God is love - Again!

I went out for a walk and a pray a few days ago; praying gradually seemed to become thinking - or perhaps God speaking to me - that can be a pretty grey area in my head. I’m going to share my thoughts, or at least some of the dry, dusty, bones of them, and hope that it provokes worship rather than questions. It may not be obvious, at least to begin with, where I’m going with my thoughts - but please bear with me - hopefully, eventually, we’ll arrive somewhere edifying.

Some time ago, I wanted a new lens for my camera. I found myself lacking what photographers euphemistically refer to as ‘reach’: it was impossible to photograph small things (like dragonflies) at a distance, and I felt as though I needed to (you can’t get any closer when dragonflies are over water, unless you take lessons in walking on water or buy a boat!). I could get more reach by buying a new lens. Good quality lenses with a lot of reach are expensive; significantly expensive. My system is essentially ‘compact’ and long lenses, whilst very expensive, are not eye-wateringly so (unlike for some other systems). Not that I felt I could justify buying one; I’d have felt guilty from then until the cows come home (I do now own said lens, thanks to a very generous gift).

KeeledSkimmer1

Male Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens), 3rd July 2019, in a bog near the Rigg Lane car-park, Quernmore, Lancaster.

I fell to thinking, on my walk, about what differs between our desire for ‘things’ and our desire to love and to be loved. Most of us will (I hope!) acknowledge that the things we love are not as important as the people we love. There are many things we earnestly desire (like camera lenses), but we will usually be quick to point out that those things pale into insignificance alongside the people we love.

But how is the desire to love and be loved different from my longing for a new camera lens? If we aren’t careful, we might find ourselves reducing our love for those close to us to a slightly improved version of my love for my camera. And we can end up there. We can treat our loved ones as commodities - as one more thing to want. But actually, if we have the presence of mind to examine ourselves deeply, we may discover that our ‘desire' for our loved ones is actually of an entirely different kind.

The other person is not merely the object of our longing, but the very source of it; those who love us are the ones who give birth to and sustain our very ability to desire. And, digging deeper still, what we may find is that what we actually desire is really the desire of those we desire. You might need to read that sentence again:

What we actually desire is the desire of those we desire.

That feels slightly different in my head to merely wanting to be loved.

Hopefully, now you can begin to see where I’m heading. Our human relationships are all temporary, transitory - we fall out with boyfriends or girlfriends, some marriages end in recrimination and divorce, children grow up and leave home; spouses die. None of our relationships last. Neither do camera lenses (although good ones are pretty robust, and can remain useful and useable for decades).

Jesus, by dying on the cross says, in the most powerful way possible, ‘You are the object of my desire’.

We should know, with that death, how much we are desired. It’s a very powerful symbol.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 6-8

We had the desire we desired; but the symbol of that desire was nailed to a cross.

And now he was dead.

And that seems to be yet another, tragic, ending to a human relationship - just like any other. And I can imagine the grief in that locked upper room, the sense of abandonment, of loss, of the sense of the disciples no longer having the desire of their desire.

Spoiler alert: we know how the story ends (or begins, in one sense), but they didn’t know Jesus was going to be resurrected: even though they’d been told, they didn’t ‘get it' (and why would they? People who were dead stayed dead and the Romans were pretty efficient at killing people).

But then...

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. John 21: 19-20

Suddenly, the game has changed. Someone desired us, to the extent of dying for us, but then, glory of glories, He passed through death, came out the other side, and still desires us. It doesn’t stop; it hasn’t really ended; it never will.

That’s one of the things, for me, which is so marvellous about being a Christian. I am my Lord’s beloved, and I always will be. The desire of my desire is everlasting. God is love.

God bless you.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2020