Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts on "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning, Part 2

At the end of each chapter of "The Furious Longing of God," Brennan Manning lists a couple questions to consider for further application.  The first question of the book is "When you read that phrase--the furious longing of God--what emotions or images does it evoke?"  Here is what I wrote on some notebook paper in response to that question:

Fury is a lightening storm, tearing across the night sky.  Fury is an earthquake, knocking down buildings and swallowing the earth.  Fury is a tornado, ripping trees from the ground and hurtling them through windows.  Fury is a hurricane, overtaking land and life with wind and wave.  What has fury to do with love?  Fury is a mother bear protecting her cubs from danger.  Fury is a father when he learns his child has been kidnapped.  Fury is a lover who has learned his lover has been greatly wronged.

Fury is vengeance, wrath, power unleashed.  But furious longing?  Does longing have the propensity to be furious?  Furious longing would be desperation, unquenched desire, unfulfilled need.  Longing implies lacking-- to long means one is not complete.  Yet God is complete and whole, lacking in nothing.  He has perfect union and fellowship within the Trinity.  What need has He of me?  And to call it furious-- I rather envision more a passive, "Oh, sure, it would be nice if she would join us, but no big loss either way."

The thought of God longing for me like a lover, a Father, a hurricane-- I cannot picture it.  And surely His longing is for His Church and not for me as an individual?  How rather arrogant to suppose I'm singled out.  One lost sheep versus the ninety-nine-- I've detached myself from Biblical exegesis so much, being careful to not apply which was not meant to be applied to me, that I  no longer can truly envision a passage such as this as having anything to do with me.  Furious wrath, yes, but furious longing?

Surely this is just the impassioned cry of a lover and not applicable to the place I hold in God's heart.  Then again, would God not love more deeply, more passionately, more fully-- more furiously-- than any human lover?

Love requires an other.  If God is love, His love must have an object.  He would be fully justified, in His perfection, to make that object Himself alone.  Yet He chooses to direct His love towards people and invite them into a union with Him.  Not just invite but relentlessly pursue, like a tireless lover.  I cannot grasp that imagery in relation to me.


Dan Martin said...

I read you loud and clear. . .I'm in a very similar place to what I hear in you. That God loved his created cosmos is clear in scripture. That God loves the individual (me) awfully hard to grasp. I go out of my way to communicate my love to those I love--in ways THEY can feel and understand, not on my terms. If I can do that despite my weakness and imperfection, it's hard for me to understand why I find the detection of God so difficult. One can believe and still be really alone. . .

Thanks for having the courage to say it out loud!

E. A. Harvey said...

Thanks for your comment, Dan. I started to better understand the love of God after I had children of my own, but still I struggle with the idea that God wants to be with "me" and Jesus would have died for "me alone." I keep reminding myself of Matthew 7:9-11, as you allude to-- if we being evil know how to give good things to those we love, how much more so can our heavenly Father! I wonder if I'm partly reacting against the "me and Jesus" theology that so many Christians live on (including myself at one point) that is disconnected from a larger story and the community of believers. But maybe I've lost myself in the crowd. It's encouraging to hear that others have the same thoughts and feelings-- thanks!