Epithalamion

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

The error of eros

Paul has just finished lining out the Christian concept of marriage. Almost by way of admission does he add the above. A “great mystery”, he says, right after quoting Genesis (2:24). Jesus does the same in Mark’s Gospel (10:7). “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife.” Not that Paul is superseding what Jesus said. In much the same way Christ expounded from Genesis the point of a match made in Heaven, Paul comes after and expounds for the Ephesians what the whole point is. That we would learn through the give and take of a marriage covenant, the relationship between Jesus and ourselves, as His bride.

“Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.” (Song of Solomon 1:4)

O, my God. That is so supercharged as to render the most calloused of hearts splayed out and ready for romance. Or is it? A cursory reading would see it as a beautiful love poem infused with the sights and smells of Ancient Israel. In turn, a modern reader may be hard-pressed to then go one further and see it as symbolic of our relationship with Christ–especially when presented with the reality (and the why) of Christ’s death and resurrection. While Solomon’s Song is chock-full of allusion and metaphor and simile, pinning down a flat-out and overtly sexual meaning is almost a waste of time. Just because it uses the word “love” and “loves”, doesn’t mean it doesn’t only mean the kind of love Christ shows us. Life is over so quickly and therefrom, the real difficulty arises. It isn’t about coupling and copulating and cohabitating. It’s about meeting and knowing Christ.

Agape over agape

“But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” (Matthew 19:11)

“For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” (1 Corinthians 7:7)

Evidently Paul had “receiv[ed] this saying”. He had found such grace in the eyes of the Lord, knowing what God had done for him by way of atonement that the inverted void of seeking out a mate had been sated and slienced. And filled. It can be hard, extraordinarily hard to so orient yourself around an eminently spiritual way of looking at life that you essentially forget you don’t have a significant (human, physical) other. This is why Jesus says “All men cannot”. Because if you want or need someone, if God made someone for you and you know this like you know yourself, then Jesus will be either/or until the right one comes along. So easy to read. A little harder to write. Impossible to live without help from on high. And when Paul says “This is a great mystery”, I think he knows what He’s talking about. To him, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Somewhere in the middle he had evidently given his heart to Jesus, the one who gave the same for humanity and then the deal was sealed. If you haven’t for yourself, I strongly urge you to meet Jesus and to “comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18b-19). Any and every type of knowledge.

It’s the only thing in life greater than finding your soulmate.

“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:9)

Resistance Training

Running in place

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habbakuk 2:3)

Sometimes God lets you glimpse the future. And then the very ordinary (spiritually speaking) work of faith comes in to play. To where you must–with the Holy Spirit’s help–uphold the veracity of what you saw way back when you felt nearer to God. The fact that you don’t feel near to God at present (assuming you don’t) doesn’t have any bearing on His proximity to you. In other words, God’s as close to you as He’s always been and He loves you the same. If it isn’t some fault of our own as to why we don’t feel Him (also a thing), then He’s letting us wade around in deeper places of darkness than we had felt before. This? This is a gift and a privilege.

“O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary. Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee.” (Psalm 63:2-4, emphasis mine)

Pacing, ourselves

When you endeavor to slow down your (already routine) day and bring it into alignment with the speed you feel God is walking, something happens to you. If you continue in this mindset and really prove to God out of desire that you want to follow Him in deeper and deeper ways, He will take you up on it. First, I believe, He’ll make sure you’re serious. Then, He’ll give you a flash of insight and key you in to that place in His heart (He has a very big heart–room enough for everyone) you’re called to represent to the world at large. And then? You’re free to do as you will. This doesn’t mean you get to do just anything. Alongside the newfound living presence of God brought to you by the Holy Spirit, is a greater sensitivity to Him and also anything that would distract or divert you from continuing on to the light at the end.

“I therefore so run not as uncertainly; so fight i, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

See, the truth is, you’re never alone when you feel alone and there’s never not anything going on. You accepted the Lord and if you’ve done the bare minimum–something so simple as taking one more step–then God has you in His tractor beam, so to speak. Sometimes the whole of your present spiritual life is akin to isometric exercise. Where all you’re doing is working out what God has worked in. In spite of who you used to be.

Walking In the Spirit (Proverbs 3:5-6 part 4)

“…and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6b)

And we’re off!

Psalms (37:23) says that “the steps of a good man (or woman) are ordered by the Lord”

I used to wonder (worry) about this. Knowing that God was real and wanting to walk in His plan for my life, I fretted over the minutiae of my life, because I knew that “he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” and vice-versa (Luke 16:10). But divorced from love and grace—the two things that God uses to enable us to live as Jesus did—life can be a drag. Boring and dry and loveless. We think that, in order to get God to give us stuff (material or immaterial), there needs to be a transaction (an economic arrangement, as it were). Tit for tat. I do this, You do that. This thinking, because of what Jesus already did and does for us (life, death, resurrection, intercession), is now obsolete. But this doesn’t mean that the Old Testament is outmoded. Jesus came and “fulfilled” the law (Matthew 5:17-18). Everything is now in Him. Going back to the verse from Psalm 37, the definition for “good”-ness is now defined as commitment to a person: Jesus . And not just a set of beliefs or ideals. As in actively knowing Him in the here and now.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

As Christians, our walk, “our conversation” (Philippians 3:20), is still defined by the principles laid out by Solomon in Proverbs 3:5-6—as followed in love. The difference is that we now have the indwelling Holy Spirit who performs the promise of Proverbs 3:6: “He shall direct thy paths”. This promise, of being “led of His Spirit” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16-18), silences any worry and wonder (the negative kind) and frees us to live in the liberty, grace and love that Jesus paid for with His life.

Looking back, I guess it does cost something after all: our attention. Our inward sight and adoration fixed on God. There is a sacrifice but it’s so worth it.

As we live out Proverbs 3:5-6, in the long run, we fulfill God’s call for our life—all while our attention’s on Him. One moment, one acknowledgement at a time.

In closing, a story.

My dad accepted the Lord in the Winter of 1968. He was home from college on Christmas break–miserable. One of the last things that happened in his dorm prior to leaving for home was a conversation with a couple guys about Jesus. The only reason, he says, that he even deigned talk to them was because he didn’t feel like working on an overdue biology assignment. The door to his dorm was open and while there was still work to be done, he couldn’t help but hear in the halls the carousing and commotion brought about by the impending vacation. He heard a knock on the open door and let in the two men (they had purposed only to speak to those whose doors were open) and talked with them for a few minutes. They even used his Bible (from his Methodist ubringing, which he had on a bookshelf but never read) to point out truths regarding God and Jesus. He thanked them and they left him with a pamphlet and a phone number. At home (he lived in Virginia), he wrestled with the issues that were presented to him a few days before. After a brief chat with a next-door neighbor (who happened to be a pastor) that still didn’t silence the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he made his way back to his old room on the second floor of his house. The Bible from which the men introduced the promise of something new lay at the foot of his bed. He knelt down by the side of the bed and prayed the prayer of salvation as found at the end of the pamphlet. He made it halfway and then made a mistake in the recitation. So he started over—and again failed to get it right. The third time he prayed to God, thinking that he had to say things just so, God answered him with a flood of peace and the knowledge that he’d been born again. After he got up off his knees, with newfound confidence (and also something as-yet undefinable), he asked quite the pointed question of His (now, new) Heavenly Father. “You got anything in this book I can use?” He walked around to the end of his bed, picked up the Bible and opened it up to the book of Proverbs, third chapter. He put his finger, very inconspicuously, on verses five and six.

And the rest is history.