Anyone who has ever dated knows the feeling. That longing to be with a person every waking second. That belief that nothing could be better than to spend the rest of your life with the person you love. The surety that the passion you feel for that person will always burn hot.
Anyone who has ever been married knows that reality looks a bit different on the other side of the ring exchange. No, marriage doesn’t ruin all of those rosy sentiments that go with dating. It tests them and gives opportunity for a final product that is much deeper, purer and beautiful than the dating life can ever offer. But it also brings with it the temptation to allow familiarity to breed complacency. And if one word stands in stark contrast to passion, it is complacency. You know what that looks like:
- You think you’ve done all you need to do.
- Boredom when something “new” doesn’t happen.
- Forgetting to do what got you there.
- Never bothering to notice the things that once captivated your attention.
- Wondering if something new might be better.
- A dangerous lack of awareness that potential danger lurks.
In other words, when you finally get what you want-togetherness, that togetherness comes with the potential for greatness AND with the potential for a slow drift towards coldness…or worse.
I believe it isn’t all that different with our relationship with God.
In Psalm 84:4, the writer states,
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, they are ever praising you.
In my last blog, I described the writer’s words in verse 3 of this song- how he was envying the birds who had taken up residence in the temple. He could only make a trip to be in God’s presence every once in awhile, but those birds get to be there all the time. What access! In this verse, he remembers that the birds aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy that. There were priests that got to dwell there every day. He declares what an incredible privilege they had to be able to be close to God and praise Him every day. His words foreshadow the life offered to all believers after Christ came and established a new reality where our bodies can become the temple of God- the place where His Spirit always dwells. Thus, we are now offered togetherness with God…all the time. How fitting it is that God uses marriage to describe our relationship with Christ. How great it is that this togetherness can birth greatness in our lives, as well.
How unfortunate it is that complacency also lurks in this relationship. After all, the Bible is filled with examples of priests gone bad- offering no true praise to God, extorting money from pilgrims at sacrifice time, and, lest we forget, putting in action the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. Familiarity and close proximity do not equal an assurance of passion.
As I look at my own story with Jesus, I have experienced moments of mountaintop greatness that have taken my breath away. I have also slogged my way through bogs of complacency that have brought my journey to a near standstill. Kinda what I’m feeling now. I know that many look at my life (my very job seems to offer and demand closeness with God-kinda like with those priests) and assume that keeping the flame lit must come almost naturally. Read, “Blessed is Donnie who dwells in a God-profession, he must be forever praising God!” Well, hate to disappoint.
So, what is the answer. I think I’d suggest that part of it is to realize that being near someone isn’t the same as being present with them, intentionally aware of them, and focused on enjoying them. Picture me in the living room with my kids while trying to watch the final two minutes of the AFC Championship with the Steelers down by 3 but driving for a score. I’m nearer to my kids but I assure you, my presence is with the Steelers. And in that moment, guess where my passion lies. Get the picture?
Familiarity, nearness, access, togetherness- they all offer great gifts to us…if we open them…every day.
Familiarity, nearness, access, togetherness- the stories of heart-broken people who don’t know what went wrong when they had all of this going for them, well, they reach to the heavens.