It’s not the beginning of a marriage, but some ways toward the middle, where the quality of your relationship is finally, truly forged. Don’t hear me wrong: The early days matter—it’s important to set off in the right direction, making wise preparatory choices, which will no doubt affect you for the rest of your life. It’s just that we so often get lost in the middle, having already traveled a long way—having lost some of the impetus and idealism we started with. In the middle, the image of our final destination blurs around the edges. Which is precisely when it’s a good idea to do the work of remembering, returning as witnesses to the zeal and affection that once propelled us onward.
I haven’t always been enthusiastic about marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with God—troubled as I’ve been at times at the similarity of some worship lyrics to the love songs I hear playing in the grocery store or on television shows. And yet, there’s something apt about the comparison when it comes to the type of ecstasy we feel early in our relationship with God, having found a connection to the true source of life—the love that sustains us from birth to death and beyond. It’s apt, too, because as we approach the middle of our story with God (at least the portion we live on this side of the grave), the zeal can fade out of us like the pigments in a photo.
In his book How to Listen to God, Dr. Stanley has advice worth considering, if that’s where we find ourselves—the color draining out:
Sometimes we have to go back to the beginning to find the strength to move forward.
When we sit before the Lord, it’s like the experience we had when we met that special person for the first time. As we talked and shared our hearts, our joys, and our hurts, we grew intimately interested in each other.
As time passed, we realized that we could live with that person for the rest of our lives. It’s the same with God. He never wants us to think of Him as distant or detached. Through the Holy Spirit, God lives intimately with each of us. He is embedded within the deepest core of our lives, and He desires fellowship with us so that He can pour His life into us. But, He can’t do that if we fail to spend time meditating upon Him and learning who He is.
Yes, sometimes we have to go back to the beginning to find the strength to move forward. And for those of us who have trusted Christ, the early days of discovery—anchored by the purposeful remembering of our baptism—can help us along toward the joy of knowing the Lord for a long time. To move into the latter part of our story, growing in peace and depth of understanding—even as twilight falls and the sun sets on this world.
Illustration by Adam Cruft