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’re working toward the culmination of our time in this book and already know what the next book will be. E-mail me (Jeanie) if you’d like to participate or want to know more about it. We hope you are blessed as we gab and “confess” and learn from this awesome book and that you’ll let us know what you are thinking, too…
Candi, wise and gentle worshiper; Amy Jo – head of worship and prayer interactions for Heaven Fest (www.heavenfest.com)
Chapter Nine: Less-Wild Lovers
I am kicking it off this time: â€œIn the sadness we feel from the messages the arrows have left, we often get off course and begin to live off our giftedness or our wounded passions and fantasies instead of finding that place of grace in communion with Jesus. What counterfeit lovers have you turned to? Food? Busy-ness? What else? How have they â€˜so intertwined themselves with your identity that to give them up feels like personal death?â€™â€
I havenâ€™t given much thought to any of the rest of the study guide questions, but the one above points out an interesting possibility: that you can live below and away from the beauty of the life God has in mind for you even through your giftedness, your very God-given ability. So that very thing, something meant to bless and be life-giving, can become your obsession, your possession – and end up suffocating you as you try to hang onto to it.
I have specifically seen this happen with ministries, pastors in churches or some one in a leadership position. It is rampant among worship leaders – fearful of everyone elseâ€™s talent, they rise up to protect their territories and become miserable in the thing meant to bring joy to the heart of God. Intercessors are often terribly protective of their â€œprayer ministry.â€ I’ve been the guiltiest of them all.
The authors call this ‘clinging to position, title or even good works’ something like going to a fair that sells â€œsoul curiosities,â€ things that can even be good like attending Bible Studies, attending spiritual retreats or small groups, even joining a church, but become nothing more than a way to quiet the deep longings we donâ€™t want to admit are there.
So here we are â€“ created in love, players in Godâ€™s cosmic story of intense joy and love, wooed by Him, longing for Him, but beaten down by apathy and the message of the Arrows, we choose something that â€œworks,â€ or looks right: we go to church and volunteer and memorize scripture and we â€œare both drawn toâ€¦and fearâ€¦that place of relational intimacy that Satan lured Adam and Eve away from so long agoâ€¦â€ The voice of God calls. The heart of the Father draws. Am I willing to give up everything that has anesthetized me, the addictions the authors expose as â€œadulteriesâ€ â€“ anything that replaces God in whatever form in our lives? Will I give up competence and order, title, reputation and ability to be, to be His.? Can I lay aside fears and talents and impressiveness? Can I die to self?
Here are Heather’s thoughts: I read this chapter a couple of weeks ago now. I have about 4-5 pages of notes on this chapter that I can share with anyone whoâ€™s listening. But really I am going to try to bottom line how the â€œLess Wild Loversâ€ in my life have caught and tangled me up into a weird mess of â€œdoingâ€ instead of being. (Note from Jeanie: you can link to Heather’s blog from my links on the leftside!)
I am a Martha. Some loved ones in my life have known that for years. I think Martha was trying to do the â€œright thing,â€ I really do! She saw all that needed to be done and was busy doing it. She got a bad rap, though, as she wasnâ€™t doing it at the right time, really. Thereâ€™s a time for all things under the sun, and that goes for cooking, cleaning and laundry too, unfortunately! But she did miss out on being at the Masterâ€™s feet. That was the right thing to do at that moment. (See Luke 10:37-42.)
Well, so do I. I look at my house, my job, my kids, the â€œthingsâ€ that need to be done, and it can get overwhelming. Godâ€™s been calling me to rest for such a long time. At first I thought it meant to rest from ministry. In some ways it did. Then I thought well maybe it means to rest, rest, you know, take it easy. Well, I do think He wanted me to slow down, but you know what, it wasnâ€™t to be on vacation, it was to be with Him. True rest, with God.
Busy-ness has become my less wild lover.
How sad. I mean it. Itâ€™s so sad. I like Martha want to do the right thing…Last fall my sister in law left our company to work for the Department of Wildlife in Lakewood . When she left there was a hole there that needed to be filled. I seriously thought that in some ways I was the one to fill that hole. I thought it was the right thing to do. My business partner/mother-in-law/best friend asked me to pray about it, and I didnâ€™t. I was in full rebellion, you could say. Get this, I didnâ€™t pray because I didnâ€™t want to let the company down, and I felt it was my duty to help out (I know, I know- that does not make sense). Itâ€™s completely stupid! I admit it, but there ya go, just being honest. Sooâ€¦ This past 9 months I have been trying soooo hard to make it all work. I have scrambled and grasped at what I thought the right thing was, (still not praying though), and it has worn me down. Iâ€™ve been very sad at the compromise of my time with my kids. Iâ€™ve not been able to find peace. My health has even been affected, not to mention Iâ€™ve not had the rest Heâ€™s promised me I would have.
When the time came to begin thinking about the summer schedule with my girls, My business partner/mother-in-law/best friend asked me to pray about it, and this time Iâ€”didnâ€™t (YES, I know-what a dumb thing to do, AGAIN!). Well, I got out my little post it note, and asked God to show me what hours to work. I knew already that I had childcare taken care of for about 20 hours each week, but I felt like God was going to let me cut back, as I made out my work schedule. I thought God had blessed it. I presented it to the company and Maureen, my business partner/mother-in-law/best friend said that God had told her that I was going to be taking the summer off. I cried. That is the desire of my heart, friends, to be at home with my kids. But in trying to do the right thing, I had cut myself off from the mission that God has given me for my girls! I was choosing rebellion, in trying to do the right thing, because it simply isnâ€™t right for me, not at this moment in my life.
Iâ€™ve only been home a couple of weeks now, but my joy has been restored. I am home and Iâ€™m finding rest again. The less wild lover of â€œbeing busyâ€ is an evil trap for me. Itâ€™s not good for me to run too hard or too fast. I need to slow down and sit at the masters feet again.
Candi’s response to the book: Again, as I read this book Iâ€™m astonished at how the authors put so many of my feelings into words. Iâ€™m amazed that theyâ€™re able to pinpoint my feelings letting me know that Iâ€™m not alone.
Page 126 says exactly what Iâ€™m learning to understand. â€œBut this side of Eden, even relationship with God brings us to a place where a deeper work in our heart is called for if we are to be able to continue our spiritual journey. It is in this desert experience of the heart, where we are stripped of the protective clothing of the roles we have played in our smaller stories, that the Message of the Arrows reasserts itself. Healing, repentance, and faith are called for in ways we have not known previously. At this place on our journey, we face a wide and deep chasm that refuses us passage through self-effort. And it is Godâ€™s intention to use this place to eradicate the final heart walls and obstacles that separate us from him.â€ And then they quote Isaiah 45:2-3.
A couple of years ago I went out one night with some old non-Christian friends. We went midnight bowling (they play really loud music!) and it was a really fun time. Towards the end of the night I was just sitting absorbing the atmosphere and thinking to myself, â€œIâ€™m really enjoying myself probably more than I would if I was at church right now. And all Iâ€™m doing is being who I am, no masks, no acts of service, just having fun. Why isnâ€™t it like this when Iâ€™m supposedly â€˜serving Godâ€™?â€
I really think this is when I decided that I wasnâ€™t going deep enough with God. I decided then that I would try to figure it out. If God was the best and the greatest, why wasnâ€™t my heart truly in it? Pg. 128 talks about two highways and this is when I decided to start the journey down the Unknown Road. Of course, Iâ€™m still on the journey, but around every bend Iâ€™m drawing closer to God in ways that I never knew existed before.
So now in the chapter I come to the â€œless-wild loversâ€ and I realize that Iâ€™ve dealt with both in my life! At times Iâ€™ve chosen the path of competence or order. And then I had kids!!! I canâ€™t keep up with itâ€¦itâ€™s too much work! I feel like a failure when my expectations and my results donâ€™t match up which happens a lot. Talk about a blow to your confidence! Then I just quit trying and nothing gets done. I know my mother still struggles with this. (I think Iâ€™ll have her read this book!) I also put my efforts into busyness. There are times where I think I should just slow down, but I donâ€™t think Iâ€™d know how to function. My life is constantly a struggle to prioritize and I donâ€™t think this is what God had in mind.
I also related with the path of addiction. When I was younger I remember being addicted to new romance, new adventures, new opportunities. â€œWe put our hope in meeting a lover who will give us some form of immediate gratification, some taste of transcendence that will place a drop of water on our parched tongue.â€ Pg. 133. And they make us feel so alive! It can be a strong temporary high. At some time I think I made a decision to not let myself â€œfeelâ€ anymore because then I wouldnâ€™t have to be disappointed when reality kicked in. It stopped me from trying to find the next adventure, but it also silenced my heart. Now Iâ€™m learning to understand the process that God uses to become the object of our affection, our addiction. It so much more fulfilling!
Amy Jo winds it up for us: â€œWe know He is calling us to give up the less-wild lovers that have become so much a part of our identity, embrace our nakedness, and trust in his goodness.â€ (p.127)
Once upon a time, when I was studying classic literature in preparation for my English degree, I illustrated a few key scenes from Pilgrimâ€™s Progress. Vanity Fair was one of them, and I appreciated the authorsâ€™ in-depth exploration of what that city must have been like in the mind of John Bunyan. As I read how a lot of us resign ourselves to living there, assuming we will never actually GET to the Celestial City, I couldnâ€™t help but think about one of the most influential, respected women alive and impacting our world: Oprah. God knows I love her, and I have a great deal of admiration for all of her humanitarian efforts, but wow, is she a confused woman! I wonder if she really is as happy as she portrays for all of us on international television. I have a sneaking suspicion, based on her random recent explorations into spirituality, that she has become disenchanted with the God of her up-bringing, and is â€œsettlingâ€ for less-wild lovers. Read Curtis and Eldredgesâ€™ description of Vanity Fair and think of our friend Oprahâ€¦
â€œWe set up housekeeping and entertain ourselves as well as possible at the booths in the Fair that sell a variety of soul curiosities, games and anesthetics. The curiosities sold at the fair are endless in their diversity, many of them good in and of themselves: Bible study, community service, religious seminars, hobbies we try to convince ourselves are eternally transcendent (e.g., â€˜Wow, I canâ€™t wait to ski deep powder!â€™), service to our church, going out to dinner. But we find ourselves doing them more and more to quiet the heart voice that tells us we have given up on what is most important to us.â€ (p. 130)
As I read this, I think of the train she fuels for Eckhart Tolleâ€™s book, A New Earth: Awakening to your Lifeâ€™s Purpose, and her continuing support of â€œThe Secret,â€ a â€œnewâ€ way of allowing yourself to achieve your heartâ€™s desires by re-training your mind. One has only to visit the homepage of her website (Oprah.com) to realize that she is SEARCHINGâ€¦ these are the headlines today: â€œOprahâ€™s Soul Series Webcastâ€ and â€œYou Can Heal Your Lifeâ€ and â€œThe Secret Behind The Secretâ€. Oprah is probably inarguably the most powerful woman in our world todayâ€”not because she occupies some governmental throne, but because she has been given the throne to peoplesâ€™ hearts, winning them one by one through her philanthropic efforts and â€œopenâ€ searching. I wonder how many people realize that they have made her a â€œless-wildâ€ lover, even as she points them to other â€œless-wildâ€ lovers. (I know that I myself have been guilty of being romanced by her!)
One more thought on Oprah, before I move on to other things in this chapter: wonâ€™t you join with me in praying for her to find again her â€œSacred Romancerâ€? Imagine the impact she could have on our lost world, if she were to suddenly declare that she had found what she had been looking forâ€”Someone she once knewâ€”and then proceeded to point the masses to the True Healer! You can bet your chin whiskers that Satan wants nothing more than to keep this lovely and precious, highly-worshipped woman in the dark, as she continues to point others to various â€œless-wildâ€ lovers. Pray for her with me, will you?
And now for something more personalâ€¦ â€œOur adversary also seduces us to abide in certain emotions that act as less-wild lovers, particularly shame, fear, lust, anger, and false guilt. They are emotions that â€˜protectâ€™ us from the more dangerous feelings of grief, abandonment, disappointment, loneliness, and even joy and longing, that threaten to roam free in the wilder environs of the heart. These are feelings that frighten us, sometimes even long years into our Christian journey.â€ (p.132) This particular list of less-wild lovers is by no means complete. One has only to read on in this chapter to see an even longer list of possibilities, including addictions. I now propose that it is possible to be addicted to feelings of guilt and disappointment.
Long ago, I was taught that Christians had no business experiencing â€œnegativeâ€ emotions: anger, sorrow, depression, etc. and thus they had no visible place in my life. But they were there. Less long ago, I became convinced that these so-called â€œnegativeâ€ emotions were perhaps more valuable than happiness and freedom, because they have a tendency to grab our attention and focus us on Godâ€”we learn more from the â€œnegativeâ€ emotions than from the â€œpositiveâ€ emotions. Today I am willing to sayâ€”out loud, on Jeanieâ€™s blogâ€”that perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps ALL emotions are equally valid and valuable; that none are inherently good or evil. Perhaps the thing that matters is how we CHOOSE to be lead by them. Should I feel guilty for being blessed, when so many others in my world are suffering? No. Not as long as I am giving proper credit to the Romancer. Should I feel guilty if I am not happy when enduring hardship? No. But worship is required of my heart in the midst of it. God gave us each of these emotionsâ€”placed them squarely in our hearts, which were made in the image of HIS heart!
Forgive me, oh God, for falling for the less-wild lovers of pride, busyness, intellect / philosophy, discipline, vanity, sleep and numbness, guilt, admiration of others, etc. I would so much rather be recklessly, freely, wildly in-love with You. Keep showing me Who You REALLY are! â€œBatter my heart, Three-Personed God!â€ (John Donne)
I am so grateful to Candi and Heather and Amy Jo for sharing their hearts with me. We only have 3 chapters left in the book, but a lifetime full in continuing to discover God’s heart!…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: His, and His alone. No ministry, church work, “should” or anything else can replace the love of my life.