Flames and burning coal

Once upon a time the highs and lows came in abundance. The excitement of getting to know each other, the conversations that drag late into the night, having (or perceiving to have) so much in common, the fluttering heart and butterflies when you "accidentally" meet each other in the corridor, the ecstasy of just holding hands, and the purring contentment of simply being near the other person. On the other hand there were the tears of parting, even for a ridiculously short period of time, the uncertainty of what he really thinks, and the endless angst of waiting for messages or phone calls. The first flames, infatuations, are deceptive, you're adamant that the person is so perfect when you've only known them for a few days. How hilarious. (It's ok, I'm mocking myself too.)

Familiarity changes relationships - from sweet words to hurtful arguments, admiration to contempt. Fine, let's not be cynical, there are good changes too. The rollercoaster ride of romance turns into a valuable friendship, someone with a deep understanding of your thoughts, feelings, tone and moods.

A parallel to my relationship to God. The first time I started understanding the words of the Bible, saw depth in the layers of meaning, listened to God's words spoken and realised how true! how relevant to everyday life! how wise! - do you know, that was as refreshing, as fascinating as the start of a new relationship. Once in awhile I really saw God's words as his "love letter" to us. The first experiences of God's presence in times of turmoil, opening my eyes to God's grace when I've sinned, experiencing changes in my character that even my family were surprised to see - that left such a deep, moving impression on my spirit.

Yet now, I'm finding the enthusiasm harder to come by. Hate to say it (because it sounds disgustingly arrogant) but sometimes I read and think, well I've only read about the Christmas story, the account of the crucifixion, the letter to the to the Corinthian church like a million zillion times. What can I possibly learn. Then, when I think about which book of the Bible to spend my reading time on I sometimes can't help think - if only there were new books in the Bible I haven't read before, that would be so much more exciting.

I've always loved church and fellowship, and couldn't understand why some Christians avoid it when loving, learning, and serving together with fellow believers is clearly how God wants his family to live. And not only that, meaningful fellowship is such a blessing. Yet this week I thought, I am so tired I don't want to go to church. Why do I have to go. These months I often have problems listening with my heart in sermons because I sigh and think I know this passage well, I've heard the concepts and teachings before. (But yes, as long as I haven't put everything perfectly into practice, I would do well to listen attentively.) Then when I went to fellowship the other day prayer made me groan inside "oh no, why is this so long, boring and repetitive."

What did Jesus say to churches who endured life threatening persecution but lost their "first love"?

You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. - Revelations 2:3-4

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! - Revelations 3:15

But I know (or doubt sometimes, but I still believe more than I doubt) you are God, you are real, your words have power. I know you give me purpose, joy, mental stability. It troubles me deeply to be lethargic towards something that is my passion, but enthusiastic or not I will try to honour my commitment to you, seeking you as you have sought me.

"We shouldn't expect a relationship with God to remain on a constant plane all the time. Not long ago I celebrated my sixty-fifth wedding anniversary. Believe me, when you've been married that long, you don't stay on a plane of ecstasy all the time. Romance starts as a blazing bonfire - you know, 'You light up my life.' After a few decades it settles into something more like a heap of glowing coals. Sure, some of the heat dissipates, but coals are good, too; you can roast marshmallows, or warm your feet. A different level of companionship opens up." - Vernon, in Prayer by Philip Yancy

Indeed, in front of the fireplace is a good place to start contemplating about the changing flames in a relationship.



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