I remember the day I finally took the training-wheels of my first child’s bicycle and spent the day running along with my hand on the back of his seat teaching him to balance on his own. After much effort he managed to wiggle and wobble along without my hand. He was afraid, confused, frustrated, excited – and at the end of the day said, “Dad, I want you to put my training wheels back on. It’s too hard without them and I’m not very good at bike riding.” And, of course, he was right – he wasn’t very good at bike riding (yet), and it was a lot easier to ride with the training wheels on. But can you imagine what might have happened if I had agreed to this request? He might be the only kid in High School with training wheels on his mountain bike!
So chapter 1 knocked the training wheels off your spiritual walk. It was strange, uncomfortable, difficult – it feels like you had to think a lot more than you should about God and your own soul – but don’t throw in the towel yet. Just like you got better at riding your bike, and may have even learned to love cycling – so you will grow stronger in your spiritual walk as you challenge your mind to comprehend thoughts other than your own.
So, let me ask you:
1) How did this chapter challenge you to grow spiritually?
2) What part of this chapter confused you and left you with questions? Did you understand ‘Prevenient Grace’? Did you grasp what he meant when he spoke of God as a ‘person’? Did you get lost in the archaic language of the ‘Cloud of Unknowing?
3) Think big picture first – what was the over-arching purpose of the chapter?
4) Consider for yourself how you might apply this chapter in a meaningful way this week.
Below is a bit of my own reflection on the chapter – its longer than I intended, so read it if you have time – but my priority for you is to read Tozer and reflect on your own life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Don’t get confused by Tozer’s reference to God as a person – he isn’t saying that God is a human; rather he is saying that he has all the aspects of personality (and more) that you might find in a human. You can come to know another human in a much more intimate way than you will ever know your dog or your cat – because humans are persons. Over time we can come to know another person, our child, our spouse, our friend in very deep and intimate ways.
For example, when I first met my wife I was not attracted to her at all – she was 6 and I was 9. Sometime later, when she was 14 and I was 17 I found a strange stirring in myself that can only be considered attraction. A few years after that, when she was almost 19 and I was 21 I found myself smitten by her beauty and desiring to know her more. She lived on the other side of the continent, and so I spent a great deal of time writing letters, I wrote daily, I told her about myself and I asked her questions – I wanted to know her, I wanted to know everything about her, I wanted to know her thoughts from the trivial to the profound. And I found that the more I knew her, the better I loved her. Then came Valentine’s Day 1997, when, given all the knowledge I then possessed, it seemed to me right that I spend the rest of my life with this delightful creature – so I asked her to marry me.
Now… did I at that time know her fully? (Scoff!!!) But I knew her well enough to know I loved her, and I loved her enough to want to know her more. This is the point that Tozer illustrates in chapter 1 about God being a ‘person’ or better, a ‘personality’. He is saying that God is knowable, and not only is he knowable, he wants to be known. And this process of knowing, loving and desiring has the capability to consume us (and it should) with desire for God.
(By the way – the reason that I can know my wife and love her and desire her is because God made me that way! He made me in his image, and gave me the capacity to know and to love and to desire in a way that was never given to any of his other creatures. So it is not strange that the primary purpose of this ‘capacity’ is that I should know, love and desire God, and the secondary purpose that I should apply this capacity to other humans.)
Tozer writes (just before the little verse about ‘Shoreless Ocean…): “The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God. It is, however, not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful (read awesome) and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end.”
Let me take you back to my illustration of my wife and I. What point in my relationship to my wife would be comparable to the moment of salvation? I think it would be my wedding day; up until that point she was somewhat known to me, I loved her and she loved me, but on my wedding day I committed myself to loving her and knowing her and desiring her for the rest of my life. (So God may also woo us and draw us before the moment salvation. But in the moment of faith I am justified once and for all.) Was my wedding day an end or a beginning? Yes – both – it was the declaration and action based on knowledge and love and desire – but it would be sad if that was the high point of love and everything had remained the same from that point on. (Worse yet, if it had deteriorated after that day.) But it didn’t it was the WAY IN to greater knowledge, greater love, greater desire – and it was marked by an EXCLUSIVITY that said, “She is mine alone and I am hers alone.” So with salvation, it marks the moment when I belong to God and have taken him for my own – but it is not really a conclusion, but a beginning that can (and should) captivate me throughout my life!
Now, I hope many of you have the experience of knowing human love in this lifetime and being loved and loving another. But for many this experience will be sadly marred by sin or suffering or may never materialize at all – yet we can experience this sort of love with God, and not only can it satisfy us, it is what we were made for!
Your future reality may not be your present experience (surely it is not). You may, right now, feel towards God as I did towards my wife at age 17, somewhat attracted, but not caught up in a rhapsody of rapture, not transfixed by glory or drawn by desire. But you’re here! You’re reading a book called: The Pursuit of God; whether you realize it or not, it is evidence of PREVENIENT GRACE of God beckoning you into the relationship that will one day satisfy you entirely.
So, I invite you – keep on reading, and pray, if you can, the prayer written at the end of this little chapter, “…I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God… I want to want Thee… Begin in mercy a new work of love within me…”