So I started this blog with a quote from Matt Chandler in mind. “What are the things that stir your affections for Christ Jesus, and what are the things that rob you of them?” And yesterday, sitting in church, feeling numb…I realized, I need to have my affections for Christ stirred.
I confess it; I’ve been feeling numb for a little while, just a little indifferent. I’ve chalked it up to various things like coming off a spiritual high, and/or being exhausted and drained, etc. I’ve kept on as usual, assuming it would pass. I read my Bible, but my thoughts are so unfocused I read a passage over and over with no comprehension, no retention…and no sense of God’s spirit really speaking to me through it. Not because He isn’t, necessarily, but because I am not able to focus on it. My thoughts are all over the place. I keep on praying too, but prayer feels about the same as reading the Bible. My mind is not set on things above…it’s not set on anything, really.
I’ve been going through all the motions, but the motions are falling flat; they aren’t enough.
That’s when I heard Matt’s voice in my head, asking me, “What are the things that stir your affections for Christ Jesus, and what are the things that rob you of them?” And I wondered if maybe it wasn’t just a season in my life, or a reaction to the past few months of spiritual high. Maybe this isn’t just something I should assume will pass. What if this is a result of things in my life which are actually robbing me of my affections for Jesus? Not bad things necessarily – but those innocuous, little things which seem completely neutral…those things which, while not sinful or “bad” perhaps, are also not productive and/or helpful for my relationship with Jesus.
I was teaching a Bible study to a group of women in the local jail recently and one of them confessed that she didn’t get the idea of being the bride of Christ. I confessed that I don’t really get it either. I mean, I can explain it in some theological, technical kinds of ways, but I don’t get it. I encouraged her that maybe she should focus on being a daughter of Christ and learn what that means, since she’s a little more comfortable with that idea. Then, when she is ready, God will begin to teach her about another aspect of His relationship with her, and at some point, He will surely help her to understand what it is to be the bride of Christ. Oh sweet irony, I should have seen it coming – God seems to have taken it upon Himself to help ME get that whole bride of Christ thing.
So, as I was thinking about what stirs and what robs my affections for Jesus, I suddenly began to think of it in relationship terms…like marriage relationship terms. Any marriage (so I have been told) needs to be worked at. You can’t just take it for granted. And when those feelings wane, which they are sure to do, that is the time to press in and work to refresh things. You shouldn’t just accept numbness in your marriage, assuming it’s just a phase. You work at it. Not only do you work hard to identify and eliminate the things which rob you of your affections for each other, but you fight to do the things that stir your affections for each other, and keep them kindled.
So I’m working on this discussion with God: What are the things that are distracting me from loving you as I should and as I want to? What are the things in my life that are keeping you from me? What can I do to stir my heart for you? What would you like for us to do together? Are there things you want to do with me, talk to me about, enjoy with me, etc. that I’m not clueing into right now? Etc.
Sounds a lot like a talk you’d have in a marriage, huh? I confess, I kind of thought I had a “get out of jail free” card on this one, being single and all. Like you don’t really understand the Father’s love until you have a child of your own, surely I can’t be expected to understand being the bride of Christ until I am a bride here on earth, right?
Psalm 101, which I wrote about here, came to mind as I was pondering these things. It’s a Psalm of basic resolve. I love this Psalm for so many reasons, but yesterday I suddenly thought of it in a new light. Maybe this isn’t just a Psalm of commitment to do the right things and avoid the wrong things. Maybe this is actually a Psalm about the heart—about choosing to avoid the things that rob the heart’s affections for Jesus, and to pursue the things which stir the heart’s affections for Jesus. Maybe it’s even a little like a marriage vow—a commitment, a list of action and resolve, but all that “will” is centered around the heart, around protecting and nourishing the heart and what it loves.
Suddenly I saw Psalm 101 in a whole new light. What used to be all about doing the right things, living the right life, is now suddenly all about David’s heart for God, and his fervent commitment to keeping his heart fully God’s. He was a man after God’s own heart, not after God’s own behavior. This Psalm is his marriage vow, his commitment to do everything in his power to protect their relationship.
As I read David’s hand written “marriage vows,” if you will, I am challenged to think about making them my own. At any rate, I realize I need to do some assessment of my own life. Maybe Psalm 101 can reveal to me why my heart grown a little cold, and help me to keep my affections stirred.
I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.
2 I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3 I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
5 Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not endure.
6 I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.
7 No one who practices deceit
shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue before my eyes.
8 Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all the evildoers
from the city of the Lord.