Everyone loves a love story. Love stories are the stuff that movies and best-sellers and headlines are made of. That’s because we were made to give and receive love. We were made for intimacy.
Yet most of us know more about the absence of intimacy than the reality. That sense of aloneness and isolation we have all experienced somewhere in the core of our being is a God-created hole that cries out to be filled; it is a longing for intimacy.
From earliest childhood, we have sought to fill that vacuum—we crave closeness, warmth, and affection; we long to know that we matter to someone, that someone cares, that someone who really knows us still loves us. However, even in the best of families and human relationships, the most we are able to do is somewhat dull the sense of longing; other humans can never completely fill the hole.
That’s because the God who created that hole in our hearts is the only One who can fill it. In the Scriptures we encounter a God who moves toward us, who seeks to draw us to Himself, who knows us intimately and passionately and who invites us to know Him the same way.
In the first pages of the book of Genesis, we are introduced to this God who initiates relationship with man. Of all God’s creation man alone is given the capacity to respond to God’s initiative, to love Him in return, to know Him, and to enjoy His companionship,
However, no sooner has the story begun than man rejects God’s initiative, and intimacy is broken. In response, this Lover-God immediately sets into motion a plan whereby His estranged loved ones may be restored to intimate fellowship with Himself. And what is the outcome of that plan?
When we come to the final pages of Revelation, we see the ultimate fulfillment of the eternal purposes of God, as heaven is peopled with those whose hearts have been won by His love and who will spend eternity in an intimate love relationship with their Creator.
So you see, from start to finish, the Word of God is one incredible love story. And, wonder of wonders, it is a story that has your name and mine in it. Whether you grew up, as I did, in the church, or have no church background at all; whether you have a “respectable” background or a questionable one; whether you are well-versed in the Bible or have only recently opened it for the first time—there is room in this love story for you.
Many of the men and women of Scripture illustrate what it is to be loved by God and to respond to His divine initiative with wonder, worship, and glad surrender.
Those who drank from the deep wells of that divine love longed to linger in His presence and counted it their highest privilege and aim to live in unbroken union and communion with Him. Their lives make us thirsty for intimacy with the Creator-Lover who corresponds to that hole in our hearts.
Adam and Eve: Alone with their Creator
Adam and Eve were the first of God’s creatures to experience this remarkable union. Nowhere do we read of God’s conversing with the trees, the fish, or the oceans. Nowhere do we see God seeking out a relationship with any of His creation so far beneath Him—except for man, created in His own image.
Only to Adam and Eve did God reveal Himself, His character, His wishes, His ways. The pair responded to the divine initiative in wonder, love, and obedience. There was no fear, for there was perfect love between God and His loved ones. There was no shame, for the man and his wife delighted to know and to do the will of God. They welcomed the presence and the voice of God. Communion with Him was the reason for their existence.
Perhaps you have experienced something of that kind of relationship with God. You have been the recipient of His incredible love and blessing; you know what it is to walk with Him, to listen to His Word and to respond with the worship of a satisfied heart. Do you also know what it is to lose that intimacy?
Do you know what it is to make a choice that creates distance where there was once nearness, fear where there was once trust, and shame where there was once freedom?
That moment when the first man and first woman signed their own emancipation proclamation was a decisive one. They chose to believe the word of the serpent rather than the word of God. They acted apart from God and became separated from God. Now when they heard the sound of God walking in the garden in the early morning hours, they were fearful and could not bear to face Him or each other. Instead, they covered their naked bodies and attempted to hide from God.
As the daughters of Eve, we have all experienced that fearful, dreadful sense of shame that makes us want to hide from God because we know we have spurned the only true love we have ever known. In that dark instant, we may feel that we have thrown His love away and will never experience it again.
But even in that moment of shameful separation in the garden, there was hope, as God the Eternal Lover took the initiative to restore the estranged couple to fellowship. By means of a sacrifice, He tenderly lovingly clothed them in the skins of animals and set in motion the events whereby man might ultimately be reunited with Him. And all the time, God never stopped loving, never stopped communicating, never stopped seeking, never stopped initiating. Just as He never stops loving and seeking you and me.
“Devotions” without “devotion”
Some of us have had devotions, but we’ve not had devotion. There’s a big difference. We may have gone through the motions of reading our Bibles and “saying our prayers,” but we have not been cultivating a love relationship with our Lover-God. We know a lot about Him, but we don’t really know Him. We are active and busy in a multitude of spiritual activities, but we have lost perspective of who it is that we are serving and why.
The result of our “devotionless” religion is seen in the way we respond to pressure. So many of us as Christian women are chronically stressed out. Everywhere I go, I see it in the eyes of women; I hear it in their voices; and too often I see it when I look in my own mirror. I know what it is to have demands coming at me from every direction. I know what it is to respond out of weariness, with an impatient, demanding spirit. And I know what it is to contend with God Himself, even as my eyes fill up with tears of frustration with myself and my reactions.
I also know that there is only one place where that angry reactive, overwhelmed self can be transformed—the feet of Jesus. I must make a conscious, deliberate, daily choice to sit at His feet, to listen to His Word, to receive His love, to let Him change me, and to pour out my heart’s devotion to Him.
When I get into His presence, the whole world looks different. When I draw close to His heart, I find mercy when I know I deserve judgment; I find forgiveness for all my petty selfish ways; I find grace for all my inadequacies; I find peace for my troubled heart; I find perspective for my distorted views. In Him, I find an eye in the midst of the storm. Oh, the storm around me may not immediately subside; but the storm within me is made calm.
An invitation to intimacy
And so the Father-Lover heart of God continues to call us into relationship with Himself. He is seeking lovers. He is always thinking about us, always desiring our company and our fellowship; He longs to hear our voice and see our face.
Not until we make pursuing Him our highest priority and goal in life will we begin to fulfill the purpose for which He created us. Nothing—absolutely nothing—is more important. And that relationship for which we were created cannot be cultivated or sustained apart from spending consistent time alone with Him.
Where are you in your relationship with Him? Is it intimate, vital, and growing? Or has it become distant and passionless? Are you nurturing that relationship by spending time each day alone with Him? Is He giving you a new desire to know Him and His love and to offer true devotion to Him? If so, why not take David’s mission statement (Psalm 27:4) and make it your prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have shown me that only one thing is absolutely necessary, and that is the one thing I want to seek after with all my heart: that I may live in Your presence every day of my life, that I may gaze upon Your beauty with a heart of worship and adoration, and that I may learn to know Your heart, Your ways, and Your will. To this supreme purpose I dedicate myself. By Your grace, I will make this the highest daily priority of my life. Amen.
Excerpted from A Place of Quiet Rest, copyright © 2000 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Used with permission from Moody Press.