One who is all Life itself, and be not afraid. For as He is Life, we are His.
I’ve always had a kind of fascination with words, and passion has been one of my favorites for a long time. Mysteriously, its very sound can evoke its meaning—bringing profound emotion to our minds and hearts. When we hear it, we’re bound to liken it to others, such as ardor, desire, and love. We might conjure our own personal sense of what it means to be alive, or imagine that one thing which we could never live without.
Passion can be a very cathartic word, and the mystery within it only deepens when we realize its hidden value. I say hidden because we might not think of it too often—the way in which passion is synonymous with suffering. More than likely, when we think of it this way, there is only one person—and one unconscionable event—with which we are associating it. I think it’s because no one else in the history of anything has ever felt passion like He has. Passion so strong, so deep, and so intense that it could endure anything for the sake of its muse—the insanity of such a thing should move us! It should haunt our dreams until it lives in us as well, our passion for Him ever nurtured by His for us.
The book of John contains a prayer that Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane—on the night he was arrested. I know I’ve probably quoted from it before because I just love it so much. Granted, the one we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” has always been the more famous, but this one is definitely the more heart-wrenching. It came from his tortured heart rather than his desire to teach his followers how to pray, and for that reason, it has always been my favorite.
In his great hour of need, he pours himself out to his Father, and incredibly, he thinks of us. Toward the end of this touching entreaty, he says: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father—that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are—I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one (John 17:20-23, NLT).”
In reading this prayer, perhaps God’s original design for us can become more apparent. It helps us to see the truth more clearly—because despite the division we see among us, the truth is that we were meant to be one. Each time I pass a stranger on the street, I think of it. Every human life that has ever been or shall ever be, from every race and every place, is a piece of myself that’s gone missing. No matter the fear or confusion this world casts upon me all the time, deep in my soul, I know this truth. Difficult though it is to believe, there once was a time—in this world—when God truly had His way with us. We knew Him. He was with us—and we were together. But that was before the Fall—before we used His gift of free will against Him. For one brief, resplendent moment, we were as a shining window of stained glass. A vibrant and beautiful work of art, all telling the same story—reflecting the glory of our wonderful Creator. But then, we touched forbidden fruit and ever since, we’ve never been as we ought to be. We’re like jagged pieces of broken glass that only He can make whole again.
It’s hard enough to experience this brokenness in the world at large. It makes us fearful and it makes us hateful—because we can’t recognize each other anymore. We can’t recognize ourselves in each other anymore. Jesus said that the world would hate anyone who belonged to him. So, that much, I suppose we should expect. But what no one ever seems to want to address is the brokenness within the Church—his own body. We’ve all experienced it, and at worst, it has caused us to actually renounce the Church. But how can this be, since in so doing, we renounce ourselves?
We create denominations because we don’t know how to reconcile our differing perspectives over doctrine. We become prideful and competitive with each other, as though our life in Christ were some cosmic race to be won. We stubbornly hold to deep convictions over things that probably don’t matter that much, while grossly compromising with the world on the things that matter most. And if this claim is confusing to those of you who will read this, here are some examples from my own life. My grandmother attended a congregation where they took communion on a weekly basis, and their reason for doing so was simple. Jesus gave a simple command. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Period. He didn’t actually say “Do this once every seven days”, or “once a month”, or “once every season” or “once a year on the anniversary of this night.” No specification appears to have been given regarding the frequency with which we are supposed to take communion. The denomination that my grandmother’s congregation was affiliated with prided itself on being, quote, “the church of the Bible.” They scrutinized every detail they knew about the early Church and endeavored to replicate it entirely. Since Jesus gave no specification regarding the frequency with which to take communion, they reasoned that it was better to err on the side of caution and to take it every time they met. To me, this always seemed logical enough, and I saw absolutely nothing wrong with it. As I got older and had more opportunities to attend congregations outside of this one, I eventually discovered, of course, that not all congregations adhered to this same tradition. Some took communion once a month, some seemingly every six months, or particularly around the holidays, etc, etc. I might have seen absolutely nothing wrong with this, either. But unfortunately, the party line of my grandmother’s denomination was that “we alone are the church of the Bible.” They held very deep convictions about every facet of their tradition, and they actually believed themselves to be the only ones who were truly obedient to the teachings of Jesus. So, among other things, they had a big problem with anyone who said it was okay to take communion less than once a week. They harshly alienated any and all other groups of believers who held to a different standard on the issue—and I see now how completely tragic that was. It was really no different that the pervasive attitude of the religious elite in Jesus’ time. They cared so much about the letter of the law that they neglected the spirit of the law, and I can only pray that they see their mistake.
On the other end of this spectrum lies the rising tide of our increasingly ambiguous world culture, which demands acceptance of all points of view, religious, or otherwise, as equally true and valid. On the surface, it seems to be the the only way to live anymore. If we want to live in peace with everyone—and if we really want to demonstrate the love of Christ—we must first surrender any convictions we have about him. This wave of confusion is poised to crush and drown his Church—and not even we can see it coming! I’ve actually known fellow Christians who have said to me that while they believe Jesus to be the Son of God, they no longer believe that he is the only way to lasting life and salvation. After all, there are just too many other cultures and religions out there, and what kind of a closed-minded, judgmental bigot would I be if I actually suggested that he were the one true God? I cannot express in words how utterly heartbreaking such things are to hear. We are supposed to be his body. His body. No one else’s. And what is to become of us if we bind ourselves to another, when we belong to him? What is to become of the world if we are too frightened to teach others about him? And how are we ever to have our brokenness mended without crying out to him in longing? Jesus! You are the only one I want and the only one who can save me! Please, come. I beg you!
We must never let the darkness use our desire to emanate love by tricking us into forsaking Love. For, without Love there is no love! We can’t even begin to know what love is until we know Him.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour… (Luke 2:11, KJV).” Oh, sweet God, what sort of words are these? What are we that You should love us thus? Thank you.
“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15, NLT). I find myself captivated by this verse. I identify with it, and I think that in some way, there has never been a more compelling piece of evidence for the skeptic than the experience of it. If we were able to peer into each other’s minds, we might discover, perhaps comfortingly, that we have all experienced this—often, on a seemingly incessant basis. In the absence of Truth, how could we even begin to explain this phenomenon—this thing that Christians call sin?
Even in knowing, there isn’t much comfort. More likely, there are only intensified feelings of frustration, self-loathing, and shame. And if we experience those things often enough, we might eventually come to the place where we start to rage, not against the destructive patterns that caused such feelings, but against the feelings, themselves. Sick and tired of trying to squeeze ourselves into a mold that we clearly aren’t meant for, we might ultimately choose to embrace the patterns in our lives that had previously caused so much stress. Unapologetically, we declare that this is who we are, and at once, the striving ceases. We might even be praised for our courage and determination to love ourselves, as waves of calm wash over us.
The problem is that in doing so, we sell ourselves short. We surrender to the distorted version of us that sin created, rather than continuing to reach for the hand of the beautiful God who can remake us all into what we were truly meant to be. This is exactly what Satan wants, and every time we choose it, we play right into his hands.
The verse I quoted was not the end of Paul’s musing on the subject. For, beginning in verse 21 of the same chapter, he writes:
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord… ~Romans 7:21-25, NLT
It’s never going to be easy. It’s war. But if the apostle, Paul, who devoutly led the early Church at the time of this writing, was not exempt from this conflict, then we won’t be, either. It’s normal. And the comforting part about it is that it’s not for us to end. We are absolved of that responsibility. All we have to do is keep reaching for Him, and He is sure to carry us the rest of the way. He loves us, and if there is one fundamental truth that we can never afford to let sin take from our awareness, surely it is this.
I long for the warmth of your gentle embrace and to see your compassionate eyes.
Sing me a love song while I wait in the dark.
Protect me from all that can harm.
For, you are my Love, and I thirst for your Light.
Please, love me—and don’t let me die.
I need you within me to call me to life.
Look at me, please.
Say I’m yours!
Draw me to you with your beautiful hands.
Let me kiss them and whisper my need.
Gently caress as I cling to you tight.
Hold me as I start to cry.
Say that you love me.
Don’t send me away.
Safe, in your arms, let me stay!