Thursday, July 31, 2008

Longing for Intimacy - A lesson from NOG

This has been a good week in my No Other Gods study. It's interesting that as I've worked through this study, I haven't felt like it's been particularly dynamic or eye-opening. In fact, at times, it's been rather frustrating. However, as I near the end, I realize that God really has been revealing quite a bit through it. In Day 2 (I think) of Week 6, Kelly Minter asked us to read through a list of topics that we felt we could relate to, then read the Psalm listed next to it and note anything we sense God is trying to tell us through it. The topic that stood out to me was "Longing for intimacy with God" and the related Psalm was 42. Actually what stood out about it were the words "longing for intimacy".

I was taught growing up that family was absolutely everything and good friends were a close second (and to never leave the house without makeup on 'cause "you never know who you're gonna meet"). Seriously, family and friends were to be nurtured and cherished. What I've learned this week is that while that statement is true, it's not necessarily the whole truth . (Yes, there's that true vs. truth thing again.)

One thing I've learned moving around as much as we have is that it's difficult starting over and having to make new friends. In my experience, it has taken a minimum of about a year to form a new close friend but that has differed depending on the state in which we've lived. I've also had a personal lesson during the last couple of years that financial difficulty is a strain not only on one's bank account but also on marriage as my husband took on an extra job and I went back to work part-time. All of these circumstances have brought ever-decreasing opportunities for nurturing personal relationships and intimacy, whether in marriage, friendships or with family.

Psalm 42 starts out "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" After I stopped singing "As the deer", I read it over a couple of more times. What struck me at first was how much the writer of this Psalm desired time with God and I wished I was like that and I wondered how one gets to that point of true longing for God. Then I started to think, what if it's not just about how the writer felt? What if what he said is fact? What if it's a fact that my soul thirsts and pants for God and I never realized it and all these years I've been filling it instead with earthly relationships? That idea had never occured to me before. I sat there relatively stunned.

The thing is, for most of my life, the earthly relationships I've so cherished seemed to satisfy and fill up any emptiness I may have had just fine. But was it the healthiest thing spiritually speaking? I'm not so sure anymore. It's like if my body is thirsting for water and I drink a soda instead - did it quench my thirst? Yes. But was it what my body really needed? No and I'll probably be thirsty again soon. It wasn't the best choice; it was a substitute that left my body lacking what it really needed.

For reasons I don't fully understand, God allowed me those substitutes, perhaps even designated them for me. I didn't come to know Him until I was 15 and up to that time, life was rocky. Those relationships - my family and friends - provided for me what I desperately needed - genuine love, guidance and a certain amount of stability in terribly unstable times. They also taught me a lot about Him and His character. Not that I was aware of it then.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven". Looking back now I think I'm seeing that it was shortly after I got married that I began a long season of weaning - about 13 years long. God began to wean me from relying unhealthily on the substitutes I'd cherished for so long so He could draw me to Himself and begin to fill my thirsting soul with what it truly needs - Him.

Family and friends are wonderful. God gives them to us to bless us. They are meant to be cherished and nurtured. What they are not meant to do is take God's place in our heart. There is only One who can satisfy the longing of our souls and that is God Himself. It's a bit of relief to me that having a soul that thirsts and pants for God is not just something to hope for or desire but something that, I believe, is a fact. Our souls long for God. How will we fill that longing?

May you forever be blessed.

1 comment:

De Anna Morris said...

Melanie, thank you for sharing from NOGs. I have liked very much this study and also I have not like it very much at the same time. It is not difficult reading or so in depth that you have to spend alot of time on it. But it has just been that I know God is lovingly prompting me to lay some things down so I can take up other things He has for me. And this is exciting and intimidating at the same time. I am planning to gather my thoughts more clearly and blog about it soon.

I will be doing the Psalm reading this afternoon, but honestly, I need to read most of the ones listed becasue my spirit is really more thirsty than I really know.

And intimace with God is something I am longing to know more deeply than ever before.