I live between two extremes: absolute joy, and utter sorrow. It is an odd feeling, to be both joyful and melancholy at the same time. All the great theologians will tell you that in His presence is fullness of joy, and yet the closer we are to God, the more we weep over our sin. When we ponder His greatness, His goodness, His mercy, we are overcome with rejoicing in these great truths, yet we also become aware of a certain weight of awe that turns the eye inward and sees the unrighteousness that still stains our nature.
While Christ is our righteousness and God no longer charges sin to our account, until we are glorified in our new eternal bodies, until our salvation has fully come, we remain in this body of death. The Apostle Paul outlined this dichotomy in Romans 7, and we all still wrestle with our old man.
When God opened my eyes to my sin and bid me to return to Him a few years ago, I remember I asked Him to help me love Him like the Apostles. I wanted to know that deep, abiding love we only read about in Scripture. If the Shepherd was carrying me home from my long jaunt in the wilderness, I didn't want anything to lure me away again. I wanted my love for Yeshua to be genuine. I knew, even then, that there was something missing from mainstream Christianity - the fragrance of Christ.
I've always been an odd duck. Even as a child, I was the one doodling crosses in the margins of my history tests. I was the one listening to Christian music. I was the one praying in my backyard. I was the one who drew a giant Lion of Judah on my jean jacket in 9th grade. I was the one who decorated her room with Jesus posters. I guess you could say I've always been intense when it comes to God. And it was never due to another friend's influence, nor was it due to a religious family. It was fueled by...well, now that I know more doctrine and theology, it was likely fueled by God Himself. I honestly believe He allowed my wilderness period to grow me into the Christian I am now. I've always been zealous for Him. But now, I have a determination and a drive to know Him and seek Him like never before.
However, I'm noticing that I'm still an odd duck.
Old friends who used to share my zeal have cooled. Current friends respect my beliefs but do not share them. Even other Christians seem to be content with the status quo. There are different levels of commitment, too. The "cultural Christian" was born into a religious family but not necessarily a believer themselves (which means they're not Christian). The "nominal Christian", who maybe made a decision to believe in Christ once upon a time but does nothing about it. The "Sunday Christian", who goes to church to keep up appearances, but that's about the end of it. The "small group Christian", who might be a bit more involved with the church activities and maybe reads a few Bible verses with the kids. Any more effort than this, and you're in "pastor territory". Or maybe God's got a "calling" on your life. Perhaps - wow, you have the gift of wisdom!
I just shake my head.
What's the difference here? An insatiable PASSION to pursue God. That's it. Maybe God does have a calling on these people's lives. Perhaps they will become pastors with the gift of wisdom. But I tend to think rather than being a special case, this is the goal of every Christian's life - to know Him and make Him known.
Somehow, we've bought into the idea that those Christians who are serious about Christ fall into one of two camps. Either they're "Super Christians" like the Puritans and a few choice preachers from yesteryear, or they're "Jesus Freaks", those crazies who decorate their car with Jesus fish and religious bumper stickers. Since when has serving our God above and beyond the "norm" been considered a bad thing?
When has God given us permission to slack in our sanctification?
When has God become an accessory to our life rather than being our Life?
For me, when I returned to the Lord, I was like a racehorse who'd stumbled out the gate and trailed the pack. It didn't look like I'd be able to catch up with the others. But then, something happened. I began to study and read and make an active effort to pursue God and seek Him -- to know Him and share Him with others. It didn't take long before I sailed past the horses who once knew more than me as I bolted down the track. And then like Secretariat, the Holy Spirit has been widening my stride again, and again, and again, eating up the track until I'm so far ahead of everyone else they have no hope of catching me.
I'm not saying this to boast. Obviously there are more knowledgable Christians than me in the world. Many teachers and pastors have labored long years before the Lord and likely feel the same as I do. I speak of those who skate by in their beliefs, who do no study and pray minimal prayers. Why is there such a strong draw to chase God in some but not in others? I can only assume it's by God's grace. God blesses obedience. Perhaps it is the child of God who is willing to be used that the Lord uses mightily. The one thing I've always been willing to do is God's will. Even when I was a child, and even when I was in the wilderness. I prayed for it. Is that the secret to grazing on the sweet highland pastures rather than the barren lowland plains?
God can do much with a willing heart. You don't have to be rich, lovely, or even healthy. God can use you where you are. I'm fairly sure my prayer for God to help me love Him was a childlike plea for Yeshua to kickstart my sanctification. And boy, was He faithful to do it! Likely that prayer shall be perpetually answered throughout the whole of my life and I will never come to the end of it.
In chasing after God, I have found my ultimate Joy. Despite my circumstances, nothing can take it away, for my Joy is found in Christ alone; I cannot be separated from His love. However my sorrow is a godly sorrow, as I mourn and pray for my nominal brethren to know Christ richly and deeply. This narrow road is a lonely one, but I wouldn't choose any other path. If you cannot find the fragrance of Christ for yourself in this world, endeavor to be His fragrance to others.
O beloved, imagine if every Christian treasured Christ above all things! How glorious His Church would be!