God still loves me! Though He has every reason not to. As I shared in my last post, His mercy is what woke me out of a coma of apathy, over-familiarity and indifference. So why did I start caring again? He wouldn’t stop caring! For a man who didn’t care!
How can He care for one who doesn't care about Him? Makes no sense. In my head. But hearts see what heads can't. Seeing the love in His heart is what woke up mine. To a selfish heart like mine, no view is more astonishing than the selfless love of God.
God is astonished by our lack of astonishment.
But I never would have treasured this love had I not seen my indifference to it. And how it affects God. In Jeremiah 2, God's heart is breaking over Israel's loss of awe and loss of love for Him. Both of which I too had lost. So I too had broken His heart.
"They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Jer. 2:6 "Does a bride forget her wedding dress? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number". Jer. 2:32 "Consider how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me," declares the Lord. Jer. 2:19
God's not only appalled over Israel’s idolatry (v.10ff), but also her lack of awe (v.19). In fact, He calls her idolatry and loss of awe ‘evil’. So is God insecure? An egomaniac whose idea of evil is not telling Him He’s awesome? Why is our loss of awe so ‘evil’?
Notice He says ‘how evil and bitter it is for you to have no awe of me’. His plea is for their sake. ‘Evil’ means ‘bad’. ‘Bitter’ means ‘disappointing’. Without awe, life goes ‘bad’. It disappoints us. Rabbi Heschel said ‘life without wonder is not worth living.’ Before I felt indifferent, I felt very frustrated. I think it’s because I rarely felt fascinated.
It seems like God is more concerned about our loss of love and awe than we are? My apathy troubled Him long before it did me. And a lot more than it troubled me. The inverse is also true. My being fascinated means more to God that it does to me.
It makes me wonder what He felt in His heart in those first days after creating man. What was He doing as Adam and Eve explored their new home? I think He did what parents do on Christmas morning. While the kids are looking at their presents, Dad and Mom are looking at the kids. And their faces light up with joy when their kids do.
Last Christmas, my grandson Miles entered our decorated living room and stopped. With eyes opened as wide as his mouth, all he could say is ‘Wow!’. Over and over. Few moments in life are sweeter than watching a child overcome with astonishment.
On the flip side, it’s a sad day when your child loses that wide-eyed wonder. Since the feeling of wide-eyed wonder fades slowly, rarely do our kids notice it’s absence. But we do. When a child loses their sense of awe, it's Mom and Dad who feel it most.
This loss is more tragic than we know. Especially for God. He has to watch our hearts lose their capacity for wonder. A gift He gave us. A gift that makes other gifts more precious and points us back to the Giver. No one grieves our loss of awe like Father.
Do you have to take everything so personal Lord?
As for the awe God refers to in v. 19, it’s not just a generic sense of awe and wonder. What Israel lost is their awe of God. Their view of Him changed. Though He had not.
Think of how you'd feel if someone close to you changed how they feel about you. My grandsons love their 'Papa'. I just walk in the house and they celebrate my entry. Which I've pointed out to my wife. Hoping she'll take a hint and ‘go and do likewise’. I feel loved when those I love enjoy my presence and want me close. Same with God.
But how would I feel if they just stopped loving me? Or avoid me or just tolerate me? Or won’t trust me? What makes this pain worse is my love for them hasn’t changed. For God, it’s not hypothetical. He feels it daily. He loves all of us. But many of us don’t love Him. Nor want His love. The one who loves us most. We want love. Just not His.
If you rejected me, I’d be hurt. But I’d bury my pain and grieve in silence. Not God. He’ll seek you out, look you in the eye and cut to the chase. “What fault did your fathers find in me that they strayed so far from me?” v.5 This is no insecure God in need of your approval. Saying “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t you like me?”
This is a friend whose devotion hasn’t wavered. You may be fine with the distance between you. He’s not. Never will be. So He asks, “What fault do you find in me?” He's not being defensive. But we never reject a friend without a reason. Usually, it’s because we feel unloved or wounded. He wants to talk it out. Aa any friend would.
Not that He doesn’t see your heart. But you don’t. Not really. But if you’ll look Him in the heart and speak from yours. As to why you’ve turned away, you’ll know your heart better. And His. For whatever your reason is, in His response to you, you'll feel loved.
So if He loves me so much, why don’t I feel it? Why don't I love Him? And if He’s so awesome, why am I bored? Can I recover my awe of God? My love for God? Yes. But not by myself. It takes two to fall in love. The more I see of you, the more I love you. If I'm to love God again, I must see Him again. Which is what He's wants. But how do I?
It takes God to show us God. And He uses men to do it.
"I will give you shepherds after my heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding”. (v.15) Understanding of what? His heart. Which makes sense to me. Nothing lights a fire in my heart like understanding His. Why? I was made for God. The only thing that will ever satisfy the deep cry in my heart is reconnecting with His.
He knows this. Until we discover His heart for us, our hearts will be ever searching yet never finding. So He raises up shepherds with His heart. Who see us like He sees us.
If He asked my opinion, I’d say ‘Scratch that plan. It’ll just backfire’. Why? There are no shepherds with hearts like His. Not on this planet. Even the purest among us are sinful, proud and selfish. Every man we find in Scriptures is unqualified. So is every man He used to write them. Man is no longer like God! How can we represent Him?
But I’d be wrong. There is one man with a heart like His. Fully man. Fully God. Sinless. Who can turn selfish men into selfless shepherds. With hearts that love like He loves. He is Jesus, the Son of God. He has His Father’s heart and intends us to have it too.
What’s God’s response to a loveless bride? Raise up shepherds with a heart like His. But how can He use us? We're sinners! Yes. But we're also loved, forgiven, filled with His Spirit. We're also shaped on a potter’s wheel, refined in the fire of testing until one day we emerge with hearts like His. Loving like He loves. Loving those He loves.
Sadly there are shepherds who don't reflect Jesus at all. Or well meaning shepherds who because of lack of integrity wound us. Don't form your view of God by what you see in them. But by what you see in His Son. As leaders, we are to reflect the one we follow. But we often don't. So measure us by what you see in Jesus. Not vice versa.
Unlike fickle friends, our change of heart doesn't change His. It’s why I trust His heart. I also want His heart. I know it’s impossible. Yet His disciples were sinful and weak like me. Seeing Jesus give men like me a heart like His gives me hope. “Change me too Lord! Make me a shepherd after your heart! So others can look at me and see you.”
The heartbreaking pleas of a heartbroken father
There’s another way God responds to His children when our hearts grow indifferent.
He pleads with us. ‘Return faithless people! I am your husband.’ Jer. 3:14 Jeremiah is full of cries to ‘Repent!’. We often associate calls to repent with angry judgment. Yes He warns us of judgment to come if we don’t repent or turn. But it’s a father’s cry to a son rushing for a cliff. Seeing the cliff, how can a father not cry 'Stop! Turn around!'?
Most of us wouldn’t bother pleading with a friend once their heart's grown hard. At least not for long. How do you keep loving someone who does not want your love? Yet God just can't stop chasing us or pleading with us. Why? He can’t stop loving us.
Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him," declares the Lord. Jeremiah 31:20
Have you taken God for granted lately? Have you lost your first love? Your awe of God?
I don’t ask this to make you feel guilty. Nor do I assume you’ve lost your fire. And yet it’s worth the risk to ask. For just like carbon monoxide, apathy can lull your soul into deep sleep before you know it. Everything seems OK. Yet your heart's in code blue. With hypothermia, drowsiness is dangerous! To sleep is to die. You need to wake up!
It's why your Father won't stop pleading. "Fight this indifference! Don’t settle for a disengaged heart!" If I find you in the snow, succumbing to hypothermia, I will do all I can to get you dry and warm. You will plead with me to let you sleep. Which I won’t. I will plead with you to wake up, pull until you do and get you to a fire. Or make one.
Me: “Come set me on fire!” God: “Come sit by my fire.”
Why is God always pleading with us to come closer? Because we are made for Him. The heat my soul needs most is the heat of His presence. The warmth of His love. I am a furnace made to burn. Not just with passion. With God Himself. He’s my fire. Without His presence and love, I am the man in the snow. Dying for the lack of a fire.
I can think of many setbacks in my life that God used to wake me from my slumber. I didn’t appreciate it then. But I’m deeply grateful now. Each setback pulled me closer.
‘I’m sinful’ I say. Another excuse for not coming to God. In mercy, He says ‘Come anyway’. I say ‘I’m weak’. Yet He leaves me weak so I feel my need. Again, my need pulls me closer.
‘I’ve lost the hunger’. If you find indifference growing in you, don’t let it be a reason to avoid God. Let it be the burning bush that pulls you to Him. Once we see our sin, we tend to do what Peter did in Luke 5. We turn away from God instead of to Him.
And as we turn our hearts away, we think He has too. He hasn’t. He never turns away. He's not a shepherd who keeps going if we stray or run away. He comes back for us.
You can forget Him altogether. But He can't forget you! You are ever on His mind. Why?
He's a Father who loves you. Always has. Always will. Even if your mind is distracted and your heart divided. Do you no longer love Him? It doesn't affect His love for you. In fact, His eyes are on you now. And His father heart is moved by you just as you are.
What's sad is you can believe He loves you, yet remain indifferent. By taking His love for granted. If so, I'll borrow Petra's lyrics and plead with you 'Don't let your heart be hardened! Don't let your love grow cold'. You lose what matters if you lose your love.
Others see their apathy and never change because they think about God but never talk to Him. A marriage book can't do what a good heart to heart can. If your desire is gone, speak to Him. From your heart. And let Him speak to you. From His. He will!
If there’s trouble in your love life, it’s your lover you need to hear from. And talk to. What both hearts needs is a heart to heart. It's how you first fell in love. You saw each other's heart. So it's that heart you need to see again. The heart you fell in love with.
So how do we have this heart to heart? How do we connect at a heart level? Words. I tell you what's in my heart through words. And you see my heart as you hear my words. Same with God. He conveys His heart with words. I see His heart as I hear His words. So if you want to hear from God, be in His Word. It's the primary way He talks to us.
So if His words convey His heart, what is it in His heart that He so wants to convey? The same thing a man tries to convey when he gets down on one knee with a ring. The same message a mom hopes to convey to her children every day of their lives.
"I love you. For better for worse. Regardless. Come what may. Forever."
It's that kind of love that sets hearts on fire. Not only the beloved’s. The lover’s too. And the matches that most effectively light such a fire are the well-chosen words of the lover.
The word God chose to convey His love for man became a man. Who came with a message: 'I love you'. The message became a man and a man became the message.
One reason His word is like a fire is because God is a fire. A fire of love. Every word from His mouth is inspired by love and conveys love. Even His words of judgment. Our hearts need His words like our bodies need bread. Why? Our hearts need God.
I need a fire to catch on fire. So if your fire is out, get near His. Have a heart to heart.
Reflection: If you were to have a heart to heart with God, what's on your heart to say?