Brent Curtis opens his book, The Sacred Romance, with the words, “For above all else, the Christian life is a love affair of the heart” (p8). In fact, Augustine (author of Confessions, and City of God) asserted that, “the whole life of the good Christian is holy longing.” The whole of my Christian life is defined by what I long after? My entire life is defined by whom or what I love and whom or what loves me? Above all other things? In short, yes. Let me digress to help make this point.
Last May I read the book, The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. I really enjoyed it, but for some spontaneous reason, I got the feeling that I never really finished reading it and I should do so immediately. I flipped open the book near the end and landed in chapter 14 – Verbs and other Freedoms. The subtitle of this chapter is, “God is a Verb.” God started moving.
The main character, Mack, is conversing with God and asking questions such as, “How come I am not able to tell when you’re around?” God answers, “For you to know or not has nothing at all to do with whether I am actually here or not….You will learn to hear my thoughts in yours…you will better begin to recognize my voice as we continue to grow our relationship” (p196).
A few pages later, Mack asks another question. “Why do you love me, when I have nothing to offer you?” And here comes the beginning of “God is a Verb.”
“It should be very freeing to know that you can offer us (the Triune God) nothing, at least not anything that can add or take away from who we are…That should alleviate any pressure to perform.”
This conversation chases Mack’s concern over what God expects of him after his encounter with God in the The Shack is over, and God rebukes Mack. “When I hear language abused in favor of rules over sharing life with us, it is difficult for me to remain silent.” The abuse was the word ‘expectations.’ Mack was being admonished because he was looking for rules to live by (God’s expectations of him) and not reveling in the freedom of living in Christ. God continues…
“Those who are afraid of freedom are those who cannot trust us to live in them. Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control.” The conversation continued. “Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expression like responsibility and expectation, are a vain attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty….I will take a verb over a noun anytime.”
Huh? What do verbs and nouns have to do with all of this? Well, if you look at the word expectation (a noun) and turn it into a verb it develops into a sense of expectancy. If you look at responsibility (a noun) and turn it into a verb, it becomes the ability to respond. God is a verb. He is, He was, and He always will be. God is the great I AM. Nouns, on the other hand, “exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but if the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless I AM [really is], there are no verbs, and verbs are what makes the universe alive” (p204).
God asks us to expect Him in life (the verb) and not live by striving to meet expectations (the noun). He is asking us to respond to His love; to live in freedom (to live under grace). He is not asking us to live under the yoke of responsibility (the law…which sometimes I even expand upon and create new laws in my own house!). Can we live in that kind of freedom? Can we trust Him to go before us, and to guide us in expectancy and response? We have to. For “the degree that [we] resort to expectations and responsibilities, to that degree [we] neither know [God] or trust [Him]. And to that degree…[we] live in fear” (p206).
The truth of the gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole heart. It is intended to create in us holy longings; longings not to right the world of unmet expectations, but to live in a sense of expectancy about our relationships; longings not to fulfill responsibilities to our God and others, but to respond to the love affair of our heart. To the degree that we neither know the God who is wooing our heart nor love him enough to follow after the longings of His heart, to that degree we live in fear. And there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Whom or what do you love? And whom or what are you allowing to fall in love with you? The centrality of the Gospel is clear. God is after your heart. Is your heart after God?