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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

learning to gaze

Last spring I had a dear friend come to town to spend some time helping me and a group of my friends here in Knoxville reflect on and discuss the idea of cultivating intimacy in our relationship with Jesus.  The discussion took place in two parts.  First, with a large group of people on a Friday night in a kind of "question and answer" format.  And then, for a good bit of the next day, in a smaller group context that was much more quiet and reflective. 

During the Friday night session, as people were just beginning to arrive at the venue, I was standing with my friend talking about our hopes for the evening ahead, when all of the sudden my wife walked into the room.  Now, I'll have to admit that often times I catch myself just staring at her, amazed at who she is and what she means to me.  Well, apparently this was one of those times because my friend stopped talking and just began to look at me with a big grin on his face.  When I finally noticed that he was not talking anymore, but was watching me and my reaction to my wife walking into the room, I began to grin myself and replied, "What?"  I knew he had caught me.

"Oh nothing," he said, "I was just enjoying the way you look at your wife.  As a matter of fact, you weren't just looking at her, it was something way more than that."  And indeed it was.

As we continued standing there together we both just smiled.  Because that look, and the heart behind it, was the very thing we were going to be talking about in the hours and minutes that followed.  That look is the stuff intimacy is made of.  That look is the way God looks at us; and the way he longs for us to look back at him.  In fact, it is more than a look, it is a gaze.  How can we learn to gaze at God, and be gazed on by him?  If we can learn the answer to that question, I have a suspicion that intimacy between us will never be an issue again.

If you look up the word gaze in the dictionary you will find that it means to look intently and longingly, with great pleasure and wonder.  It is the kind of look David talked about in Psalm 27:4 when he said, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in his temple."  If we could only learn to gaze at Jesus, and watch Jesus as he gazes at us, I believe it would change everything about our relationship with him.

But how do we learn to do that?  The best answer I can give goes right back to that room as my wife walked in.  Maybe the best thing I can do is to think about the way(s) I look at my wife; how I think about her, what it does to my heart within me, and how it makes me feel about her.  When I gaze at Carol it can be in so many different ways.  At times I catch myself gazing at her as a wife and being overwhelmed with how incredible a wife she really is--especially being married to a guy like me.  She is so loving and gentle and kind.  I'm not sure I have ever met a person as genuinely kind as she is.  At other times I can find myself gazing at her as a mother, being overcome with how well she loves and cares for and prays for and sacrifices for our kids.  At times I gaze at her as a friend, loving how easily and often she laughs and smiles, how safe and free the space she offers me is, how easy she is to be with and how delightful she is to be around, as well as how she is so "for me" in everything I do.  And the list just goes on and on.  I could just as easily tell you how I gaze at her as a lover (with beauty beyond all I have ever seen...but we will keep this G-rated), or as a worker, or as a daughter, or as a sister--all of which she is incredible at!

All of this offers me a great picture of what it means to gaze at Jesus.  I need to spend time gazing at Jesus in the same way: Jesus as friend, Jesus as brother, Jesus as teacher, Jesus as lover.  Not to mention Jesus as Savior, Jesus as Redeemer, Jesus as Suffering Servant, or Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Today, for example, my reading for the day was in John 10 and I had the opportunity to gaze at Jesus as the Good Shepherd; tenderly loving, gently leading, faithfully providing and protecting, constantly calling my name as he leads and guides.  The possibilities are endless.  The point is that if we want true intimacy with Jesus, I think that we will have to become good at the art of gazing.  For when we do, and we get good at the art of watching him gaze at us in return, intimacy will be the natural result.

So, by all means, may we do exactly what David writes about in Psalm 27 and constantly make space and time to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.

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