Somewhere on our nine-hour journey from Denver to Kansas City, we started talking about the “one thing” (ha :)) we were hoping to get out of IHOP’s OneThing Conference. My answer was that I wanted to get wrecked—like, sobbing on the floor wrecked—by the presence of God. I was hungry to experience His love tangibly in a way I hadn’t before.
As the conference went on, it wasn’t happening the way I had been hoping for. I was certainly experiencing some painful conviction (love that, thanks Jesus), but in matters of His love He seemed pretty silent from my perspective. And especially so in those main worship sessions where everyone and their mom seems to be weeping.
But on the last day, in the prayer room, the Lord began to speak to my heart in just the way I didn’t realize I had been needing, and in a way I certainly wasn’t expecting. Through His gentle voice, I realized that I had come seeking evidence that I was experiencing the Lord, rather than God Himself. I wanted the signs and wonders, not the One behind them. Ouch.
And He reminded me that that isn’t love. Real love loves without expecting anything in return. Love just loves because it delights in the One who is the object of its affection. That’s how the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit love.
So teach me how to love You that way! I asked. In that moment, I was convicted once again (do it, Lord!!!), but this time about how little I really know God, and how that hinders my heart from being fully His. I mean sure, I could tell you anything you wanted to hear about who God is or what He’s like, but if I really know Him? As in know that He is good even if the circumstances scream the opposite? Know that He is perfect in every way even when He doesn’t act the way I want Him to? If I were honest, I would have to say that I don’t really know Him as much as I thought I did.
It’s a pure desire to want to love the Lord more, but I now really believe that we can’t truly love Him unless we actually know who He is. When we learn who He really is, we can’t help but fall in love! He’s so perfect. And oh, is He beautiful. But until then, until we have pressed into His true character, we’ll be half-hearted in our pursuit and swayed by circumstances.
If we don’t truly know God (granted, knowing God is a life-long journey), we can’t really love Him. Sure, we can love the picture of Him we have in our heads, love who we want Him to be, or try to prove ourselves worthy and impress Him. But I don’t believe it can be the kind of love that pursues its beloved with joy and delight, and without needing to receive something in return. It won’t really be loving Him the way He loves us.
It seems like something I should’ve learned years ago, something so basic to a life of following Jesus. But as I was watching people worship with abandon alone in the prayer room, not needing a main session or a famous worship leader, it dawned on me.
They’re in love. They are in a head-over-heals, butterflies-in-your-stomach, it’s-all-you-can-think-about kind of love with Jesus. And it’s because they’ve spent the time it takes to learn who the Lord is and unravel the lies that they’ve come to believe about Him. They have laid down their lives to know God, whatever the cost.
If we don’t know deep in our bones that He is good, we’ll always have seeds of distrust in our hearts. If we don’t know that He loves us, that He likes us, we’ll hold back. If we don’t know that He is truly holy and worthy, we won’t give our lives in worship or stand in awe of Him in the way He deserves. Whatever part of God that we have trouble believing, we will keep our hearts hardened and guarded from that aspect of His character.
But if to know Him is to love Him, then all of our effort and attention should be focused on that pursuit. Jesus even tells us that loving him with all we are is the most important matter (Matthew 22:36-40). When we see Him rightly, we can’t help but fall in desperately in love. He’s amazing!! Completely breathtaking.
So that is my one thing. To lay down my life in pursuit of Him, falling in love with the One whose love is deep and alive, tender and healing, wild and beautiful. The One whose love is from eternity. The One who has miraculously chosen to call me His Beloved and will never change His mind.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4