My Greatest Truth

I learned it as a young boy.  Very young.  I couldn’t tell you who taught it to me.  Mom? Dad? Grandma?  Church?  Who would have thought it would become the deepest and most profound truth of my life, the foundation stone upon which everything else rests?

“Jesus loves me, this I know…”

In his book Repenting of Religion, Gregory Boyd says, “Our one need is to simply be people who are loved for free, who are filled with love for free, and who therefore love all other people for free.”  In our search for truth, a search every human being is on whether they know it or not, we are often sidetracked by the misguided need for words, ideas, or systems of belief that have a beyond us sort of feel…an esoteric maxim, a PhD dissertation. Certainly we aren’t looking for a Sunday School song.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the simplicity of it all.  But I have been.  Perhaps you have fallen into the same trap.  My search for assumed complexity misses the glory and richness of the simple.  Eyes for the future cost me the power of the present.  The ticket into the kingdom is childlikeness.  A Sunday School song.

I have, however, had to change some of the lyrics.  I came to a place where “for the Bible tells me so” didn’t cut it anymore.  It wasn’t enough.  God’s love is God’s love not because the Bible says so, but because it has been, as Paul says in Romans, “shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit.”  I know Jesus loves me not because a book (as wonderful a book as it is) tells me so, but because I have experienced His love at the core of my being.  My heart knows it to be true. His love changed my life, healed my soul, and impassioned me.

I experienced it.

With no disrespect for the original version, I sing it a bit differently now.

Jesus loves me, this I know
Because I’ve felt the overflow
No longer words upon a page
But living love, the words replaced
No evil deed nor darkest day
Could ever take that love away
Jesus loves me, this I know
I know, I know
His love, I know


Then Jesus made it plain to them,
“Lazarus is dead.
And for you sake, I’m glad I wasn’t there,
because now you have another opportunity
to see who I am
so that you will learn to trust in me.
Come, let’s go and see him.”
John 11:14-15
(The Passion Translation)

Opportunities to see who He is.

So I can learn to trust Him more.

Those words touch something of the eternal within me, which is beyond yet somehow present to this life, a desire relentlessly wandering my soul desperately seeking satisfaction. Something in the center of my being reacts. It is a pleasant aching, at the same time comforting and discomforting.

Opportunities to know Him more intimately come in the strangest of places. The context in the above quoted passage is the death of a deeply loved friend. Peter had the opportunity in the midst of his own betraying behavior, Levi while sitting in the tax collector’s booth cheating his fellow countrymen, the adulterous woman while brought for the stones of judgment. And, according to Corrie Ten Boom, He can become known and trusted in the midst of a Nazi death camp. Opportunities. To see who He is. To learn to trust Him more.

Not all opportunities are such dire circumstances. The occasion presents itself in a glorious sunset, a cool, gentle rain, or the smile of child; in the pounding waves of a Pacific beach, hiking a densely forested trail, or any number of spectacular settings God has created for our pleasure. The revelation of who He is comes in unexpected friendship, unwarranted favor, and undeserved love. He  is everywhere and in everything.

There is no lack of opportunity to see Him, only lack of eyes to see. I pray for the grace to notice, a keenness of soul, a curious mind, an observant heart, a willing spirit. The occasions present themselves in the course of every day life, in the routine of daily existence. But they must be noticed, and then seized.

I have come to the conclusion I will never find in this life the full satisfaction of heart that I seek. I have experienced tastes and caught glimpses of what my soul longs for. But never the fullness. I believe my capacity for knowing and trusting has, is, and will increase. But the fullness…the ultimate satisfaction that always seems just out of reach will, I think, stay just out of reach. Perhaps so I will keep reaching.

I seem to have made an uneasy peace with that, a begrudging peace, but peace nevertheless. I am never fully satisfied. No matter my experience of Him, I am always left with a longing for more. It is never enough. That being said, I am no less thankful for the seeing and the knowing. They are an incomplete yet incomparable gift. They are a blessing beyond measure. And yet…

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?” Ps. 42:1-2 NLT


Living in Loss

I’m living in the loss
I’m told it is the cost of truly loving
The un-avoided consequence of opening my heart

It seems unfair

Somehow I thought my choice to love
would shield me from the pain
and yet the opposite is true

To deeply love is partnered with
a deeper hurt than I would feel
if choosing to love less

So loss must be embraced

It must be gathered as a treasure
in the storehouse of my heart
and guarded well

Loss has the power to shape my heart
in ways I have been longing for
Unlikely as it seems it is a gift
a gracious gift
but only if received

Forgive me for resistance to Your ways
for they are good, always good
You’re simply doing what
I’ve always longed for
Shaped into the image of your Son

He, Himself, was also shaped
by living in His loss
as did His Father

He chose His way
I must choose mine
and in so doing follow in His steps

Living in loss
Living in love
Hand in hand they walk me toward eternity

Danny Mullins
June 25, 2016

Unending Love

“I trust in the unending love of God.  His passion toward me is forever and ever.”
Psalm 52:8 The Passion Translation

Despite all the songs, books, sonnets, and plays that have, over the course of centuries, featured love as their focus, I have come to believe that our experience of true love is rare. I certainly don’t intend for that statement to come off as cynical. I don’t feel cynical. It’s simply a realization I am coming to.

In my recent Bible reading, I find myself pausing again and again at passages similar to the one quoted above. Perhaps because verses about how much God loves us are so ubiquitous throughout Scripture (they are literally everywhere), it’s easy to give them the knowing nod of intellectual assent and move on to seemingly more interesting subject matter. That is, without a doubt, an accurate description of my life in previous years. There was no maliciousness in what I did; no intent to dismiss or diminish the truth of how much we are loved.  There was simply so much I didn’t know about God’s love.

David describes a love that was not the experience of my life. That is not an accusation toward anyone; just an observation. It does, I think, reveal the poverty of my experience and understanding of the quality of love the Psalmist describes in the lyrics of his song.  He is deeply affected by the eternal nature of God’s love, specifically for him. If love is not personal, I wonder if it is love at all. He uses the words “unending” and “forever and ever.” God’s love cannot be interrupted. No action or lack of action on my part can prevent the love of God from flowing in my direction. It targets my heart regardless of my response to it. I can accept, receive, abide in, ignore, or reject His love, but whatever my posture and response it does not affect it’s flow toward me. It is, most assuredly, as David describes: unending.

I don’t know how to think about that sort of love. I have intellectual and emotional limitations that hinder my ability from fully grasping the nature and extent of such a love. I live with warped perspectives and misshaped beliefs I have acquired through life in a broken world that causes me to see through a distorted lens. I have come to believe the highest goal for my life is learning, living in, and living out the love of God in this life and the next one.

An analogy comes to mind that I am hesitant to use (but apparently not hesitant enough not to use it). Janet and I have four grown sons. Through the years it’s been our experience that boys and dogs go together, so we’ve had our share of them (boys and dogs). I’m thinking particularly of the last dog we had as a family. His name was Bond. He was a rather big guy (60-70 pounds) and had a beautiful white coat with brindle spots and a ring around one eye. We always got admiring looks when we walked him. After our last son moved out, Bond lived out his remaining years with Janet and I.

I find it somehow comforting and joyous to remember him. He was part of our lives for over a decade. The point of this foray into my family history is that despite the fact that Bond was, at times, the focal point of someone’s anger or frustration; despite the fact he was, from time to time, ignored or neglected; despite the fact he was sometimes treated as an inconvenience and nuisance, he never showed any signs of having anything but love for us.

In moments when he was shown even the slightest affection, you would almost immediately find him sitting at your feet with his head in your lap looking up at you with those large, longing eyes enjoying the time and attention you were giving him. Any negative or angry mistreatment of him never deterred his desire to be with any one of us.

My intention is not to compare the love of God with that of a dog (thus my hesitancy to use the analogy), but it’s a rare thing, in my opinion, to encounter that sort of consistent, undeterred, genuine affection with another human being. It’s certainly not unheard of, but in this life it appears to be uncommon to say the least. Because we have experienced it so infrequently, if at all, we have no reference point for what an encounter with God’s love might look or feel like. Though that sort of love is described in the Bible, illustrated through it’s stories, and lived out through the life of Christ, none of those things guarantee my experience of it. My human experience has generally been one of earning the love and respect of others. Unfortunately, that laid the foundation for how I related to the love of God.

Thankfully, things seem to be changing for me (due entirely, I can assure you, to the grace of God). I am finding myself living in an increasing experience of God’s love. The Scriptures regarding His love are no longer nice sentiments but intensely personal notes from God’s hand to my heart. They stop me in my tracks as my heart considers and enters those living, loving words. I understand it at a heart level more than I ever have. At the same time, I also understand that His love that is yet to be experienced is an ocean compared to the little pond I am currently swimming around in.

I have no means or desire to measure where I am on the continuum of experiencing and living in His love. It is enough to live this moment and reach towards the next one. I am becoming keenly aware that my experience of God’s love is the experience people will have of His love through me. As my experience grows, so grows the expression of His love to others through my life. As I catch a longer glimpse of his “passion toward me”, others notice the perfume of that passion. Perhaps that is what Paul was referring to when he spoke of the “fragrance of Christ.”

Unending. Undeterred. Uninterrupted. And hopefully irresistible to all. The experience of God’s love becomes the fuel for living our lives. The lack of it brings any semblance of living to a halt.

And so Paul prays: “May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how long, how wide, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT


“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us…” John 17:21

The Christian mystics describe our journey with God as stages of growth.  Though there are various differences and additions, depending on whom you read, the stages are generally 1) Awakening, 2) Purgation, 3) Illumination, and 4) Union.  Though our Christian walk is a journey that is never fully culminated this side of death, it is also true there is a goal, to use Paul’s words, toward which we press: knowing and being known by God.

Awakening speaks of those initial rays of light that indicate there is something more than darkness.  There is a God.  He can be known.  He desires me.  He delights in me.

Purgation speaks of the stripping away of those things that keep me from knowing Him.  It’s a process God is in charge of.  He, alone, knows  what keeps me from experiencing His loving presence.  In modern vernacular, this stage is Deconstruction: the tearing down of all the false narratives that have been written on the wall of my life.

Illumination is the rewriting of the story.  God’s divine narrative, the only true story, is engraved upon my heart a word, a sentence, a paragraph at a time until the story is fully told.  The light grows brighter.  Darkness continues to fade and the unique creation I am is increasingly revealed.  It is necessary to be a willing partner in the process, but it is the work of God.

Union with God.  Many attempts have been made by those who have traveled far on this journey to describe what union with God is like.  Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich…and more recently Henri Nouwen, Evelyn Underhill, and other dearly devoted followers of Christ.  I cannot write of this stage; only of my longings for it.

In recent months, a yearning grows; a desire to live a life of awareness, an uninterrupted heart-connectedness to One who is always present.  It is already true that God will never be closer to me than He presently is.  Christ’s prayer in John 17 has been answered.  We are one with the Father as Jesus is one with the Father.  Yet, my life often does not reflect that present reality.  Father, Son, and Spirit abide in me.  I am seeking to learn what it means to abide in Them, for in truth I am already there.  In awareness and action, I lag behind.

It is so easy to default to learning language.  I am seeking to learn what it means to abide in Them.  I’m not sure it’s something you learn, at least not in the sense of knowledge.  I’m pretty sure the learning has to do with allowing.  I want to allow and embrace the work of God within my heart, a work I cannot do, a work I can simply embrace.  The wind (Spirit) blows wherever it wills.  We don’t see it.  We only see its effects.  The not seeing  can sometimes be a problem for those of us who imagine we must always understand.

I believe Jesus lived this life as a human being who was constantly aware of His Father’s presence.  I believe it is the life to which I am called.  I believe it’s possible.  My heart yearns for that life.  Perhaps that’s what having Eternal Life means: uninterrupted communion with the Father, a communion that includes but is not dependent on words.  I want to live there, consciously live there.  Help me, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to live there.

As the deer longs for the water, O God, so my soul longs for you.


Weakness and Need

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Recently, I noticed I’d lost a sense of deep need and weakness.  Instead, I noticed a feeling of sufficiency, of imagining I knew something or was able to accomplish something. I also noticed the feeling scared me to death.

Any absence of dependence on God puts me in danger of acting out of my own strength.  In the past, that has proved disastrous for myself and those around me. Nothing good ever comes of it. Perhaps, even more sadly, I had no clue I was doing it.  I was simply doing what I thought you were supposed to do: be productive.

Jesus warns, “Without me you can do nothing.”  It’s not that without him I am incapable of actions; it’s that those actions amount to nothing.  Any actions he is not the source of  are eventually seen for what they are: dust and ashes.  Paul described it as wood, hay, and stubble (1 Cor. 3:12).  If self-inspired, self-sufficient works are tested in any way, they are quickly reduced to the nothing they always were.

As uncomfortable as living in the reality of my constant state of need and weakness is, (and believe me it can be very uncomfortable) it’s much preferable to the lifelessness and strength-draining actions that emerge from my misguided imaginings of an ability to do anything.

The path of weakness and need was the path of Jesus: “Of my own self I can do nothing” (John 5:30).  It was the path of Paul: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).  Why would I imagine my path would be any different?  Jesus said we would do the same works that he did, but I seriously doubt that will happen without living the life he lived, a life of total dependence on the Father.

I suppose it’s that word total that gives me pause.  I’m beginning to catch a glimpse of what that means: dependence in every area of my life.  In the past, it’s been no more than a nice sentiment, a lofty ideal.  Now it’s beginning to take on a life of it’s own as God begins to occupy more and more of my life.

So I’ll take being uncomfortable over living in the deception of sufficiency and being ignorantly and utterly fruitless.  I’m beginning to get a taste of being comfortable with the uncomfortable.  It’s only a taste, mind you.  A tip of your tongue sort of thing.  But who knows?  The taste might eventually become an appetite.