Growing up I longed for an older woman to come along side and “mentor” me. I wondered what it was like knowing God for 30, 40, or 50 years. I wanted to know God more intimately, but how could I? And was it worth the journey? I wanted an older woman to tell me how she grew to love Jesus more and more, that he became so much lovelier as their relationship became more intimate through the years. I wanted to hear an older woman tell me she wouldn’t trade her love relationship with Jesus Christ for anything else. I wanted to hear a woman testify that Psalm 73:25 was a reality,
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
But I have to tell you the response I heard was, “Oh, Bev. I hate to tell you this but it just gets harder and harder!” And I had to wonder, why should I keep going if that’s all I have to look forward to?
I had to wait until I was 39 years old before I heard what I longed to hear. She stood before the class and said, You know, I often hear people talk about how they struggle to get up in the morning or stay awake in the evening to have a ‘quiet time.’ I have to tell you, I don’t see it as a struggle. I can hardly wait to get up in the morning and meet with my Lord. Jesus is so beautiful–he gets more beautiful every day. It’s the highlight of my day, meeting with him. I feel like he is there waiting for me as I open my eyes–”Good morning, Betty. I’m so excited about what I want to share with you today! Do you feel loved this morning? Can you hurry on down to our place of rendezvous?”
And you know, once I heard it, I wept. I’d hoped it was possible to have that kind of relationship with God–to have a passion for God that elicits an unrelenting eagerness to dwell in his presence– And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Betty had it and I wanted it.
She seemed to really know God intimately. She seemed to really take more pleasure in being with him than in anything else on earth–including sleep. I discovered Betty was genuine. She wasn’t in denial about the hardships, the pain in life, but in the midst of those Jesus had grown more beautiful to her. People were drawn to Betty–just as I was. We wanted to be with her, we asked questions, we just wanted her to talk with us. We just wanted to linger in her presence.
Is it possible to know God the way Betty knew him? If so, how?
Jesus accepted the worship of Peter’s mother-in-law as she served him, but refused to force Mary, the sister of Martha, to also worship in that way. Mary was allowed to express her worship in the silence of adoration, not the hustle and bustle of active service. I was so drawn to the story of Mary of Bethany and felt a kindred spirit with her desire to sit at Jesus’ feet. Yet, what did that look like? Although as a young woman, I attended church regularly, I never heard anything like Betty was telling us.
Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Pathways, describes “The Nine Sacred Pathways,” nine different ways people relate to God. Thomas says that each of us has a “certain predisposition for relating to God, which is our pre-dominant spiritual temperament” (22). How we relate to God is how we draw near to him. If there are in fact a variety of temperaments then how are we expressing a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ relevant to each listener (i.e., introvert or extrovert, etc.)?
In case this may seem like a “woman thing,” I’d like to refer to a true story in Thomas’s book.
Larry Crabb, a best-selling author and Christian counselor, has probably had thousands of social lunches and dinners in his lifetime, but one will always stand out in his mind. While speaking at a spiritual journey conference, Larry shared a meal with Dr. James Houston, a professor from Regent College (Vancouver, B.C.). In Larry’s words, ‘when I was with him…I experienced something coming out of him that touched a part of my soul that isn’t often touched…I went to my bedroom and I literally wept. I fell on my knees and I said, ‘Lord, I’ll pay any price to know who you are.’” (175)
Thomas confirmed a similar experience when in Dr. Houston’s presence. “When you look at him, there is nothing ‘mystical’ or effeminate about him in any way, yet I remember sitting fascinated as this man spoke candidly and openly about ‘holding hands with God.”
Holding hands with God?
“As two lovers do nothing but gaze into each other’s eyes, so we gaze lovingly at our heavenly Father and have our heart’s delight satisfied,” Dr. Houston would say.
While some seek to serve the Lord, others seek to celebrate him and still others seek to explain him, some seek to gaze lovingly into God’s face and be caught up in the rapture of a lover’s experience.
Betty was the first person I heard talk about the latter.
Betty knew God in this way and I wanted to also. (More on this next time)