Romancing God

The conversation with a warrior man went something like this. 

“I’ve always seen God in terms of my performance. Am I pleasing him, or is he angry at me? When I sin, I feel like I’m in the doghouse. And, yes, I’ve been taught that Jesus forgives me, but the weight of my shame makes it feel like I have to try harder.”

You could see the pain on his face. He truly wants to follow God, but this idea of it being more than a checklist seemed foreign to him.

“I read my Bible. I pray, go to church, and am in a small group. I try to be the nice Christian guy, but there are days my heart just isn’t there. I get so tired of all this doing. How much more do I need to do for God to delight in me?”

And that conversation with an absolutely awesome young man also rang true to with what I felt like at his age; being this nice Christian guy who did all the right things and yet felt exhausted half the time. I cannot keep up.

Romancing God

When you unpeel the layers of performance, you find out that the Bible is saturated with this unrelenting pursuit of a romantic relationship with God. In fact, at the very core of who God is, is his desire to pursue us, to fall in love with us. 

Romance: a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. Oxford Dictionary

In Ephesians 5, Paul shows us the parallel of God romancing us, the church, and how a husband and wife are to emulate that type of intimate romance.  In James 4:5, we learn that God longs for the spirit that he created in you. In Matthew, we see how Mary chose the greater thing by simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. 

I Just Want to Be with You

My wife hails from Canada. We were introduced by a matchmaker. When she immigrated to the USA, she left everything to be with me. To be in love with me. Of all the things I do as a husband to provide for her and our family, she wants nothing more than to be with me. She longs for time with me. I could take her to the most expensive restaurant in town or down the street to Taco Bell. What we eat is less of an issue. She just wants to be with me. And, that romantic feeling is reciprocal. I long to be with her as well. 

God wants to spend time with you. Sure, He loves it when you are in His Word, when you pray, and gather with other believers. Those things bring Him delight. But, more than all of those great things, He wants your heart. You. 

Funeral for Six

The novel idea that God wants my heart, not just my performance first hit me at a funeral. When I was 16, my good friend, Kevin was killed in a car/train accident. In fact, 6 of the 8 kids in the car were instantly killed. Keep in mind, that sixteen-year-olds think they are invincible. Looking at Kevin’s body in his casket blew me away. Due to my own duplicit lifestyle of trying to look the part of a good Christian boy, I was far from Jesus in my heart. I was more interested in my sexual feelings and vices I could secretly experiment with. 

Sitting at a funeral with six caskets was almost more than I could handle. When they got to Kevin, they talked about his life and his love for Jesus. Holding up his Bible, the speaker read off verses that Kevin had highlighted and underlined.  “My favorite verse…” “God, I long for you…” 

Tap on the Shoulder

That’s when it happened. It was as if someone tapped on my right shoulder.  No one was there. The person behind me definitely didn’t tap me. My friend, Ronnie, who was sitting to my left, didn’t. Then, who did? That tap came with a voice. Not audible, but deep in my spirit. “I want to spend time with you, David, but I can’t do that if you don’t slow down long enough to meet with me?” I was aware enough that it was the Lord talking to me. He had me. What I’ve come to realize since is during my teen and 20’s my soul longed to be known. No human on the planet had taken a real interest in me. Sure, they wanted me to do things for them, things I was good at. But, to take the time to know me, my heart, what makes me tick, and what things in life confused me, no one. I was alone and the pain was excruciating.

That funeral on a hot summer day in Kansas, started a life-long romance with God. He captured my heart, and understood me down to the core of my soul. I began experiencing his forgiveness, his incredible patience with me. My heart grew warmer towards the things of God. My motivation for being in the Word, for worship, and for fellowship shifted from obligation to desire. Things have not been the same since.

Vicious Cycle

Often, when guys leave home for college or the military or the work world, they also leave church. Warrior-aged men are among the least likely to attend church. In leaving church, they also leave God. Their Bible is lost, they have no interest in joining a small group or participating in Jesus things. Why? Perhaps while they were participating in middle and high school youth groups, attending summer camps and other church-related events, they never understood or experienced the relational aspects of life in Christ. Jesus was a thing to do, not the most awesome person in the Universe to know!

Life without Jesus is a vicious cycle of one diversion to another. Anything to feed the soul but none of it endures. In fact, life without Jesus turns male/female romance into a sensual adventure instead of finding true oneness.

The more a man understands being romanced by God, the more he will be able to romance a woman. 

Three Steps to Romancing God

  1. God longs for your heart. When you spend time in the Word or prayer, they become an avenue for you to hear from God. To connect with Him.
  2. Allow your emotions to engage with God. Some guys are creative, others analytical. Creativity not anchored in the Word leads to heresy. Obligation without the Spirit leads to legalism. Romance involves emotions. Keep them anchored in who God is.
  3. Bring all of your life under the loving hand of God. He longs for your whole life, the mundane to the extraordinary. I’m so glad I can come to him anytime, anywhere for anything, and know that even in the toughest situations, his every move towards me is love. 

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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