Making It Count (II)
By: Jim Alseth
In our last edition I spoke of "making it count" and the innate need we have for significance, and how this relates to finding our destiny. Some of you at this point are tempted to reach for your back-up material. You have a magazine and the morning newspaper sitting there, just in case, as you sip your expresso. That`s okay. Perhaps you`re fairly content with your life (living the status quo) and you`re asking what`s the point? This article might not be for you.
But I also know that there is a divine hunger, a holy discontent stirring in the hearts of many North Americans. The pursuit of the American Dream is falling short. The novelty of career advances and swapping spouses is wearing off. All the nice things to which we have been looking to make life worth living just aren`t cutting it anymore. As a result, desperation, depression and anger are becoming all to commonplace. Odd as it may sound, if you find yourself in this place you can be encouraged! This can actually be a good place (depending on how you respond) and what I have to say may be of interest to you. (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst...)
"Are all Yanks as anxious as you are to get themselves killed?" is the question posed to Raife McCauley by the British commander in the movie Pearl Harbor. Raife has entered the fighting early by joining the overseas war effort and has just been introduced to his new squadron leader. His reply speaks volumes about this hunger we face: "I`m not anxious to die Sir--just to matter." And so it is with us. We need to know that we matter... that there`s a point to our lives... that we have a destiny. And we live much of our lives with the nagging fear that we`re missing it.
So if we are to actually find this thing called destiny, where do we begin? I have often started this journey (many times actually, only to be set back) by making a critical mistake, by asking the "what" question. What am I supposed to be doing? This is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. There is something far more foundational than asking what? We need to first ask who--Who has God made me to be (who am I)? and What does God think of me?
Who am I is a question that has enchanted poets and philosophers since Adam and Eve. In the movie portrayal of Tolkien`s Lord of the Rings, King Theoden stands in his chambers preparing for the Battle of Helm`s Deep. It will be a battle, if lost, that could mean the end of the human race. With the sun gleaming through the portal in the background, he solicits his attending officer, "Who am I, Gamle?" It is a question we must have an answer to. The tasks, struggles and battles of a single day, let alone a lifetime, are meaningless without a solid answer to this question. The third chapter of Luke records that even Jesus, the Son of God, received this affirmation from his Father at the onset of His earthly mandate: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Notice the two questions linked together--You are my Son (who am I?) and whom I love; with you I am well pleased (what does God think of me?).
Having raised it, I`m now going to leave the who am I question. Call it an homework assignment if you will. I`d like to captivate your heart for a moment by moving to the other crucial question to finding your destiny: What does God think of me? To do it, you will have to look with me in one of the most provocative, scandalous pieces of literature ever written: The Song of Songs. It can be found in the Bible, the Old Testament to be exact. Beware though. You might have to scrap some of your misconceptions about an ambivalent, emotionally distant God.
Many scholars agree that the Song of Songs, like many of the prophetic/poetic books of the Bible, has a dual meaning. Firstly, it is a descriptive exposť of the ecstasy of sexual love between husband and wife. Secondly, it is a narrative of the passion of God towards His creation; that is, you and me. Does this confound your stereotypes? What? God looks at me and feels something other than disappointment or annoyance? Absolutely. We need only to read a few verses to begin to get the picture. (Remember the homework--I want you to read the whole book contemplatively later).
The "Lover" (God) is speaking:
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice! Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue, the fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon... Song of Songs 4:9-11
Whoa. What do we do with that? And, the whole book is more of the same. The language can make us a little uncomfortable. So much for the idea of a tired, bored, disinterested deity. Why should it surprise us that God is passionate towards us? Even in the theater, when we re-enact the Crucifixion and Resurrection, we call it the "Passion Play."
Men, we don`t have to sacrifice our masculinity to embrace this. We were made for it. Whether it`s a bone crushing tackle or a song of praise, we were created for passion. Remember David, that mighty Warrior/King? He was not only a warrior and a king, but also a poet. We have many of the Psalms today because he was willing to respond affectionately to God`s invitation to intimacy and friendship.
This is where the process of moving into our destiny begins: friendship with God. Jesus, in essence, says to us, "Come, follow me. I will answer your questions and you will find your destiny. It won`t be easy, but you won`t be bored. I promise."
When we open ourselves to the passion of the Lover, it is anything but boring. It`s no wonder the early Church, after Pentecost, turned the then known world "upside down." They got it. They had no program, no agenda. They didn`t spend a lot of time asking the what question. They simply did what Jesus gave them authority to do: preach the good news, help the poor, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons. Authority to find creative ways to administer the love, mercy and justice of God to a broken world.
Is our destiny any different today? Should understanding God`s passionate thoughts toward us make our journey any less exciting? I do not believe so. I`ve watched with interest what God is doing through unlikely people like Todd Bentley of Fresh Fire, or Heidi Baker in Mozambique. Heidi looks after thousands of orphans and street kids in this war-torn region of Africa. Their story will stir you. On a smaller scale, I`ve witnessed with delight the pilgrimage of our own inner city church fellowship the last five years. We are one of the few North American churches to have the distinction of meeting in a bar, in one of the poorest sections of town. We rearrange the tables, set up our sound equipment, and away we go. I have gotten to know some passionate lovers of Jesus within this rag-tag little group. One of them is Donna Ganpatt, who compiles the stories for our Life Sketches section. Everyone on the street in this area knows "Donna." She incarnates for them, and for me, what it means to express the heart of God to the disenfranchised and the hopeless.
These are just some examples of how a revelation of God`s thoughts toward us can change everything. We begin to realize the minute we turn our eyes toward God, He is "overwhelmed" (Song of Songs 6:5) and He begins to "leap across mountains and bound over hills" (2:8) at the thought of spending time with us. We begin to realize that we really do have a destiny, and it is found simply by pursuing Him. It is an open door, a passionate invitation to us all. The only thing left to do is walk through it.
Source: Great Camping Spots