Saturday, May 31, 2014

Communion with God

This is my eleventh and final post in a series on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Each post will cover one of the eleven chapters of this book on seeing God and learning how to live fully... right where you are. Each post will be tagged 05/2014 and One Thousand Gifts. All quotes in italics are from the book.

Chapter 11: The Joy of Intimacy

People think it's about the rules. That it's about the doing. That to join the "club", you have to agree to the dress code: no alcohol, no sex, and certainly no fun. Strap your Bible to a stick and thwack people on the head with it, or consider yourself shunned.

But it's not about the rules. It's about Love. All our carts are before our horses and we are all confused. It's not about the rules; it is about loving to the uttermost. But to understand that Love, we first have to see where we went wrong.

Chapter eleven is about communion with God.

"Communion with God, what was broken in the Garden, this is wholly restored when I want the God-communion more than I want the world-consumption. What that first and catastrophic sin of ingratitude ruptured, what that one bite of the forbidden fruit stole from those fully alive -- union -- can be repaired by the exact inverse of the Garden: lifestyle gratitude and a willingness to eat of the bread He gives in this moment. How badly do I want to return to perfect Paradise, walk with God in the cool of the evening, be fully alive?"

We think it is about the rules when really, the course of history plays out like a love song. It started with perfection and right relationship, and then something went wrong. The relationship was broken; union was damaged. And ever since, God has been weaving the brokenness to bring the relationship back together, to restore a right relationship between us. After the initial ingratitude of doubting God's provision, He has been seeking to show us Himself, to prove Himself to us, that we might trust Him and come back together, united, one with Him.

"Is there a greater way to love the Giver than to delight wildly in His gifts?"

We think it is about the rules, that we must do this or that for God to love us. We must stop our wicked ways to come into His presence. But the only thing that God requires of us is trust in Him. We get it backwards thinking that we must do all the right things for Him to love us, but really it is our love for Him that compels us to act. Trust God first, love God first, and you will seek to see Him, know Him, learn how to love Him. Counting His gifts? Seeing all the ways He has given to you? It opens your eyes to all the awesome in your life, but better than that, it opens your eyes to everywhere God is and all the ways He is seeking you.

"God makes love with grace upon grace, every moment a making of His love for us. And He invites the turning over of the hand, the opening and saying the Yes with thanks... Love bestows upon the Beloved gifts, the Beloved gives thanks for those gifts and enters into the mystical love union."

The rules kept me from God, annoyed me, frustrated me. I didn't want to paint myself up all pretty for some judgmental Man to look down His nose at me and nod His approval while I shuffled past. And then God showed Himself to me in radical, sacrificial love, a love that I knew no person would be capable of on their own, a Love that flowed through them from God. And I could see.

The rules were a roadblock for me, but God was pursuing me and they were no roadblock for Him. He knew my heart and showed Himself to me and I saw that He could not begin to care what broken, dirty road I had been on. He only cared... for me.

The parable of the prodigal son is so famous and so overused but only because it is so true. It is true of every believer who ever sat at God's feet. The son is pig-filthy and hopes for very little from his father, but his father could not begin to care how his son smelled, only that they could restore their relationship. This is you and God. And He is lavish in His coming-home celebrations.

"He chose me -- us! To be His bride! True, that's the intellectual premise of the Christian life, but only as the gifts are attended, not as ends but as means to gaze into the heart of God, does the premise become personal, God's choosing so utterly passionate. So utterly fulfilling."

All of us deeply desire communion with God, even if we are not immediately aware of it. It is that empty spot, that itch that nothing will quite scratch. And God is ever seeking to bring us that communion. Gift upon gift, they are meant to open our eyes to Him. We see the gifts and through them, see the Giver. And as you begin counting and find that you will never stop because the gifts keep flowing and raining down, then you know: this Giver loves. This Giver loves lavishly. This Giver loves beyond the rules and the regulations. This Giver desires our hearts, desires our trust, desires our love. That is what He wants from us; everything else follows from there.

Romans tells us we can know God loves us because "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) That gift-beyond-all-gifts shows (note: present tense -- actively, right now, acts as evidence of) God's deep love for us. And this sacrifice was so monumental, why? "We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:11) Reconciliation. Reunited. Back together.

We know God loves us because He sacrificed His son to be with us. He didn't sacrifice His son on the condition that we get ourselves together. He didn't sacrifice His son to back us into the corner of obedience. He sacrificed His son to restore our relationship, to bring us back together, to show us His love and make it possible for us to see that Love, to come back into the union of love with Him. It's not about the rules; it's about God's Love for us, His great Love. All He requires of us is to open our eyes to that Love and trust Him.

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