The Drama of Humanity & Nations
In his excellent little book, A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly describes the inward reality that governs the course of history:
Out in front of us is the drama of men and of nations, seething, struggling, laboring, dying. Upon this tragic drama in these days our eyes are all set in anxious watchfulness and in prayer. But within the silences of the souls of men an eternal drama is ever being enacted, in these days as well as in others.
And on the outcome of this inner drama rests, ultimately, the outer pageant of history. It is the drama of the Hound of Heaven baying relentlessly upon the track of man. It is the drama of the lost sheep wandering in the wilderness, restless and lonely, feebly searching, while over the hills comes the wiser Shepherd. For His is a shepherd’s heart, and He is restless until He holds His sheep in His arms. It is the drama of the Eternal Father drawing the prodigal home unto Himself, where there is bread enough and to spare. It is the drama of the Double Search, as Rufus Jones calls it. And always its chief actor is—the Eternal God of Love.
Is God an Object?
In the exceptional book, Run with Horses, Eugene Peterson pulls us out of our self-centered, utilitarian approach to God. He reminds us that it was God who first sought us before we ever became interested in God.
We think that God is an object about which we have questions. We are curious about God. We make inquiries about God. We read books about God. We get into late-night bull sessions about God. We drop into church from time to time to see what is going on with God. We indulge in an occasional sunset or symphony to cultivate a feeling of reverence for God.
But that is not the reality of our lives with God. Long before we ever got around to asking questions about God, God had been questioning us. Long before we got interested in the subject of God, God subjected us to the most intensive and searching knowledge. Before it ever crossed our minds that God might be important, God singled us out as important. Before we were formed in the womb, God knew us. We are known before we know.
God Makes the First Move
In his classic work, Basic Christianity, John Stott shares this most fundamental truth about God: God always makes the first move. Whether it is the creation or our personal relationship, we are never first to the scene.
‘In the beginning God.’ The first four words of the Bible are more than a way of launching the story of creation or introducing the book of Genesis. They supply the key which opens our understanding to the Bible as a whole. They tell us that the religion of the Bible is a religion in which God takes the initiative.
The point is that we can never take God by surprise. We can never anticipate him. He always makes the first move. He is always there ‘in the beginning’. Before we existed, God took action. Before we decided to look for God, God had already been looking for us. The Bible isn’t about people trying to discover God, but about God reaching out to find us.
The Lion and Its Prey
It is a Masai elder who tells the story. It comes from the book, Christianity Rediscovered, in which the Roman Catholic missionary, Vincent Donovan, shares his discoveries as he worked among Masai people in Tanzania, just south of Kenya. Donovan had been working among the various communities of the Masai for many months. It was difficult work, and at times, his faith faltered.
At one point, Donovan spoke with a Masai elder about the agony of belief and unbelief. In their conversation, the Masai elder pointed out that the word Donovan had been using in Swahili to convey the word “faith” was not a very good word in their language. The word they were using for “faith” meant literally, “to agree to.”
Donovan acknowledged that he knew the word was not a good one to translate the word “faith.” The Masai elder said that to believe like that was similar to a white hunter shooting an animal from a great distance. Only his eyes and his finger got into it. The Masai elder then said that for one to really believe is more like a lion going after its prey. The lion’s nose and ears sense the prey. He sniffs the air and locates it. Then he crouches, and slithers along the ground virtually invisible.
A lion thinks it becomes invisible as it stalks the prey. The lion gets into position, and when everything is optimum, the lion pounces. All the power of his body is involved and as the animal goes down, the lion envelopes it in his arms, pulls it to himself, and makes it a part of himself. This, said the elder, is the way one believes, making faith a part of oneself! Donovan nodded in complete agreement, almost overcome with the elder’s wisdom. But the elder was not done yet.
The old Masai became thoughtful. Then he said to Donovan: “We did not search you out, Padri. We did not even want you to come to us. You searched us out. You told us of the High God. You told us we must search for the High God. But we have not done this. Instead, the High God has searched us out and found us! All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God!”
From a Sermon by Norm Lawson, Central Protestant Church
What Matters Supremely
What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it- that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and theirs is no moment when His eye is off me, His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.
This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort… in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge o me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love is utterly realistic; based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.
You Are There First And Forever
In this short prayer by Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher describes how the love of God always precedes our own devotion:
“Father in Heaven! You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment. But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves.