January 11, 2008

“Grandma, I have something to say,” whispered Will as he sat on the floor next to my wife during our Sunday evening house-church gathering.
Our group was immersed in a deep discussion regarding various trials everyone seemed to be currently experiencing. We were all agreeing how difficult it is to simply let go of our struggles and trust God in every situation. Meanwhile, absorbed in his make-believe world of toy cars, Will seemed oblivious to what the adults were sharing. Our four-year-old grandson was visiting us for a week allowing us a chance to thoroughly spoil him and giving his parents a break while they cleaned up after the holidays. As our conversation grew more intense Will began amusing himself by playing with the eleven-month-old daughter of one of our house-church families. My wife, Babs, sat down on the floor beside the two children trying to keep them out of mischief while the rest of us engaged in ministering to one another.
Will had been showing some signs of being homesick; whining, moping around the house and clinging to his grandparents. Playing with the giggling little girl was proving to be excellent therapy for the boy who was not only missing his parents but was also longing for his own little sister who just happened to be the same age as his new friend. As children are notoriously adept at doing, Will and little Brianna were often successful at disrupting our meeting and distracting our attention. In the past we would have been tempted to remove them to another room and entertain them with a video or with some games. After all, how much could they be expected to understand the discussion which the adults were sharing? Experience has taught us, however, not to exclude children from our gatherings. The Holy Spirit will often use them to minister to us all in profoundly inspirational ways. This evening’s gathering would be another example of such.
“Listen up, everyone,” announced Babs from her perch on the floor. “Will has something he wants to share.” Then she encouraged her grandson by saying to him, “Go ahead, sweetie; what do you want to say?”
“God wants us,” he proclaimed rather casually while scooting a miniature race car across the carpet.
“What does God want us for,” asked Babs. “What does He want us to do?”
“He just wants us,” repeated Will. “He loves us and He wants us.”
At this point Will returned to mouthing the make-believe sounds of a NASCAR race while the rest of us looked at each other in amazement over what we had just heard. Once again the Holy Sprit had broken into our discussion by speaking through the voice of a child. The definitive theological solution to our anxiety over life’s trials had just been proffered by a four-year-old.
Somewhere in his rather brief past Will must have heard someone say those words, but the fact that he chose this time and place to replay them can only be explained by a miracle of God. As a homesick little boy who longed to be in the presence of his mom, dad, and baby sister, he knew exactly what it meant to just want someone, not to do anything for him, but just to be there. When he shared the words, “God wants us,” Will had tuned into the heart of a heavenly Father who longs for the presence of His children.
When you hear the phrase, “God wants us,” are you prone to ask, “What does He want us for?” “What does He want us to do?” I must admit those were my first thoughts. In my mind I had a picture of an old army recruiting poster with an elderly bearded man in a red-white-and-blue suit pointing at me saying, “Uncle Sam Wants You,” only I substituted the slogan, “God Wants You.” I found myself gearing up for some spiritual warfare. “Just show me where the battle is raging, Lord, and I’ll go fight for You.” But God doesn’t need me to do anything for Him. He simply wants me to hang out with Him. Will had no problem grasping this concept. Why do we adults find it so difficult to accept the fact that God’s desire for our fellowship is not based on what we might be able to do for Him? I guess some of the more vital points of doctrine are better understood by the mind of a child.
“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” – Luke 10:21. “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Mark 10:15.
The Lord has blessed me with being a father to three wonderful children, a father-in-law to two, and a grandfather of two. I dearly love being in their presence. But I can’t seem to fully wrap my mind around the fact that my heavenly Father truly desires to hang out with me, especially considering that He knows how sinful I am. Yet the Bible continually paints the portrait of a God who is crazy in love with us, who will go to any length just to bring us into His fellowship. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1John 4:10. And none of this incredible outpouring of love has anything to do with what we can offer Him in return. Armed with this knowledge it becomes much easier to fully trust Him, even in the midst of severe trials.
As wonderful as all this is, it leads to a disturbing question. Why is it so difficult for us to simply want God, to simply desire to be in His presence without asking Him to do anything for us? If God so passionately wants us, without merit, without strings attached, without a “to do” list of items requiring our attention, why do we so often ignore Him or come to Him only when we have a need we want met? If God so loves us, why do we find it so hard to love Him in return? If God is desperately, continually pursuing a deeper, more intimate relationship with us, why shouldn’t pursuing Him be our number one passion?
The Apostle Paul was one who understood this priority. “…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…” – Philippians 3:8, 10. King David so passionately pursued a relationship with the Almighty that God called him “a man after God’s own heart.” “Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I want.” – Psalm 23:1. I’m afraid I have a long way to go before I can stand in the company of these two spiritual giants. I have far too many other wants which keep intruding on my “God hunger.”
People have asked me if I made any New Year’s resolutions. Thanks to Will I believe I’ve come up with one. Although it’s not an objective which can be easily quantified, I resolve this year to spend much more time simply wanting God. I intend to passionately pursue an intimate relationship with Him rather than spend most of our time together going over my current shopping list of requests. I am striving to become more childlike in my love for my heavenly Father. I am, however, already experiencing an unexpected consequence of my pursuit. I’m beginning to feel a little homesick.

Bill, a child of God, wanted and wanting

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