Revelation 21:9 “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” NIV
It only took my first few days at the Michigan university I attended to realize that life in the United States was a just a little bit different then what I was used to in Europe!
One of my first shocks came just days after school started. I entered my dorm room to find a crowd of guys, including my roommate, staring intently at something. Their animated conversation went something like this: “Wow man! Look at this chick! She’s gorgeous!”
Chick? The only “chick” I knew was a baby chicken. Surely they wouldn’t all be sitting around, gawking over an ordinary chicken!
“Nah. This one looks better! Look at how thin she is!”
Thin chickens rather than fat one? What on earth?
That’s when someone shifted enough for me to see the object that was the obvious center of attraction: A magazine! A “chicken” magazine?
“Euh…guys,” I said, rather innocently. “What are you doing?”
The response was unanimously incredulous. “You don’t know??? The Mask just came out!!!”
“Get your own copy, man!” Added my roommate.
The “mask”??? The only mask I knew about was the one you wore to a costume party, or perhaps the one you wore at Mardi Gras. And what did THAT have to do with chickens???
“What’s ‘The Mask?'” I ventured to ask.
“You don’t know?” Asked my roommate unbelievingly. “Oh man, you don’t know what you’re missing. Come look. It has all the pictures of the students at the university with their names and phone numbers. Look at all these gorgeous girls!”
Girls??? A book full of girls??? And they were using it like some kind of a catalogue to determine who they were interested in?
Reducing members of the opposite sex to the level of animals at an auction was most definitely NOT for me! However, peer pressure is strong in a university residence, and I soon found myself calling someone from the Mask to ask her out to the campus movie the next Saturday. I don’t remember much of my conversation over the phone, except that I stammered a lot. That poor girl must have thought I was some kind of an extra-terrestrial fool. She seemed interested enough to talk to me, however. Until she looked me up in her own copy of the Mask, that is! “Oh!” She exclaimed. “I don’t think I’m interested. Thanks anyway.”
A solemn click ended my first and last attempt at using the Mask to get a date. My ego was completely deflated (though perhaps it needed it!), and I felt completely and utterly rejected.
My first encounter with my wife-to-be two years later was quite different. I remember it distinctively. I had accepted a position teaching French at a Washington State college, and my first contact with students was on registration day. I was sitting in my booth in the Modern Language section of the gym, waiting for my potential future students to come and register for my classes, when I saw her. Now, after my “Mask” experience, I had resigned myself to the fact that with a face like mine, I would be a bachelor forever, and I had given up looking for anyone. But when this young lady approached, it was love at first sight. I immediately had the feeling I had known her for years, but what attracted me the most to her was her personality. She was the one meant to me and the Lord (although I didn’t really know Him at that time) made sure I knew that.
Over the next few weeks, we became close friends. At first we joined in activities with others, but soon time alone became more attractive, for this was when we could really talk and get to know one another. It didn’t take me long to realize that she was a treasure provided by my Heavenly Father, and though I still don’t know what she saw in me, our friendship developed into romance.
I have never regretted my decision to marry her. No one can ever fill her shoes. She is my bright, shining star to be cherished till my last breath. Although I sometimes foolishly neglect her, we have become accustomed to each other, and I cherish the moments we are together, even more now, after twenty years of marriage. Oh how I long to spend time with her!
Reflecting on these moments from the past, I realize that often we approach God the same way as when I called that girl out of The Mask. Having never met her, and having no idea what kind of a personality she had, I was setting myself up for disaster. When we don’t have an intimate relationship with our Maker but we call Him out of the blue for the sole purpose of fulfilling our own desires, we are setting ourselves for disaster as well.
Why do we tend to approach God only to obtain His blessings? Is He a kind of Santa Claus? Imagine approaching a young lady and saying to her: “Oh my dear! You are so lovely! Would you marry me so that I can inherit your parents’ estate?”
Would she jump at that opportunity?
Or what about this? “Excuse me. Would you go out with me? You see I just made a bet with my friends…”
Would she be flattered?
God isn’t flattered either when we come to Him for selfish reasons.
However if we search for Him with the purpose of really getting to know Him, He will reveal Himself to us, and His blessings will be added to our lives! Getting to know Him will develop our relationship with Him, and soon we will find ourselves so filled with His love that we can’t even imagine leading a life without Him. Even your relationship with your spouse will pale in comparison to the fellowship you are experiencing with your Heavenly Father.
The New Testament has a special Greek term for that kind of love: Agape. Agape is the kind of love that can only be experienced by knowing God intimately. It’s a sort of love devoid of selfishness and filled with a readiness of self-sacrifice. It’s a love that says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10); and “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people–free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!” (Eph 1:7 The Message) Agape love cannot be replaced by any human kind of relationship. It’s unique to God Himself and worth striving for.
So what will it be, friends? A catalogue approach to God, or a desire to really get to know Him? One leads to hollowness, the other leads to an abundant life filled with a loving relationship beyond your dreams.
The Mask is out! Do you have your copy?