I live in the middle of a children’s village with nearly 90 kids. My house is in the middle of the compound. There are three houses to my right and three houses to my left. I am literally surrounded by children 24/7. I love these kids! They are precious and all of them unique in their personalities, histories, dreams, and need for attention. However, I often have to pull away to be filled with more of God- more of His love- more of His presence- more of His grace for what lies ahead. It’s simple physics. I can’t give away what I don’t have. And, sometimes I need to pull away just for practical reasons, like cleaning the house and washing the dishes.
Although my house has 4 walls, they are a very thin boundary between me and the children- even with the door shut! As I was washing dishes one afternoon, I heard little voices on the front porch. At first they were just talking to one another, but soon, there was a little face pressed against the crack in the window’s shutter. “She’s inside!”
Then it began. It always begins this way. “Jennie! … Jennie! … Jennie-Joy!” they begin calling. First they whisper and leave long pauses between the calls, but they grow ever more insistent as time passes.
Time passes because I don’t respond. The walls are thin boundaries, but I like to pretend they are thicker. In my effort to create a space for rest, seeking God, and washing dishes(!), I have decided that I won’t respond to the kids when they call through the cracks in my windows! If they are really insistent, or if I feel there is a legitimate and immediate need, I will peek out the front door to check the situation. Otherwise, the closed door is the way I establish a boundary.
Inevitably, the kids begin making their requests. “Jennie! … I want a vitamin! … I want new sandals! … I want a toy car! … I want a ball!” And so it goes until they get bored of the sound of their own voice! However, that afternoon, one of the little ones made a request that melted my heart.
“Jennie! … Jennie! … I want to come inside to be with you!”
Hearing that was like receiving a breath of fresh air. It was not a request for any thing, rather an expressed longing for relationship.
I have a tendency in my walk with God to come to Him with many needs and requests. Often, the requests are things I know He desires to give me. You know the type of request- all those things that advance the Kingdom. I’m always praying for healings, opportunities to share the Gospel, conviction in the hearts of friends who need God, justice in broken world systems, and many other good things. Praying that His will be done here on earth as in heaven is wonderful! And yet, there is a passage in Matthew that has always put the fear of God into me.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, haven’t we prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? [in other words, ‘Haven’t we been doing your will all this time?!‘]’
And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'”
As I read through this passage a few weeks ago, I was deeply struck by the fact that these people, to the best of their understanding, had been doing the will of God! They were mighty men and women of God- seeing powerful works of God- “doing everything right!” But, in all their doing, they had forsaken the deeper will of God. KNOWING HIM is His first and deepest will for us! His desire for relationship with us comes before even His desire to restore the created order through us!
(Some of you might be thinking, “Wait, the deepest will of God is summed up in the greatest commandment- ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!'” You’re right, of course. But, to truly know God– is to love Him. He is lovely!)
I can understand this when I look at the kids. Yes, I want to give them vitamins and shoes and toys, but I hate it when the kids come to me only for those things. Those are good things, but my desire for relationship with the kids is something deeper. I want rapport and love and friendship with the kids in a much deeper way than I want to provide for them… even though I’m happy to provide.
In the same way, God is not the great vending machine in the sky. Yes, He deeply desires to provide for our needs and to restore the world to His original plan – He desires it so much that He sacrificed Himself to buy complete redemption. But, His sacrifice also opened the way for us to know Him, and THAT is His heart’s desire. THAT is why we exist.