On the first morning when my wife and I were in Hawaii for a wedding a few years back, we both woke up, wide awake, at 4:00 am in the morning. Our body clocks were seriously whacked. I got the bright idea…“Let’s go watch the sunrise over the ocean!” As it turned out, it was brilliant because it was one of those spontaneous moments together that we’ll never forget.
Thinking back on this beautiful slice of our life, it made me think about what makes us feel most alive. I would venture to say it’s not our career, our achievements, our toys, or what we know. It usually has something to do with love, beauty, art, or awe…because these are the things that deeply move the human soul.
Everything that really matters in life is relational. Not that the other things aren’t important, it’s just that they don’t usually make it on the list in a crisis or on your deathbed.
Of course, much has been written about love. There’s nothing felt more deeply than being in love and being loved by someone. Sadly, there’s nothing more painful than unrequited love.
This is why the most fundamental thing we should know about God is that He is love (1 John 4:8). It’s His essence, who He is, and He loves us exactly the same as He loves Himself.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9 NIV)
And this love never fades or gives up on us.
Genuine love, at its core, is other-centered and self-giving. This is why selfish people struggle with it.
All my life I’ve loved music and art. I’ve personally been a musician since I was very young and dabbled in art through high school. My wife, on the other hand, is a very talented artist. I think in artistic expression we’re simply imitating something, however unknowingly, about how God expresses Himself in creation. I wrote about this in my book, Sonshift…
I’ve always liked impressionism. I think one of the reasons is that this art genre seems to express the heart more than the head. These artists aren’t trying to duplicate exactly what they see with technical precision but seek to capture the soul of what they see.
Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.” I think this is exactly what our heavenly Father wants to show us in His creation—how deeply and tenderly He feels toward us. (Sonshift, Kindle loc.,1812-1818)
When we lived in Chicago we would go downtown to the Art Institute and spend hours standing in front of these masterpieces, like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s, At the Moulin Rouge. I swear it felt like I was looking right into the soul of this scene (you really need to stand in front of the actual painting). You may have heard a particular song that hit you in just the right way, that made time stand still and you were “in the moment.”
There’s something unpredictable, radical, quirky, imperfect, and mysterious about love, beauty, and art. It’s messy and wild, it catches us unaware. It’s like we’ve glimpsed into something enchanted and other-worldly. We run the danger of telling ourselves it’s nothing…to our own hurt.
But isn’t that what real living is about? To feel deeply, to overcome fear and experience joy, to join in the adventure, to belong, to experience and even be part of something bigger than ourselves. To be stretched, to be challenged, and to be filled with a sense of wonder.
And what about awe? Things majestic, transcendent, splendorous, glorious, sublime…. But even the smallest, most vulnerable things can inspire awe, like the first time you held your baby in your arms. Your understanding of love is suddenly transfigured. It’s like you never knew love before. It forever leaves an indelible imprint on your heart.
That’s divine love.
Even when I think of the fear of the Lord, I think of the unexpected encounters I’ve had with Him that were what I would call reverential shock and awe.
And if our eyes are open to it, we will experience the divine in the most unlikely places.
I’m constantly amazed by how Hollywood captures these transformative moments, which allows some to receive something so wonderfully divine that would never be accepted in religious trappings. Like when we find the song, “A Thousand Years” (by Christina Perri) speaking to us in a sappy teenage vampire movie (Twilight: Breaking Dawn). The song is poignant and timeless because it touches an innate need for undying love. So, we hear it played in weddings everywhere because it beautifully articulates this longing for such true love and devotion.
See how this opening verse beautifully captures our struggle to risk love:
The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone?
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow
I could just as easily sing this to describe my first real encounter with God’s love. The fear, the doubts, the courage to step out and believe….taking the chance by coming out of my years of religious hiding, opening my heart and finding overwhelming joy and bliss and peace and contentment beyond my wildest dreams. This song beautifully expresses all these things about God’s undying love that beckons us.
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. (Jer.31:3 NKJV)
All of these things reflect and teach us about love; about the Lover of our Soul. But He won’t just love us for another thousands years; His undying love for you and me transcends time itself.