Observations of The Sacred Romance – Drawing Closer to the Heart of God (by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge) among a few friends. As we progress, I'll let you in on a little about this group. For now, suffice it to say, we are all Christ-following women. We are all married. One of us has grown children and grandchildren (guess who!). Two of us have young children in the home. We range between 30 and 48 1/2 in years. We all attend different churches in the north Denver-metro area, even though we initially met through some blessed years at one fellowship of wonderful believers. We hope you'll let us know what you are thinking, too…
Chapter One: The Lost Life of the Heart
From Amy Jo: "We have learned from parents and peers, at school, at work, and even from our spiritual mentors that something else is wanted from us other than our heart, which is to say, that which is most deeply us. Very seldom are we ever invited to live out of our heart. If we are wanted, we are often wanted for what we can offer functionally." page 5
How many times in the last 10 years have I lamented with my own version of this exact sentiment? I know I am valuable. I know I am talented. The problem is that no one in this world values what I am good at, enough to want to pay me for it. And that is it, isn't it? Our parents do their best to teach us that we are unique and special and that God has put us here on the earth to do something that no one else can do. Then, after bumping around the world for awhile, offering what we think we are supposed to be offering, we begin to wonder if maybe what we love in our hearts isn't as "great" as we once thought; we start to bury our passions and fill our time with what is rewarded in our society: hard science, leadership and managerial skills, money-making ideas, etc. Adventure and creativity stop being anything but hobbies, or that to which we turn in a pinch to help out the bottom line.
The authors draw distinction between the outer, external life, where we operate on "ought to's" rather than desires, and the inner life, which is comprised of passions and dreams. And while I am beginning to read this book with cautious optimism, I don't believe that the authors will deny the social and spiritual importance of doing what we "ought" rather than always doing what we desire. I wonder if and how they will address Jeremiah 17.9, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" I am wondering if this book can really help put me in better touch with the romancing of my heart by God's heart. May it be so!
From Jeanie: I pray it is true, too, Amy Jo! And on that point (figuring out how God has been romancing you and calling you all along) I think it will be!
The first sentence was like a you-had-me-at-hello thing for my experiences this past couple of years: "…in…life's middle years of service and busyness, a voice speaks to us in the midst of all we are doing…There is something more." And can I just tell you, I fought that voice and sense of missing things by working harder, and getting busier and forcing everyone around me to do the same? I am pretty sure God was trying set me free from the fear of man (which is a snare, a noose around your neck) and approval addiction and living in "Shouldsville" for like 20+ years! I know I am not alone in having let busyness and drivenness represent my worth to the world in exchange for living in peace and passion. (I like what Brennen Manning says, "You need to quit 'shoulding' all over yourself.")
I can't get past the scriptural crux of the matter: "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life" (Prov. 4.23). My dad sent me this book encouraging me to read it, but I want to because I really need to know how to guard my heart. I need my heart to be the refuge, the place where God's very Presence resides in me. So I want to know what to let go of and what to cling to to make a sure place for His Presence, the great joy of my life.
I love how the authors call the Christian life a "love affair of the heart," and speak of "the cosmic love affair created with us in mind." I long for that, yet struggle to live it and walk in communion with my Romancer instead of doing activities for Him. Case-in-point, one morning this week I woke up with a strong desire to just tell God how much I loved Him. "How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways…" was pouring from my heart. I couldn't wait to brew some coffee and get good pen and paper to write a list for Him, just a love letter so He'd know. I wasn't more than 4 or 5 items down the list when it took a turn – I began writing with the thought of what an inspirational teaching this would make for people or how I could make a blog post from it. Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh%$#@! Help, me, God! Now that, Amy Jo, is a deceitful heart!
From Heather: Well, I just finished chapter one. I want to just sit back and chew on it all. First thoughts: God's been calling me to rest. He's been calling me for some time. First I thought it was rest from ministry, and in part it was, but as I look back on it now, it was because I'd lost my intimacy with Him and my dependence on Him. So, I came to understand that rest meant rest in Him, in His Word. There I would find my rest, my peace, but I really haven't [gone there], not like I need to.
Then recently God showed me how my spirit needs His Word. I have been weak spiritually. Not that I am feeling tempted into sin, not like that – just frail. I've known this for a long time, so why do I let myself starve like this???
I ache for intimacy, I literally hurt (yup, I'm going there – deal with it). Sadly, I've blamed others for this lack of intimacy. Only recently have I even asked myself if I am the problem here. Have I felt the deep love of my Creator envelope me? Yes, I have, and it's always beyond words and so very amazing. I have gotten busy. I have shut out the passions of my heart. I've been hurt. I have been pierced, thus I put up walls. I know I'm not alone, but how on earth am I supposed to let those walls down again and live with that passion???? I AM GUARDED and more cynical than ever before.
At one point [the authors] are comparing the contrast between the "ought to's" and the "desire to's" and I picture my girls tugging on my shirt to come and play with them. Do I want to? YES!! It sounds whimsical and free. But the duties of life are yelling at me, all around me, and I feel overwhelmed. I really do. I want the freedom to live through the passion within my heart, but you know what? I have heard a message over and over for so many years: that my heart is not trustworthy and I am too emotional. Maybe they aren't really in the same category, maybe I am confusing some things here. Maybe that's part of my problem, but you know what? I don't really trust my heart, either, because of the messages I have received, or because of the pain that is welled up within. Maybe a mixture of both.
[Concerning the emptiness and restlessness we all feel at some point], I've only recently begun to really attempt to understand the emptiness. It's growing and it's painful. I know that God is speaking to me through it. I know He is beckoning me, even now, through this book, I know it. Help me, God to understand the mess that is my heart and all that is tangled up with it. YIKES!! Did I just pray that?? Have mercy on me, Lord!
And Candi: Funny how God provides when we ask…Lately I've been really praying about my feelings of "reckless abandonment." I completely related to the statement on page 1 that says, "We sense a passion deep within that threatens a total disregard for the program we are living; it feels reckless, wild."
Although I am generally a rule-follower and an organized planner, I've always had an element of wildness and it usually comes in the form of comedic humor (editor's note-read here for proof). Lately, though, I've been completely overwhelmed by my duties: homemaker, wife, mother, church attender, bookkeeper, salesperson. And while all these roles incorporate many of my God-given gifts, I've felt that my heart is just not in them.
Maybe God has/had something completely different in store for me. I was taught more to embrace the "ought to's" in life and the "want to's" were the things you did if you had time. AND NOW I DON'T HAVE TIME!!! I'm left wondering if this is all there is? And after listening to my heart – this is when I tell my heart to be quiet and be content in my life. It's not about me. God has provided all my needs and I have nothing to complain about.
I question the author on page 7 when he says: "…the voice that calls to us…is none other than the voice of God." Is he giving me permission to listen to the voice of discontenment? I'm anxious to see how he addresses this. And in my life I'm still asking – where is the romance?…the love affair?…the adventure?
You know how it's said to focus on the things we do want, not the things we don't want? Well, I haven't focused enough on the "do want" stuff and I don't really think I can tell you what my heart as a child desired. Some of my childhood circumstances didn't provide for that and even as a child I was taught to focus on "don't want" stuff. So in reading this book, I will be expoloring my "heart's desires" on the journey and drawing closer to the heart of God. The most important goal I want to achieve is developing that complete romantic, dutiful, honoring, life-sustaining relationship with my Father God. With a total focus on His Word, I will read this entire book and pray that it brings me one step closer to achieving this!
Thanks Amy Jo, Heather and Candi! These are ordinary women with extraordinary hearts. I hope you're enjoying this as much as I am!…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: Guard heart. Trust it, too – it's the the bubbling, flowing, deeply-provisional water and wellspring of my life.
Check out www.ransomedheart.com for more John Eldridge books and resources!