Monday, September 7, 2009

Passionately Pursuing Jesus

The Beguines formed communities out of a passionate desire to seek an intimate relationship with Christ. Desire is central to spiritual growth. It is our source of energy and the fire that empowers our whole pursuit of God. Our inner yearning provides direction for all that we do in life. What we desire is perhaps the most important thing about us.

In her book, Flowing Light of the Godhead, Mechthild of Magdeburg articulated this passionate desire for Jesus With a cry of her heart Mechthild expressed her longing for the Lord’s intimate love:

O Lord, if it could ever happen to me that I might gaze upon you as my heart desires and hold you in my arms, then the divine pleasures of your love would needs permeate my soul to the degree possible for people on earth. What I would be willing to suffer thereafter has never been seen by human eyes. Indeed, a thousand deaths were too little. Such, Lord, is my painful longing for you!

This burning love for the Lord characterized all of the early Beguines. They loved the Lord intensely and dedicated their whole life to desiring him. They pursued Christ by memorizing and meditating on Scripture, living a holy lifestyle, and practicing intense personal prayer that focused on an intimate relationship with Jesus. They also grew in the Lord through community fellowship and serving the needy around them.

The medieval Beguines are a wonderful model of spiritual desire for contemporary Christians. Their passion for the Lord, their pursuit of spiritual intimacy and their determination not to allow anything to distract them from that pursuit are wonderful examples for us today.

Desire for the Lord
We were designed to desire God above all else and to pursue him with our whole being. We were fashioned to love the Lord with our heart, soul and body, and to enjoy intimate fellowship with him forever. David expresses his undivided focus on the Lord in Psalm 27:4,

One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple. (NIV)

Personal Reflection
How can we uncover the deep yearning for the Lord inside of us? How can we nurture the same desire for Christ that we see in these women from an era long ago?

First, we need to acknowledge the distracted state of our inner lives. Taking an honest look at our disordered desires, we need to face the many things that pull on our affections and clamor for our attention. To begin the process, it is helpful to examine where our time goes. If we do this honestly, we will recognize how disordered our priorities—and disoriented our hearts—are. As we recognize our twisted wants and wishes, we can begin to surrender them to the Lord one by one. Some things we crave may be good, in and of themselves, but they must take a proper place in our lives. Others may in fact be idols that we need to discard and renounce.

Second, we must tap into the deep desires of our heart. If Christ truly lives within us, then our most profound longings are for him. Accessing our true desires, however, is often more difficult than it may sound. We will need to take time apart from all the pressures, responsibilities and people around us in order to attend to the matters of our soul. Most likely we will need to cultivate greater solitude and silence in our lives if we are to provide an environment in which our hearts will open up. If we do, we will begin to discover that the Lord truly is our genuine desire. Like the Beguines of old, we will realize how much we long for him and how much we want to grow in an intimate relationship with him.

The Beguines recognized that an intimate love relationship with the Lord is available to all believers, not just to a special few spiritual Christians. My prayer is that we would become like David in the Psalms and the Beguines of the High Middle Ages who longed for only one thing. Let us burn with desire for the Lord so that nothing else matters!

2009 © Glenn E. Myers


  1. Oh how do I desire such a relationship as this, as I was reading through the the topic, I am reminded of the Song of Songs, and the meaning behind it. How such love is shown by these women and there total devotion leaves me with wanting to follow these women as great examples of intimate relations with the Lord.

  2. The passionate longing of Mechthild is so alien to me, even having grown up in a spiritually alive family going to a Bible believing church. The message of being sold out to Christ and deeply in love with Him is preached, but rarely have I seen it demonstrated personally. And yet scriptures say "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God" (Ps. 42:1) and Paul speaks of counting everything as loss in comparison to the greatness of knowing Christ.(Phil. 3:8). I cannot criticize the American church today without looking at myself and how I have settled for a distanced, impassionate connection with Jesus when I know there is so much more. Whether it is the world, Satan, or the flesh (or any combination of the three) an intimate life with the Lord, having Him as our all in all, seems impossible, impractical, and insufficient. These writings by this sister in Christ from the past is a challenge to me to let go of the worthless things that I cling to that are keeping me from being close to my loving Savior.

  3. Oh I love the Song of Songs, and specifically the way they take it, similar to the Augustinian perspective. How God has already been challenging me as an RA this year to really learn love, and to show it in its fullest form. The form that Christ shows for us and His Bride, the Church. Then to read about Hadewijch and her life as a pure form of passionate pursuit of the Father. This not only pushes me to rely on God instead of finding God myself, (for even that can be self-focus) but letting Him have everything in my life as an act of worship: my heart, my strength, and any thing as well. "Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity" (Thomas A'Kempis, Imitation of Christ 2).

  4. What an example for the pursuit of holiness in view of God's mercy! If "it is God's will that (we) should be sanctified," then the life of Metchthild should be observed by believers of all stages in life. In what she describes as a "painful longing for" Him, Metchild exemplifies the true Christian life: conformity to the person of Christ through the pursuit of His Spirit.
    As we seek His face like Moses on Sinai or Mechthild of Magdeburg, we become more like Him and our faith will be evident by our fruit as we bless others around us with the overflowing love of Christ so graciously given to us.
    Christians of all walks need to examine themselves in light of Mechthild's example and the words of Paul from 1Thess. 4:7-8: "For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit."

    -Ben Horne

  5. Mechthild said that after gazing upon the Lord, she would be willing to suffer anything, even "a thousand deaths were too little." From the other readings we did, there was a point when one of the Beguines made the comment about suffering, but knowing that God would be there in His perfect time to heal. That is part of the essence of true love-absolute trust. Even when it seems that God is absent and that His plan has gone awry, His perfect love demands our absolute trust that He knows what is best for us. And when we trust that God's unfathomable love is at work, any suffering is endurable.

  6. These women are great examples of someone returning to their "fist love" (Revelation 2:) I think that it is dangerous to make blanket statement about any generation as the CBN article did. Medieval Christianity was fraught with problems just as it is in the 21st Century. God always provides a remnant. Call them the wheat among the tears, the salt and light. The Beguines showed societies in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany what was right and redeeming about Christ's love. And their pursuit of Gods love proved that Christ's love was relevant. We have remnants doing the same things, but their marketing is less visible to those who aren't looking for it. We do need to expound on the attributes of Bride-groom love, simplicity , hard work, digesting of the Word through intense daily Meditation . We do box God in. We do, I think worship, efficiency. Loving God is the outflow of letting God love us. When we open up, we find that God wants to love us at inconvenient times, in ways that seem foolish. Professor Meyers touched on reasons in the this last article for why many of us been hurt by love. It hard for us to love as adults. Many of think we are beyond it. It may seem too painful to open up our wounds. Who knows where these women came from. Their solitary state brought them into a loving community that pursued the love of God and God's love for mankind. I am sure they had their own love wounds also. It seems that their healing was in the activities that came with being involved in community gardening, caring for the poor, working, giving , worshiping they God that they had come to know loved them.

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