Transformational Knowing: Reflections on 2008

29 12 2008

The end of a year is a time of reflection for me.  Yesterday, I went out to my fire pit, my “fellowship of the ring” in the woods behind my house. I sat out by a blazing fire for a few hours just to pray, meditate, and read.  It was a good time.  I so enjoyed feeling the warm sun and the crackling fire against the cold westerly breezes.

I was quiet.  I thought about this past year and all of the losses and the victories I have experienced.  I have been in full-time ministry for over 28 years, and this year was the most difficult in memory.  It’s amazing what we remember about life when we really reflect.  For me at least, it’s not the programs, accomplishments, or “things” completed that are memorable.  No, it’s people, it’s relationships, it’s love that matters.  The losses this year in relationships have been hard to take. 

All relationships that end, whether positively or negatively, still feel exactly the same for me.  I feel loss.  I feel the distance.  I feel the pain of no longer having that particular person in my life.  One would think that the time spent in relationship would suffice the parting, but it never does.  The parting always leaves a hole—a gap, a missing character in the puzzle of our heart.  A friendship is a person that fills this place in our heart that no one else can fill.  It is uniquely their place and their contribution that makes them a friend.  When they are gone, they take with them a part of our heart.  They are irreplaceable.  Irreplaceable means that they had a place, a spot, a post in our hearts.  It is really hard to let them go.

And yet the new year presents new challenges and most importantly, new relationships.  The puzzles of our heart long for new friendships that will make our lives richer.  These relationships will not replace the old ones, nor do we expect them to, but they will bring a new vibrancy and love that is unique to their shared lives.  As they share their lives with us, we will share our lives with them.  For we must share, we must always give.

I think our lives are most vibrant and most healthy when we give our life away to God and His most valued creation—people.  God is love.  And because God is love, we can’t know God without knowing and loving people.  Friendships drive us to God and God drives us to people.  You can’t love, really love, without God.

Friendship transforms us.  You can’t be transformed without love and love is friendship.  This is why real change, real transformation at the heart level, can only happen in relationship.  Our nature cannot be transformed without friendship. 

We only really know God by love.  Love transforms us.  This is a “transformational knowing,” a knowing of God’s love through loving others.  God’s love changes us.  God’s love transforms our heart and mind.  David G. Brenner writes, “Transformational knowing of God comes from the intimate, personal knowing of Divine love.  Because God is love, God can only be known through love.  To know God is to love God, and to love God is to know God.” (The Gift of Being Yourself, IVP, p. 35)  We can’t know God without loving God and others.

Love is the message of 1 John.  This is what I’m calling a “revolutionary love.”  A revolution, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, means “a sudden, radical, or complete change…a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something.”  John, the apostle of radical love is giving us an epistle of revolutionary love.  This is not a love that the world can understand.  No, this is a love that goes completely against, a 180, from the manner and ways of this world’s values.

John, in explaining this love to the saints, says it clearly, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)  In other words, our testimony of love for God is a love for one another.  Our testimony of knowing God is this crazy love.  This is our supreme witness to the world.  The world is watching for and longing to experience genuine love.  Only we who know the God who is love, can show the world this kind of love.  If we love, they see God.  If we don’t love, they don’t see God.

So loving God is our basis for friendships and friendships are our basis for loving God.  It is as we forge and commit ourselves to friendships of love that God transforms us.  This is hard.  This is not easy.  It is easier to be a loner.  We will be disappointed and hurt by people.  People, by their very nature of being living things, change.  Sometimes those changes mean distance, separation, and even betrayal.  We all wish that the close moments and intimate times could just be paused on our relational remote and held onto forever.  And they can—in the memories of our heart.  But they can’t in the reality of our busy lives.  Life moves on, and so must we.

So I want to cherish my friendship with God by cherishing my relationships with my friends.  Those relationships will change over time.  I will move on and so will many of my friends, but we do have One who is closer than a brother.  His love is constant.  His love is abiding.  His love will never leave or forsake us.  And that brings a sense of security and depth.

As we enter a new year, may the revolutionary love of Jesus transform your heart into loving your fellow man with a deeper love than you have known in the past.  Though we risk pain and even betrayal in friendships, don’t quit giving your heart to others.  For this is the transformational knowing, the knowing of people, that changes our hearts into knowing God’s heart.


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4 responses

2 01 2009
Peggy Marsh

Pastor Steve,

This is a timely New Year encouragement for me personally, and for my family. I appreciate your honesty in grieving losses, wanting to live idealistically, and yet facing and embracing reality, which can only be met through your daily life in Christ.

We love and appreciate you dear brother and friend!

Peggy Marsh

8 01 2009
Dolores Nimon

Pastor Steve,

I too relate to the loss of relationships. Whether it be a death or a break in a relationship. It can be so painful and confusing. It makes us cautious to open ourselves to others. During these times, we need to drop to our knees and put these things at the foot of the cross. The Lord has a purpose for everything. I want to thank you for always being there to speak the truth to the Mountain Springs Church family. I feel blessed to have you as my Pastor.

Dolores Nimon

16 01 2009
Darrel Pritchard

Pastor Steve,

Your exposition on relationships puts words to what is taking me years to realize. These four years at Mountain Springs have alowed us to rearrange our entire perspective of the Body of Christ, finding freedom in the grace and love which flows from the Father through You, the other pastors, staff, volonteers, and everyone who attends. As you indicated in your account, truly opening up to an honest, vital connection with another human being, somehow gives us spiritual insight toward a deeper relationship with the Spirit of God, and life to the person of Jesus Christ within us. Thank you for trusting and obeying God. We Love you and the Church, and pray for all of you every day.

Darrel, Janet, and the boys.

16 01 2009
Cristy Frisch

Pastor Steve,

I was just crying to my husband last night…over longing for my family who lives out of state. I feel that they know and love me like no one else will…I have my husband, my best friend, but he works all day. I feel like I have tried to make connections with other ladies, and just coming up kinda empty…

I feel the Lord had me come across this blog today for a reason…thank you for the Pastor that you are…thank you for the reminder that-‘but we do have One who is closer than a brother. His love is constant. His love is abiding. His love will never leave or forsake us. And that brings a sense of security and depth.’ I know these things, but sometimes you just need that gentle reminder….

Thank you, and God Bless!
Cristy

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