“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)
“Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.” Oswald Chambers
The use of the word “romance” here in this context is a spiritual show-stopper the more I think about it. Such a romance is a life of excitement, a shared journey of love that is an adventure filled with mystery, surprise, longing, and beauty between God and ourselves. It’s an extraordinary invitation to embark on a remarkable Coram Deo life alongside Him. It is everything we long for, and so much more.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10b (NKJV)
Hear what John Eldredge has to say about a life of romance lived in God’s presence from his book, “The Sacred Romance:”
“The Sacred Romance calls to us every moment of our lives…invites us through the laughter of good friends, reaches out to us through the touch of someone we love. We’ve heard it in our favorite music, sensed it at the birth of our first child,been drawn to it while watching the shimmer of a sunset on the ocean. Something calls to us through experiences like these and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure. This longing…fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. And the voice that calls to us in this place is none other than the voice of God.”
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NKJV)
That longing for eternity can be satisfied only by God. Only His voice can meet that need purposefully implanted in the depths of our hearts so that we would seek Him. Oh, but when at long last embraced, the sweetness and beauty of His voice are miraculously transformative.
“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss)
Indeed! The Lord’s presence continually delights and surprises me. His love wonderfully turns me upside down, sideways, and gratefully, every which way but loose, as if I’m a stone joyfully borne along by a sparkling, rapidly flowing river. All that matters is that I am within the loving embrace of His arms of living waters. After all, what about the destination can be of concern when He is the River Boat Captain of my soul?
When you’re in His embrace, you see and understand things differently than the world does. I can’t help but think this is what Oswald Chambers was alluding to when he said in his devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, “Do you perceive mere coincidence, or do you discern the hand of God?” When you know yourself to be in His hand, you see anything, and everything with Him in mind, no matter how big or small something is.
Take, for example, my friend, Nicole. She frequently sees heart shapes in clouds, leaves, and even the icing on a cupcake, to name a few. Nicole recently found a heart-shaped piece of meat hiding underneath the holiday ham when she removed it from the cooking pan.
These heart surprises are always a great encouragement because every time she spots one, it’s a glowing reminder of how much God loves her. Finding one never gets old for her. Each discovery delights her more than the previous one.
Not surprisingly, she’s always on the lookout for these spontaneous “God hugs” because you never really know when or where one will show up. To that end, it’s worth noting that one often shows up just when she needs it most. It’s a much-needed, sweet reminder to her of Whose child she is at just the right moment.
If you’ve ever turned the radio on and immediately found yourself listening to the perfect song to meet your needs in that moment, you know this “God hug” feeling. Or perhaps you’ll come across just the right words in a book, article, movie, devotional, or scripture that seems like a custom fit perfectly tailored for your circumstances.
Several posts on this site speak to these sorts of heartwarming moments. Please check out “meanwhile behind the seens,” “diamond in the rough,” or “blanket coverage,” for example, if you get the chance. “Trucks top rescue” is a post describing another friend’s spiritually meaningful and oh so timely encounter with a dove in an unlikely location during a difficult time in her life.
There’s a thought expressed in the movie August Rush that I find notably engaging and pertinent to this discussion. Evan Taylor( August Rush) as played by Freddie Highmore: “Listen. Can you hear it? The music. I can hear it everywhere. In the wind…in the air…in the light. It’s all around us. All you have to do is open yourself up. All you have to do…is listen.”
Try exchanging “God” for the word “music,” which is no great stretch of the imagination since music finds its very beginning in our Lord. Now, before you move on, reread Evan’s observation with God in mind instead of music and let it flow powerfully into your heart.
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 (NKJV)
When you recognize you are always in His presence, your world will grow decidedly more hopeful and more beautiful.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Do you hear His voice, a voice like none other? Are you listening? Oh, how I pray you are.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 (NKJV)
This post’s original title was “heartbroken” because that was my first impression upon seeing this heart as pictured above, which I spotted across the street directly in front of my house. Heartbreak and pain practically oozed from it when I first saw it.
As hearts go, this is no visual role model, to be sure. It’s so disfigured as to be almost unrecognizable as such. Questions abound. What about those two holes? Why is this heart composed of two different materials? What does it mean that part is on the grass and the remaining portion is on the concrete? One is left only to likely observe this is a divided heart, ripped into pieces.
Undoubtedly, some will say while looking at the photo, “You call that a heart? That’s no heart! Besides, even if it is whoever heard of a heart wearing a mask?” You and I already instinctively know the answers: “The world has a cruel and heartless way of crushing a person’s heart. The mask is for protection.” We know this because, at various times, we have all endured the heartache and heartbreak the cold hands of this world can inflict upon a person. And we have the scars, wounds, and limps to prove it. We all wear masks of one variety or another in an attempt to protect ourselves from being hurt again. To show our true selves makes us vulnerable to attack, so we hide behind the mask.
When it comes to romance, being heartbroken is not where anyone wants to find themselves, of course. Writing about heartache is not a warm and fuzzy experience, either, as I can readily attest. Indeed, I was conflicted in those efforts from the beginning.
Mercifully, the Lord gently redirected my initial thoughts by bringing to mind one verse in particular in the middle of the night as I wrestled with this sadness. In an instant, He rescued me from drowning in the dark, quicksand-like waters of despair I was experiencing. The hopelessness of “heartbroken” joyously gave way to Jesus’s ever hopeful and life-giving perspective of “heart-spoken.”
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” Luke 4:18 (NKJV)
The whispered gift of “heart-spoken” warmly greeted me in those quiet, still, and uncluttered hours of a new day. Joyfully it buoyed my spirit aloft on the wings of hope like an early spring flower emerging from melting winter snow brings. No longer constrained by string, I’m a kite set free to fly where once I could only longingly gaze. Yes, hope forged in the fires of His boundless love is the real message of Christmas that we can rejoice in throughout the entire year.
“For to us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)
What does that hope mean for His children, the captives whose hearts He has come to set free?
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV)
‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
As we learn to embrace the rhythm of His grace with our new hearts, He is teaching us a dance of freedom we’ve never experienced before according to His good purposes. We are dancing to His music in His arms, each of us in our own special and unique way. Apart from Him, we knew only division; now, a part of Him, our hearts know harmony.
Ever so gently, He tenderly removes the mask we’ve hidden behind. Instinctively we lower our eyes, afraid He will find us ugly and unlovable, just as the world has pronounced us to be. Casting our disguise aside, He reaches out, lifts our chin, and lovingly gazes at our now naked face. Looking deeply into our eyes, He tells us the mask has hidden a wondrous beauty for far too long that He has uniquely created for a time such as this. And, then, the unexpected happens. He begins to sing over you drowning out the world’s curses you once knew all too well. Do you hear Him speaking to your heart? Oh, how I pray you do, my brother and sister, for you are heart-spoken and greatly loved!
“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)
Alisha.mp4 “Feel My Love” (Bob Dylan)
(note: Nicole’s good friend sings this cover to Bob Dylan’s song. Heartfelt thanks go out to Alisha for allowing me to use her version of this song. Close your eyes, friends, and listen to this song as if God is singing directly to you. What a blessing!)