Day 18, Chapter 18: The Courtship
I remember when Ceci and I were "courting." I was fairly indifferent toward her at first - she had to do the pursuing. NOT. I proposed to her after only a week of dating. I think it would be fair to say I was smitten. Her big brown eyes, long dark hair, and overall beauty knocked me off my feet. Though it only took me a week to propose to her, we did wait nine months before tying the knot. Those were the longest nine months of my life. I wanted to be with her all the time. Both of us were Bible school students, and over the summer I went back to Ohio while she went on tour with the school's choir. That three-month separation felt like ten years!
It's fair to say that during our courtship nothing mattered more to me than spending time with Ceci. It seemed that every time we were together I learned something new about her and grew to love her more. I wanted more than anything to please her and make her happy. Our courtship was wonderful - even our time apart strengthened our love.
As foreign as the concept may seem, the scriptures speak of us "courting" God. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
In this familiar passage, "ways" is from the Hebrew word derek, which refers to a journey, a course of life, or a mode of action. It is used in various contexts, including courting. Imagine that; we can court God. On life's journey, we will "court" many things: success, advancements, fame, other people, money, favor, and a myriad of other things. Seeking and loving God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength is often lost in the melee. Gordon Dahl aptly said, "Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship."1 How true, and nothing is more lethal to our spiritual life. We need to court God everyday. Sometimes I feel like the small child in the Family Circus cartoon who ran up to his mother exclaiming, "I need a hug, Mommy. I used up the last one."2 It doesn't take long to use up our spiritual hugs.
In the same passage, "acknowledge" is from the Hebrew word yada, which means "to know someone intimately." It is actually used of a man and woman knowing one another sexually. Courting God in all of our ways (derek) leads to intimacy (yada), which leads to spiritual conception. Just as Adam "knew" Eve physically and she conceived, we can know God spiritually in ways that allow Him to speak to us. When He speaks, His word becomes a seed in our hearts (see 1 Peter 1:23; Mark 4:14), and that which is born from our lives is now of Him, not just from our own mind. Our visions, plans, methods, ministries, relationships - all of these can then be the offspring of the Holy Spirit, not just of ourselves.
God isn't into surrogate parenting - someone else carrying His seed of Revelation for us. He wants to sow it into us personally, breathing His word into our hearts. Insights we receive from others through sermons and books are good and valid, but if that is the only way we receive spiritual insight, we're living far below our privileges.
God is not into artificial insemination, either - placing His seed in us without an intimate relationship. CDs, seminars, and books are all good, but they must not take the place of hearing from Him personally and directly. Conferences where the word of God is delivered strongly can become nothing more than a sterile laboratory of information if we're not careful. Frankly, I believe many Sunday morning services also fit this description. Teaching from others is important - reinventing the wheel isn't wise - but that doesn't negate our need for receiving fresh revelation personally. We must not be satisfied with only what we receive from others.
The problem, of course, is not in receiving teaching through someone else; this is obviously one of the ways God speaks to us. Our problem is when this becomes the primary source of our information. We cannot live only on another person's revelation. We must hear from God ourselves. And when He does speak to us through someone else, we should still pray and meditate over the information (courting God), which moves it from the mind to the heart and makes it now a personal word of Revelation to us.
The apostle Paul understood the need for this personal and intimate walk with God. He was still "courting" God at the end of His life and ministry.
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ... That I may KNOW Him and the power of His resurrection.” (Philippians 3:7-8,10; emphasis mine)
The word Paul used for "knowing" God, ginosko, is similar to yada. It, too, is a relational knowledge. Like yada, it is used in reference to a man and woman knowing one another physically. Mary asked the angel Gabriel how she could have a child since she never had "known" (ginosko) a man (Luke 1:34). Paul was saying he had forsaken all other "lovers" in his courting of God. He wanted to know Him intimately.
Ginosko also carries the meaning of a progressive or growing knowledge. In the same way a husband and wife's knowledge of one another should increase over time, enhancing their relationship, Paul was stating that he wanted to know Christ even more intimately. By this time in Paul's life, he had been taken to heaven, where he was given sufficient revelation to write much of the New Testament. He actually saw God, in person! Yet, incredibly, he was still saying he wanted to know Him more. You'll never exhaust the depths of God. The pleasure of His company makes you want the pleasure of His company!
Finally, not only is ginosko relational and progressive, it is an effectional knowledge, having an effect on the knower. The more we see God, the more we become like Him. Second Corinthians 3:18 tells us, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." God's personhood is so powerful that as we gaze upon Him, His very image and likeness - that which we lost at Adams fall - is burned into us like light on a negative.
In his book Good Morning Merry Sunshine, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene chronicles his infant daughter’s first year of life. When little Amanda began crawling, he records:
“This is something I’m having trouble getting used to. I will be in bed reading a book or watching TV. And I will look down at the foot of the bed and there will be Amanda’s head staring back at me.
“Apparently I’ve become one of the objects that fascinate her...It’s so strange. After months of having to go to her, now she is choosing to come to me. I don’t know quite how to react. All I can figure is that she likes the idea of coming in and looking at me. She doesn’t expect anything in return. I’ll return her gaze and in a few minutes she’ll decide she wants to be back in the living room and off she’ll crawl again.”3
Take some time to stare at Papa God. I promise you He'll gaze back, straight in the eye. Words aren't always needed. I've spent hours conversing with God without saying a word. Hearts don't always need words to communicate; they just need to be together. Go get another hug.
Pray with me:
God, You court us with kindness and love, then patiently await our responses. We in turn, can court You. Jesus, we want our knowledge of You to be progressive, knowing Your heart more and more - intimately acquainted with Your dreams and desires, letting them become ours. Impregnate us with Your seeds of revelation concerning Your purpose and plans, Your will and ways. Let us give birth to Your dreams breathed upon our hearts.
May we never be satisfied with accessing through another what is readily available to us personally. May our hearts ever echo Paul's cry: all things pale in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord - both Your power and Your suffering, the resurrection and the cross. We want to see and reflect Your glory. We will forsake other lovers in order to gaze into Your eyes and experience the great pleasure of Your company.
In Christ’s name we pray...Amen.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 147-154.
1. Gordon Dahl, Work, Play and Worship in a Leisure-Oriented Society (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1972), p 12.
2. Bil Kean, The Family Circus, King Features Syndicate comic strip, November 22, 1991.
3. Bob Green, Good Morning, Merry Sunshine (New York: Penguin, 1985), p 251.
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