I think that I probably should have done this earlier. Actually, I know I should have. It seems only natural, if I fancy myself a creative writer, that I would write about the love of my life. Maybe even that I wouldn’t be able to stop writing and that I would be compelled to share it–to cry it out from the rooftops even. Great love does that. It makes you create. It makes even the least “flowery” people blossom in response to the grace that is offered when real genuine love takes place.
Jillian has shown me more grace than I thought a person could show, and she does it with the same ease and elegance that seems to propel her when she dances. In all honesty, I am entranced by her. It is an enchantment that fills me up and then spills over.
So on New Year’s Eve I asked her to marry me. First she cried and then she said yes. I wish it would have been the other way around just for my nerves sake. I wish she would have said yes and then cried. Instead, I had to wait. And the truth is that, for her, I am more than happy to.
But lately I have been wondering why I haven’t created and shared more in response to our relationship. Those who know me, have heard me speak, lead worship, or have come across any project that I am apart of know what great importance I place on vulnerability–the bearing of one’s soul in order to help people engage God more freely. And certainly something as big as this in my life would be always on my thoughts and so consequently involved in my creating.
Yet I have been very careful and guarded. Some of the reason lies in my past. I have had bad relationships that have only gotten worse when people have been permitted to muddy the waters as much as they wish so I am leery of that. Most of the reason stems from what I believe Jillian and I are creating…a sacred place. A place where only God, she and I are allowed. The very thought of it makes me smile.
Creating such a space, in my mind, requires great discernment and patience. It means I have to be careful about talking about that space or creating from it. It means I have to be careful, even reverent, entering into and leaving Jillian’s presence.
And there it is…that word. Presence. Isn’t it interesting how your spiritual formation can run parallel to the events in your life? Lately I have been learning about God’s presence. More specifically, remembering his presence.
There are many threads that weave through God’s story. One undoubtedly being a God who is always present and a people who always forget that. Yet in the midst of their (our) forgetfulness God continues to expand the scope of his presence through Jesus and then through the revealing of The Holy Spirit, by whom God not only dwells among us but within us. Now that’s presence.
But it didn’t begin there. When the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt they were given a list of commandments to follow, which can seem a little harsh especially when we immediately picture Charlton Heston standing on a mountainside with his white locks blowing in the wind and his booming voice reverberating off the rock. It looks a little different when we picture a God giving guidelines to his people so that they might not forget him again and chase after generic freedom instead of the authentic kind he offers–the kind that is born from love and parts seas.
Then they are instructed to do something else–to build a space for God.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” -Exodus 25:8+9
And then come the instructions. And they keep coming and coming. In fact,Exodus 25-30 is nothing but specific instructions about how the people of God should construct and conduct themselves around this dwelling place…this tabernacle. We’re talking exact measurements, materials, garments, ceremonies. Everything is precise down to the goat hair and the ram fat.
Now what we know, and what the Israelites surely knew, is that God is big. So there is no way that they believed they were building a place that would encapsulate God or contain him. Even the word tabernacle means something bigger than four walls and a roof. It means to take up residence. So there must have been something to the building of that place. Something that God wanted them to know (or remember) about his presence with them–what it meant for the God of the universe to “take up residence” and then how they were to respond.
When God bent down into the dark and spoke life into existence it was awesome for a lot of reasons. One that strikes me especially is how intricate it all is. Science has helped us to see the detailed nature of God’s creation. He wasn’t sloppy. From the very beginning he was saying something to us. Something like…
“Here, I am building you a place. And in every nook and cranny of it I have carefully placed evidence of my intentions. My intent is to love you so much that I dwell in every part of your being. In every blink of your eye and every step of your feet, I am there. This is my tabernacle”
What other response could we have to that than to meet God’s presence with reverent and humble obedience and awe. So maybe the building of the tabernacle for the Israelites was a practice in responding to God’s presence. That maybe through diligent and meticulous building and ceremony they would be able to remember a God who had never and would never forget them.
My reason for writing about this now is because what usually comes after a wedding proposal that is accepted is a wedding. And, to be honest, I don’t know how I feel about them. I know they are fun and touching, but really what it is is one expensive and uncomfortable day where you see a lot of people and get a lot of pictures taken–an introverts hell, basically. This admittedly negative outlook has managed to seep into the preliminary stages of Jillian and I’s planning for “the big day” and that’s not good.
So I need a different outlook. How about this…
When I asked Jillian to marry me it was because I wanted every part of my life to be a part of our life, if that makes sense. I wanted every laugh, every loss, everything I do to be a part of our marriage. That even when we’re a part we’re not a part. We’re together. That’s a big deal.
Rarely will you get the opportunity in life to construct a day to represent a commitment like that. So I am deciding to plan this wedding as if I am building a tabernacle. So that every dollar saved and every flower chosen is a sign of my taking up residence with my bride–my intentions to be with her. I will let you know how it goes.
Now the big question…if God created this world as his tabernacle then what does that mean for every moment of my life? If everything around me is reminding me of God’s presence then how might the importance of each second change in response to that?