The concept of pursuit has been haunting me for a couple weeks now – I find myself rolling the word over and over in my head when moments are still and quiet (albeit there are not many of those…but when I have them…). The idea of being pursued as well as the flip side – of being in pursuit of something or someone.
This week, I arrived at my Tuesday afternoon Bible study just as sheepish as I have the past few weeks. “You might be kicking me out of Bible study soon,” I told my friends, “I didn’t read the chapter again this week, and this time I have no excuses!” Thank the Lord for grace. My relationship with the Lord is strong – it is my own, and it has been created and mashed and molded and recreated as the years have gone by. There are times when I feel like I mangle it all up and have to start all over again from the basics of what I know to be true for me. But whatever it looks like – I am His and He is mine.
As we started reviewing the chapter for this past week (that I didn’t read, so I just followed along) I was really struck by a section on grace and pursuit. There it was – the concept jumping out at me that had been bugging me for weeks! I couldn’t really ignore it – so I just payed attention. Now this morning, two days later – I still can’t shake it – so I’ll share it here…bear with me – the excerpt is slightly long, but I’ll catch up with you at the end-quotes!
from “To Live is Christ To Die is Gain” by Matt Chandler, pg. 110-112
“…Why is it that so few “pretty people” without checkered pasts are used mightily in the Scriptures? Because the Bible is primarily about God’s grace, not about human cleanliness. What a staggering truth that the holy God of the universe would say, “Mine,” about sinners and lay hold of them in love. Paul goes on to say, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
“We are redeemed through what? Our efforts? No, Christ’s blood. We are forgiven of our sins according to what? Our moral credit? No, the riches of His grace.
“And His grace is so rich! Even when I’ve tried to run from God, it has not gone well for me. It’s a weird conundrum, the Christian life – we can either chase Him or be miserable at some level. If we want joy, satisfaction, and peace, we really have no option but Jesus. In John 6, after the crowd leaves Jesus, finding His teaching offensive, He asks His disciples, “Do you want to leave too?” The disciples constantly get things wrong, and they’ll struggle with the mission of Jesus for a long time after, but in this moment, they are wise enough to reason this way to the Lord: “To whom would we go?”
“Everywhere else we’d go would be a disaster for us. Any answer but Jesus is no answer at all. And yet, even when we run, His grace reaches us. Of course, sometimes grace looks like getting swallowed by a big fish, but what a joy anyway to know that we cannot outrun God’s sovereign love for us. His grace lays hold of us, and His grace will not let us go.
“So why don’t we yearn? Why don’t we long? Why don’t we passionately pursue Christ in this way? I think it’s because we’re trying to manage life according to our own spiritual riches. Paul says in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained it,” and we’re thinking, Well, we know better than him. He obviously didn’t try hard enough. He didn’t give 110 percent.
“Paul himself calls such thinking stupid. “Are you so foolish?” he asks in Galatians 3:3. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” No, it is the Spirit beginning to end. Which is why in Philippians 2:13, he says that it is God who is working in you the ability to work out your salvation.
“Over and over again, we return in our efforts to pursue Christ. There is something right and good about a disciplined life that is built around knowing Jesus more fully, but we must never forget the reality that He has first pursued us. That He has chosen us first (John 15:16). That He loved us first (1 John 4:19).”
If I didn’t lose you at the beginning of this excerpt, and you read all the way through – congratulations! You accomplished in a few minutes what I seemed unable to accomplish all week 🙂
Philippians 3:12 says “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
We aren’t perfect – we aren’t even close. Honestly our family and our marriage have both rolled through some serious grief over the past several years. Internal and external. Both from mistakes within our control, and from trials and struggles outside of our control. The concept of pressing on through that imperfection is such a picture of pursuit to me. We pursue the things we are passionate about – whether those things are healthy or unhealthy remains to be seen in our own lives. We chase them constantly, though – every moment we are alive we are chasing something. Whether that’s a promotion or a relationship, a wayward child or a higher number in our bank account; we pursue wisdom, and world peace, we pursue fairness and just causes, we chase after equality and economic balance; our hearts struggle with the push and pull of a pursuit of love and acceptance, pursuing both encouragement and enlightenment but also pursuing destruction sometimes without even realizing where we are headed.
Everyone pursues something – at this moment – what are you pursuing? I’m not going to move into that – but it’s a valid question – what are you pursuing at this moment and is it leading you to closer to the grace that has been offered to you, or further down the road of self-managing your own destiny? … “even when we run, His grace reaches us…but what a joy anyway to know that we cannot outrun God’s sovereign love for us. His graces lays hold of us, and His grace will not let us go.”
You’re probably starting to wonder what this all has to do with anything really – that was where I was this morning. The other day my kids were creating a long list of funny things that Jesus would say when He finally returned to earth. The funniest one was my daughter Logan’s genius…
“Thousands of years later, when Jesus returned to earth… “WHAT IN THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE YOU WEARING??!!!!” and the people replied, “Ummm…its a tank top.”
I had a good laugh at that – doesn’t really apply much other than that this was very close to my conversation with God this morning, “What in the Holy Spirit are you trying to tell me??!!” God and I have some pretty awesome conversations sometimes. My way of speaking to Him is very much me. I don’t use many big flowery words, and I don’t quote scripture and roll it around the insides of my teeth when I pray. Sometimes I yell. (In my head, because I still have the whole self-conscious thing going on). Sometimes I roll my eyes at Him. For real. If you know me well – you know that I have absolutely perfected the “eye roll”. An errant character flaw, I’m convinced – but I can’t shake it.
Anyway, I have been bombarded with the concept of pursuit. I know that so many times I chase after things that aren’t good for me – I know that I pursue things with a vengeance at times – and with my borderline OCD that usually doesn’t turn out wonderfully 🙂 So with this concept of pursuit absolutely pursuing ME, I’m getting a little tired of hearing the word and God’s getting lots of eye-rolls and heavy sighing during our conversations.
This morning, I know that what I’m pursuing at this moment is my child that is out of my reach. My child that doesn’t know my voice, has never smelled my fresh morning-skin, or my dinner & wine good-night prayer breath. My child who has never looked up at the sound of my footsteps, or called to me in the night after a bad dream. My child who takes tumbles but has never had his mommy’s fingers press a band-aid onto his knee. My little boy who has never known the joy of sharing his precious moments of beautiful insect wings found and masterpieces colored with me. My child who doesn’t know the feeling of my fingertips gently scrubbing the grime of the day away upon his head at bath time. My child who hasn’t ever succumbed to the weight of sleep upon his eyes as he listens to a soft lullaby crafted just for this moment, just for him. I’m daily pursuing news of this child – moment by moment checking email for updates, following safety measures for his country and city, for any reassurance that he is safe even though he is out of my own web of motherly refuge.
I’m pursuing a little child who I know is waiting, who is wanting, who is needing – me, but pursuing a little child who has no idea that I exist. The ache for acceptance, for knowledge, for recognition, for love – for my child to hear my voice and know who I am – that ache is unfathomable. It is so deep sometimes it feels as if my heart is rooted to the floor.
This is the picture of my pursuit. At this moment – my pursuit is for my child to know me.
And this was what God wanted me to see:
God’s pursuit is YOU. His pursuit is ME.
We are never out of His reach, but we can be so much in pursuit of other things that we cannot recognize the voice of our Father who loves and pursues us with reckless abandon! His heart aches for us to know Him – to turn at the sound of His footsteps, to respond with heart-racing anticipation in answer of His voice. To call to Him in times of trouble, to allow our joy to overflow as we thank Him for the blessings He has given. To know the feeling of being washed clean of our past and our mistakes – to be made new and to bask in the beauty of His grace. To allow our souls to rest in the knowledge that we are completely safe in His arms.
He constantly pursues our hearts – moment by moment, day by day, He is waiting for us to acknowledge Him – to unleash the flood of bewilderment and all-consuming relief that we belong to Him. And that He belongs to us.
His consistent and unconditional pursuit of us will follow us all the days of our lives – no matter where we are – no matter what we have done or what we have believed previously – no matter who we were – or who we are today – or who we will be tomorrow – He is in passionate pursuit of His children!
I realize that many of you following our Haiti adoption journey may be uncomfortable with this exchange. You may feel that this journal post is a little too forward, a little too pressing, a little too overwhelming, a little too personal, and a little too “religious”. It may have also helped to open up something or reveal something in you that you didn’t realize was there.
I feel it is also a little too true for any of us to ignore. However, the beauty of the God I believe in is that He has also given us each the freedom to choose. While He passionately pursues us, He also knows that not all of us will choose to respond by turning into His embrace – some of us will choose to keep running the our own way – the decision is yours to make.
You can decide that none of what I have said is true for you. You can decide that you do not believe that the Bible has any basis of Truth, and that the God of the universe doesn’t affect you and has no hold on you. But you may wonder what it would be like to take a breath with the full knowledge that that breath is a blessing from Someone who loves you deeply. That when you wake up tomorrow morning your day has been bestowed on you as a precious gift by a God who has designed it for you – who has planted moments of joy along very specific moments – for you to relish and cherish – because He loves you. Because He is passionate about you, because He is pursuing you, each and every day.
There’s a song we taught at church over this past weekend (Kris & I lead worship once a month or so at our church) called “Pursuit” by Jesus Culture – I believe Kim Walker sings it…I can’t figure out at the moment how to add it as a track to this post because that involves several upgrades that seems silly to make 🙂 But the opening verse is this:
“Strip everything away, til all I have is You. Undo the veils, til all I see is You.”
Listen to it – great song…you can find it on itunes.