Monday, September 28, 2009

Longing for the Bridegroom

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is not water. (Psalm 63:1)

As we passionately pursue Jesus, we begin to realize how powerful a force that yearning is within us. Longing for the Lord can be intense. Throughout his life King David passionately pursued the Lord. David tells us in Psalm 63 that not only his heart, but his whole body ached for God’s presence. Likewise David compares his intense longing for the Lord to the way that a thirsty deer gasps desperately for water in the heat of the Judean desert. “As the deer pants for streams of water,” he cries out in Psalm 42, “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?”

Many of the Beguines experienced the same overwhelming desire that David describes in the Psalms. These godly women in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries abandoned themselves to the Lord and longed for him with their whole heart, soul and body.

Intense Love
Because we have the writings of some of these Beguines, we can learn from their intense desire for Christ. Not satisfied with brief daily devotions, as so many Christians settle for in our day, these women sought the Lord in intense prayer. Their spiritual formation was constantly fueled by a burning love for Jesus and a yearning to draw closer to him. Mechthild of Magdeburg expressed to the Lord her inner longing:

Jesus, dearest Lover of mine, let me approach you . . . with deep love for you in my heart, and never let me grow cold, so that I constantly feel your love in my heart and in my soul and in my five senses and in all my members. Then I can never grow cold.

Like David in Psalm 63, Mechthild longed for the Lord with her whole being. Her body literally ached for the Almighty in her life and her physical senses craved his divine touch. Such a spiritual fire characterized the women of the medieval spiritual revival and can be found throughout their writings.

Mechthild’s ardent yearning for the Lord ignited a fire in her heart. Her desire for the Lord was intense and indeed all-consuming. Mechthild cried aloud in her longing for the Lord’s intimate love which is so sweet and wonderful that she said no one could begin to explain “even half of the intensity of my longing and the pain of my suffering and my heart’s pursuit and my soul’s striving for [you], to hang inseparably in your embrace forever.”

Personal Reflection
At times we all ache deeply inside. Instead of trying to ignore that ache or numb it with food, medication or busyness, we need to realize that we are ultimately craving more of God. When we do so, we can begin to allow the Lord to fill all the empty places in our hearts.

2009 © Glenn E. Myers

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