These are the observations of The Sacred Romance- Drawing Closer to the Heart of God (by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge) among a few friends. We hope you will be blessed by our “confessions” and will let us know what you are thinking, too…
MEET CANDI! If you’ve been reading Candi, you already know this married mother of two loves non-fiction and even actually enjoys instruction manuals! Candi is one of the most gracious women you could ever meet. Intelligent and well-spoken, Candi described herself as “simple, yet elegant.” And while nothing could be more true, she is also a practical joker and gets away with it because no one can believe that could come from this picture of grace and sophistication!
Candi likes Letterman, Pepsi and spagetti. To her Burger King beats McDonalds, ice cream is better than yogurt and she is a night owl. Music is a huge part of her passion and as you can see, she has two adorable children, Clayton, 6, who is quite a singer himself and Lainey, 3 1/2 years old. Her dream job of being an event planner is surely within her grasp, as she and her husband’s family are the proprietors of The Stonebrook Manor, a truly beautiful special events center (www.stonebrookmanor.com) .
Candi’s greatest fear is that she’ll choose the easy road rather than the right road for her life, but if you know her, you doubt that is possible. Her post about the chapter this week is a powerful look at what God is out to save us from! You’re awesome, Candi! Thanks for sharing your heart with us here!
Chapter Eight: The Adversary – Legends of the Fall
Candi starts us off on this chapter: For the last week Iâ€™ve had writerâ€™s block. I was supposed to start the writing on Chapter 8 over a week ago, but couldnâ€™t get to it mostly because I was really busy. However, I was having a small problem knowing what God wanted me to say. Now I know.
Last Wednesday night my Great-Aunt Stella died and I, along with my Mom and Dad, was with her in the room when it happened. Her death wasnâ€™t a surprise as we knew she was experiencing her last days.
Let me tell you about Auntie Stella. She was one of the sweetest people Iâ€™ve ever known and when you were in her presence you just felt loved. Last year my parents moved her from her house into a nursing home because at that point she couldnâ€™t walk and needed medical treatment. She had the best attitude. She was the type that made lemonade out of lemons and she settled into her new environment like it was a new adventure. She had such an impact on many of the nurses and workers that cared for her.
The kids and I visited her regularly and did she ever love my children! In fact, she was my firstborn son, Claytonâ€™s, very first visitor in the hospital when he was born. Auntie Stella, there is definitely something missing in the world now that you are gone. I canâ€™t wait to see you again in our Lordâ€™s presence and I love you!
It was after her death that I realized what I needed to say in response to the chapter of our adversary. Please note that this is a bit disturbing. After she passed, I left the room to call my husband, brother, and sister and was gone about 20 minutes. After the phone calls I returned to the room and as I walked in I was hit with the smell of â€œdeath.â€
Now Iâ€™ve been told that when you smell â€œdeathâ€ you know it and it was horrible. I left shortly after that, but that smell was all I could smell all the way home and it was so bad it was making me dry-heave. A mile before my house I could smell a skunk and Iâ€™m telling you I welcomed the skunk smell just to be able to replace the smell [of death] that I could actually taste. I immediately showered when I got home to release me of that stink.
You know what God showed me? Sin is â€œdeathâ€ and DEATH STINKS. God needed me to experience â€œdeathâ€ in order to truly grasp our adversaryâ€™s plan. In reading this book, God has been romancing my spirit! Itâ€™s been awesome, wonderful, incredible. Honestly words canâ€™t fully describe it. However, God showed me through this weekâ€™s events just how putrid sin and death really are. After experiencing this, I realize the worship Iâ€™ve been giving God just isnâ€™t doing Him justice! Father, forgive me for not giving you the ultimate praise you so rightly deserve. May I praise you daily with my life and return to you the love that you so freely give!
Amy Jo says: â€œHis [Satanâ€™s] desire was, and still is, to possess everything that belongs to God, including the worship of all those whom God loves.â€ (p.101) He will settle for less than outright worship though, let me tell you. Page 108 held for me a new concept: the neutralization of worship. â€œHe [Satan] separates beauty from truth and thus our thirst from our religious practice and the obedience of faithâ€¦ He replaces the love affair with a religious system of doâ€™s and donâ€™ts that parch our hearts and replaces our worship and communion services with entertainment.â€ I had never thought of it before.
For example, as a worship leader, I am always conscious of my heartâ€™s attitude as I go before others and attempt to assist them in worshiping God corporately. Is it possible that Satan considers it a victory when I am sucked out of the worship experience for any reason at all: intrusive thoughts, wardrobe malfunction, band miscommunication, people who donâ€™t sing and stand there with their arms folded across their chest? I know I canâ€™t be perfect, because I notice stuff; my senses just EXIST, man! And surely God is honored by my effort, but is there any way I can present Him with more excellent worship? Any way I can encourage those I lead to stay â€œpresentâ€ during the song portion of our worship service? Any way I can help dismantle the unwritten supposition that weâ€™re up there performing, and that itâ€™s a great time to â€œcheck outâ€? These are only some of the thoughts I have been thinking lately on the topic of worship. One day, I fear some poor soul somewhere, will suffer the cumulative effect of all this rumination in the form of an impromptu sermon. (Look out, eh?)
Another new concept for me was something I only noticed now about the story of Adam and Eve, a story Iâ€™ve known ever since I can remember. When Satan was quizzing them on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he subsequently tempted them with this phrase: â€œYou will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.â€ (Gen. 3.4-5) Is it possible that Satan was not necessarily tempting them with equality to God but perhaps the desire for godlinessâ€”to know, be aware of, and always be able to discern the difference between good and evil? Whoa. Talk about the ultimate example of disguising himself as a messenger of the Light! Thinking about their temptation in this way makes me realize how tricky Satan can be. May I always align my quest to be â€œlikeâ€ God with His actual commands!
I found the first paragraph on page 106 to be especially poignant. I cannot quote it here because it is too long, but for those of you who donâ€™t have a copy of the book, it is a colorful analogy of the romance between God and His creation. It entails a description of how she is seduced and cheats on Him and is raped while He is forced not to intervene because He cannot convince her to trust Him enough to let Him rescue her. Over time, His belovedâ€™s beauty suffers the effects of alcohol, drugs, occult practices, and infant sacrifice â€œuntil she is no longer recognizable in body or soul,â€ and yet He even sends His only Son to talk with her about His love for her though He knows that she will eventually kill Him. The whole time I was reading this, I just wanted to SHAKE the Beloved and tell her what she is doingâ€”to somehow stop her from hurting God so much. It was a weird feeling because I knew it was an analogy the whole time, and kept alternately putting myself it the shoes of the Beloved (since I am part of His Beloved!). â€œAll this and more God has endured because of His refusal to sop loving us. Indeed, the very depth and faithfulness of His love for us, along with His desire for our freely given love in return, are what give Satan the ammunition to wound God so deeply as he carries out his unceasing campaign to make us into Godâ€™s enemy.â€ I wonder, How have I personally been like this description of the Beloved?
Finally! THIS chapter addresses the question I posed at the end of my review for chapter one: How will these authors address the inherent deceitful wickedness of my heart that is mentioned in Jeremiah 17:9? This whole time I have been wondering how they can keep validating my heartâ€™s longings. They donâ€™t know me!
I think this is so important, that I really must type the whole paragraph for those of you who donâ€™t have this book and are just randomly reading our review because you like usâ€¦â€â€™But can you really trust the thirst of your heart?â€™ the enemy whispers in my earâ€¦ And the answer to that is, â€˜Yes. Once my heart is separated from the life of the Sacred Romance, offered to me through the atonement of Christ, and left to seek out life on its own terms, there is no perversity it will not sink to.â€™ Part of Satanâ€™s grand strategy of separating us from our heart, once Jesus has drawn us to an awareness of being His sons and daughters through believing faith, is to convince us that our heartâ€™s desires are at core illegitimate.â€ (Pp. 108-109) Well, then! Iâ€™m going to have to chew on this one some moreâ€”it goes against everything Iâ€™ve ever known to be true! If itâ€™s true that Satan wants me to think this of my heart, and I â€“of courseâ€”donâ€™t want to give Him ammo, then I need to reevaluate some things. May I be shown the truth about the heart Youâ€™ve given me, God!
Let me close my review of this chapter with another random, yet personally profound quote: â€œGiven all this, it becomes crucial that we become a generation of storytellers who are both recapturing the glory and joy of the Sacred Romance even as we tell each other our particular stories, so that we can help each other, through Godâ€™s Spirit, see His plan of redemption at work in us.â€ (p.114) So be it, starting with me!
Jeanie’s thoughts: “…it is the voice of our adversary…the antagonist…”
I really did not even want to get into this chapter, after having just read two about God as the Romancer, my heart’s Pursuer, me as God’s Beloved. But what a great reminder of enemy ploys. What a resounding call to get free from the bondages and enslavements that tie our hearts in knots, slowly, but surely sucking the life out of us, keeping us from the freely given and abundant existence God intended, and quietly drawing us away from the One…
Isn’t this the main question when we wonder why we are Beloved and yet live full of fear and doubt and self-hatred: “What is the source of the persistent accusations in our head and heart?”
This chapter was just rich with an explanation of enemy tactics. But they pointed out 2 main ways our adversary is able to separate us â€œfrom our heartâ€¦to seduce usâ€¦by making us believe that it is God who is our enemyâ€ (page 110). The first, the authors likened to Cinderellaâ€™s evil stepsisters, the voices that taunt us with lies about who we are and about who God is. He deceives us into thinking he isnâ€™t even there, but that it is just us hearing sentences and voices in our head and weâ€™re just struggling on our own. And isnâ€™t this why we often donâ€™t ask for prayer support from people who care? We believe itâ€™s just meâ€¦
The enemy of our souls, though, once finally recognized for the troubler he is, will often become enlarged in our minds as we realize the battle in spiritual realms. We can begin to look for him and his workings everywhere, giving him more space than he is due, demon-sensitivity rising, which the writers rightly point out can become almost a form of worship.
Iâ€™ve given Satan too much due, too much credit, partly sometimes just by not exposing the â€œevil works of darkness,â€ or shamefully covering how he somehow defeated me. He not only separates us from God, (we, hanging our heads in shame and running the other way), he isolates us from one another. If weâ€™re not mindful, weâ€™ll end up living carefully constructed lives that become dishonest temples of reputations, leaving our friends and family and people we love to suffocate in their own battles alone, not realizing we would understand.
And finally Heather: Well, this chapter couldnâ€™t have been timelier for me. I, like Jeanie, did not want to delve into this chapter after reading of the romancer of my heart. It seems so anticlimactic. However, what this chapter has done for me has been quite profound. I have found myself within these pages probably more so than any of the others. I am saddened to say that, on one hand, yet I know God has been with me the entire journey and is here with me even in the midst of my realization of the deception that has been playing out in my heart and life in recent months.
I have been lulled by the enemy. The truths Iâ€™ve known to be true have become diluted by the prince of the earthâ€™s whispers, yes, but also by my own attempt to do it all, and to make everyone happy. This chapter talks about how satan can lure you away, then accuse you with the very things heâ€™s lured you away with! With that thought I think, â€œWow, how easily manipulated I am, that he can lie to me, then use those lies to keep me cornered!â€ I will slowly become ineffective because I can no longer hear the truth. I can even assist satan by my own weaknesses and really, he can stand back in the corner, just affirming my self condemning thoughts and not really do anything at all!
I think the purpose of satan and his arrows is: â€œ..to continue my life separated emotionally and spiritually from myself my friends and my family as well as God my father-simply filling in timeâ€, (page 115). I think that as satan has had me so busy running around trying to do the â€œright thingâ€, Iâ€™ve really lost sight of what God has intended for me, which in turn has cost my freedom. Iâ€˜ve been stuck in the bondage of â€œdoing the right thingâ€, because it simply was not what God wanted of me. The truth is I couldnâ€™t even hear God anymore. I had given the voice of my enemy more credence than the voice of my creator. Maybe it sounds extreme, but itâ€™s true. I couldnâ€™t hear God, and thankfully He loves me enough to find other ways to communicate to me if I canâ€™t hear him. He is my pursuer, my romancer. He did let me try this my own way, though. He waited for me to see how ineffective my way was, (it was!) .
This chapter talks about how the enemy will even use the voices of those around us, yes, even our loved ones. A comment meant as a joke maybe, or something said in anger that pierces our heart. Then the inner dialogue begins, and we cultivate this lie into our own truth. On page 116 we see that satan is hoping to deceive us by allowing us to think itâ€™s our own inner voice, not his: â€œI am not here. Itâ€™s just you struggling with all these things.â€ We confuse his lying voice with our own. How freaky is that?! He is a snake! We have to be so careful to know what Truth really is! I know this all too well…
So, I can tell you that the messages from the arrows are there. There seems to be just enough believability within them that I have accepted them. I began to believe them, and made them part of my identity. I will tell you that today, I know God is with me, He loves me and He is helping me find Truth again. I feel like I need to be in a place of really going slow, walking intentionally, not willy nilly doing this and that, but slowing down to hear him again. I have tasted freedom, but I know itâ€™s a thin line between walking in truth and crossing over into the accuserâ€™s territory once again. I need to stay in truth right now. Itâ€™s necessary for my well being. This chapter was necessary for my walk and my health, now may I continue to seek God and only His way for my life.
Thanks again my friends and just so everyone knows how I really feel: to hell with the devil!…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: To You, Lord, be glory in the Church and in my life forever and ever. Amen.