Most of us have fallen in love. Some only once, others, well it’s almost every other week. But for all of us the symptoms are the same, our thoughts and conversations are fixed on just one person and we want to spend our time with them, preferably alone together. We are sure that together we can conquer every obstacle, that there is a special magic in our moments together. Have we ever compared the blood rush we feel as we see the one we love with the blood rush, that overwhelming sense of being loved, we experienced in our earliest connectedness with God? Didn’t we once KNOW how much God loves us, and didn’t we respond with love in return? Didn’t we want to spend time quietly with God?
The world in which we live certainly has ways of grabbing our attention. People around us involve us in their crises. We encounter a myriad of problems at work, and often even getting there can be a headache. Then there’s that niggly thing called money. Who ever has enough to buy those things that we really would love to own? There are friendships that can sour, families that seem to be in a self-destruct mode, and problems maintaining the few possessions we do own, car, computer, home, whatever. Finally there are our relationships. Without deliberately setting aside time simply to be together, to hear clearly what each other is saying, without the desire to know each other better and delight in discovering new ways to please each other, there will be no relationship. For relationships are like cars, they don’t run smoothly without attention. In fact, when we allow other things or people to absorb so much of our time that we have none left for each other, when there is no real communication, relationships simply wither and die.
This is what happens when God moves from the position of “first love” in our life. Somehow things and people crowd out God. Sometimes we are too ill (or even hung-over) to be able to communicate with God, and days slip by unnoticed while we put God “on hold.” And so, until a crisis sweeps across our personal lives, we let go of God’s hand and do things our own way. With the advent of a crisis, back to the Cross we come, our tears genuine enough at the time, but for how long? How long do we think we can get along without God? We all know many who can manage without God all their lives, but for those of us who have felt the touch of Love’s hand on our shoulder, who have known and experienced the security and comfort God brings into our lives, an ache will always remain in our spirits, an ache to be reunited with our Creator.
And here we come to the kernel of our existence, for our creation is incomplete without our connectedness with God. Just as a car will run on a variety of fluids, as we discovered during World War II not the least of these being raw alcohol, so our lives will run with other things and people occupying centre stage. But they will not run smoothly as if God had been our central focus. In fact we will never develop the full potential with which we were created. The prophet Isaiah had a word or two to say on this subject. In Isaiah 44:24 we read, “This is what the Lord says, he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and he who will help you.” We find this theme again in Isaiah 49:1b, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made a mention of my name.” God has given us talents we have not yet discovered, for we have moved out of God’s presence so often that our lines of communication are disjointed.
Just what happened in our lives that caused us to lose the sense of God’s overwhelming presence? Had we become so complacent about God that we stopped being attentive, or did we allow little things to invade our thoughts in those time we had set aside for spending in prayer? Imagine a conversation with a lending agency we had approached for a loan to buy a house if we allowed other thoughts and people to occupy our thoughts instead of focusing on the financial details we were there to discuss. Our memory of such a meeting would consist of disjointed fragments, and we would be ill prepared to engage in any endeavour based on half-remembered fragments of such an important discussion. We are all faced with the bother of filling out documents, yet the information we supply on documents — such as passport applications — needs to be accurate or we will find ourselves in trouble with the authorities. Try filling out such an application if you had headphones clamped to your head blasting out music, while at the same time the person alongside you suddenly collapsed on the ground, bleeding. Where would your attention be directed? Life’s like that, too much noise and distraction, too many things happening all around us, we lose track of that which should be the most important relationship throughout our lives.
How do we get back to that place of loving again, that place where God is our “first love?” A relationship with God can be very much like an intimate relationship with our life-partner. When our human relationships start showing signs of wear at the edges, when we realise the only time we spend together is at meals or asleep, the signs are there that such a relationship has not been given the care it deserves. As this truth dawns on one or both of us, there comes the scary task of looking at what we have left, remembering how things were at first, and deciding quite deliberately if we wish to continue together. Sometimes there are no longer any shared interests, nothing we have in common but the same address. But other times love is still there, covered by the cares and concerns of days we have not spent reaching out to each other. We look deeply into the eyes of our lover, and know this is where we belong. We make time to be together; as we pass we reach out and touch each other, a faint brush of fingers against fingers, a smile that speaks out our love. We talk of simple events in our days, and of those things that we hold close to our hearts. We fling open all the doors of communication, and put trust and commitment on the frontline of our relationship.
How do we get back together with God? No differently, I believe, from the way we resume the intimacy of a relationship with the one we love. We need to spend time together, to talk about the simple, everyday things as well as those things closest to our hearts. We need to re-establish trust and commitment. We need deliberately to seek out God, and make a committed time each day to spend with God. Our relationship with God started before we were born, and it will continue long after we have walked through death’s doorway. The apostle Paul speaks of this relationship, this love, in words recorded in 1 Corinthians 13: 7, “It can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.” So often we fail to see the true value in what is available to us, and we reach forth to pluck other things from different sources, yet it is God, Love personified, who awaits our return to the relationship we shared. Prayer is simply spending time with God. It may not involve words, for words are simply expressed thoughts, and God knows our thoughts. In the words of J. Montgomery, (first printed in the Scottish Psalter of 1635):
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.
Prayer can take place in stillness or during the fiercest storm, while flying over continents or walking along a beach. One thing is always present in prayer, and that is sharing our lives with God.
There are a myriad of things we never get around to doing. If we were to examine our excuses we would discover at the heart of our reluctance is the fact we really do not want to do those things. Anything we really want to do, any word we really want to say, we find some way of accomplishing. If we are reluctant, at any level of our being, to place God at the centre of our lives, then we will not make the time nor will we spend the effort to ensure we reconnect with God. It’s not much use blaming God for our feelings of isolation or helplessness when it is we who have left God’s side for other pursuits. It is futile to expect to find our refuge in God when we are no longer on speaking terms with our Creator. Placing God at the centre of our lives is our choice, and it is our decision on a moment-by-moment basis to put God first, before any other person and any other commitment. It is only in God’s company that we will discover, as did Jesus, who we really are, and what are our tasks in this existence. We came into this world alone, no matter how many people we encounter during our time here; we will leave this world alone. It is only our relationship with God that is ongoing in this dimension and the next. To recapture that sense of love, and of being loved, is to prepare ourselves for an eternity in the presence of a Love greater than we can ever imagine. Truly what is there that can prevent us from reaching forth to invite God into the centre of our lives? We are not pawns in a game of fate. We are responsible for our choices including God’s place in our life.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.