It was the fall of my senior year in high school in Asia. I was seventeen years old, all arms and eyebrows, and convinced I was invisible. My best friends both vowed I was terrified of men—mostly, I was terrified of trusting people. I had no concept of guarding my heart, and no paradigm of what it meant to casually date. I was more accustomed to sitting in a corner with a book while my parents talked to visitors from the U.S. than socially interacting with anyone.
A few years before, I had returned to the United States and home-schooled, living with various aunts and grandmothers while my parents continued their ministry work. I often would spend the night with a cousin a year-and-a-half younger than I was, and would try to fall asleep listening to her on the other side of the bed talking on the phone to the latest boy clamoring for her attention. Most of the time, however, she would fall asleep first and I would stare into the dark and wonder what it would be like to be her. For as long as I could remember—even during the self-avowed “boys are creepy” season—my biggest dream was to find my best friend. Moving as many times as we had, and living among friends whose addresses were as subject to frequent change as ours was, I had grown accustomed to saying goodbye.
The Lord and I talked about relationships frequently—or rather I talked. For the most part, He seemed to stay distant. Obviously, the truth of God’s intimate concern over our weaknesses and fears had not become reality to me at that point. So when He chose to answer me on this particular day, it took me by surprise.
A few months earlier, I had gotten my first personal email address and had subscribed to a Scripture-of-the-day email service. Many times I did not even read what the verse was before deleting the message, but I opened this one and felt the Lord’s tender words washing over me:
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to
persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he
has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and
will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back
will not be pleased with him’.” (Heb. 10:35-38)
I made verse 35 the screensaver on my computer, and turned my attention onto other things. Context or no context, I was comforted for the moment in the belief that after I had done God’s will, He was going to send me the right man. Hebrews 10:35-38 became my life-verse. At the time, though, I had no paradigm to fully understand God’s heart behind this promise.
To what confidence is the writer of Hebrews referring in chapter 10? Simply this—we have confidence in our right to enter the Most Holy Place (total intimacy with God) by the blood of Jesus. God desired—and still desires—intimacy with us, but that intimacy could only come at the cost of His only Son’s life. We run to relationship because we see the depth of His love for us.
Can you imagine how it must have been to live in Israel during their 40 years in the desert? How would it feel to know that God Himself was separated from you only by a couple of curtains? God—the passionate, crazy-in-love-with-you, I-want-you-so-much-I’d-rather-die-than-live-without-you Father; the One who made all those rules only because He wanted some way to let us be near Him; the One who took the burden of making things right on Himself even though we were the ones who messed it all up—tangibly, visibly just a breath away. And then I think of Adam, and remember that curtains weren’t in the original design.
The push that begins growing in my spirit when I start thinking about how closely with us God wants to walk often lasts for days. Nevertheless, apathy is a formidable enemy. It is often easier to remain passionate about walking with God when faced with persecution than when faced with ease. The writer of Hebrews exhorted his Christian brothers and sisters to remember the persecution they had faced in the beginning, and to cling to their passion for intimacy in light of the joy in which they suffered. In this mindset they were to hold fast to their confidence that God desires relationship, even when we don’t feel we need Him as much. “Don’t fall back into legalistic doctrine” (Hebrews 10:1). “Don’t stop going to church” (Hebrews 10:18). “Be unswerving, full of love, and as zealous as you always were.”
In His kindness, God allowed the pastor of JD’s family church touch briefly on Hebrews 10:35 the weekend I met his parents. I sat between JD and his mother, already overwhelmed by the kindness and genuine love I had experienced the entire weekend. When I heard my favorite verse from the pulpit, tears sprang into my eyes; it was as if God had whispered a little secret only He and I would get at that moment. It was the crowning glory on a perfect weekend, and yet another confirmation for me that He was actively involved in bringing JD and me together (more on that coming in future installments).
However, I am grateful that my appreciation for Hebrews 10:35 is not bound up in JD. It remains my life verse because it remains a challenge to me to daily deny tradition and trade spiritual “comfortableness” for active relationship. God really, really, really, really likes us—it’s not just a matter of love by obligation. He likes being with us and He likes it when we chase after Him. He sends His love and His mercy to follow you all of the days of your life if you walk in relationship with Him. May you pursue Him with the same abandon.