“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” ― Psalm 42:1-2 (ESV)
I remember it like it was yesterday, and that’s why I know it was a God-moment.
Almost twenty years ago I was speaking at a youth camp. It was the first camp that I had been invited to where I had to fly to the camp. And because I had to take a 55-minute flight, I knew that I had “made it” as a preacher (oh how time changes one’s perspective).
The camp went well. I flew home and got back to ministry at the church that I was working at. About a month after that speaking opportunity that same camp invited me back for the next summer. Eleven months out and this camp was asking me back. I was now in high demand (again, how time changes one’s perspective). I “prayed about it” by immediately saying yes.
Eleven months passed and I was driving up to the camp again, this time with Kelley. We arrived that Sunday afternoon and got settled in. As the first chapel got closer I was both excited and nervous. I prepared all of my “best stuff” once again and was ready to make everyone laugh (again, how time changes one’s perspective). So I preached the first message and felt like it was a total flop.
After chapel, Kelley and I went back to our room. As I put down my stuff I asked her, feeling defeated, “So what did you think? How was the message?” She looked at me with pure love in her eyes and said, “I’ve heard better.” UGH!!! I knew it. And then I had this thought come to mind: “Let’s go for a walk.” It wasn’t a thought that brought great comfort but more like that long walk that you have to go on in order to get to the shed with your dad before the discipline happens. So I told Kelley that I had to go and have a chat with Jesus.
So I walked down to the field where I could be alone. And as I walked there I felt frustrated because nothing else was coming to mind. I was just standing there in the middle of a dark, grass field by myself, looking lost (and I think that I was kind of lost more than I knew now that I think about it). As I stood there a car passed by me with their headlights on. I gave an uncomfortable wave, realizing that my being out in the field looked a little weird. And as they passed by, my attention was directed to behind me. Because of their headlights lighting up the grass field I saw three or four deer grazing in the grass behind me, only about 30 away. I hadn’t even seen them when I stood out there waiting for God to answer. And as my gaze fixed on those three or four deer, this thought came to mind:
“As a deer pants for water so my soul longs for you. So Brian, does your soul long for me or are you just the camp speaker?”
And there it was. The still small voice of the Holy Spirit coming down on me like a velvet covered fist as he confronted the most important thing going on in my life: me. I had become the show. I was the camp speaker who was in high demand (again, perspective) but who had lost his true passion to passionately pursue Jesus like a deer pants for water.
Today? It’s all Jesus. He has had to take me through times of breaking and wilderness wanderings, but he has been so faithful to me, bringing me to a true love and passion and longing for Jesus.
As you read this, wherever you are in this journey of life, let me give you this advice (and take or leave it): make your heart’s aim to passionately pursue and abide in Jesus. Fall so deeply and madly in love with him that you being with him is not a monotonous religious ritual but rather a passionate love affair with a God who cannot get enough of you. You were created for him. Nothing else but him. And even as Christians we can get so fixated and/or addicted to ministry FOR Jesus that we neglect and ignore that invitation to walk with Jesus and do ministry WITH Jesus.
So may we, as followers of Jesus, be known for our passionate love for Jesus. May our relationship with him be just that: a relationship that encompasses every aspect of our beings. May we enjoy him as we enjoy our calm walk with him, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that he truly enjoys walking with us as well. And may our pursuit of him be the true passion of our lives.
Love you all more than you know,