The best worship links thinking large thoughts about God with feeling deep affections for God. It is choosing to be captivated by the beautiful holiness of Glory. Of course, that head-and-heart dance doesn’t just show up on Sunday mornings; it is the result of a life spent in the pursuit of what Packer calls ‘knowing God.”
So, I was intrigued to see this brief piece in the On Faith forum at WashingtonPost.com by Tullian Tchividjian, a pastor and grandson of Billy & Ruth Graham. His observations track very closely with what we discussed Sunday. The emphases are mine; the model of how to live a life of worship to God’s glory is humbling.
An interviewer recently asked me what trends I see among younger Christians today that encourage me. I remarked that one of the things which I find tremendously encouraging is the groundswell of interest in theology among young adults. What’s unique, however, about this movement is that it has not only a strong intellectual dimension to it, but a strong emotional dimension to it as well. These young adults are not simply thinking deeply about God, they are feeling deeply for God. They are properly blending precept and passion, depth and delight, gravity and gladness, truth and love. They understand well the connection between thinking and feeling as it concerns our knowledge of God-and how indispensable God-centered emotion is in our relationship to God. Jonathan Edwards used to say that people not only need to hear about the holiness and majesty of God, but even more importantly, they need to sense his holiness, they need to feel his majesty. These young adults are “getting it,” and I couldn’t be happier.
One example of someone who understood this better than anyone I know was my grandmother, Ruth Bell Graham, who recently passed away at the age of 87. Her capacity to blend thinking and feeling regarding her relationship to God remains unsurpassed, in my biased opinion. To illustrate this for you I’d like to share an excerpt from my new book “Do I Know God?” (Multnomah Books, a division of Random House)
“When I pulled up to their modest log cabin, my heart started to race. I’ve been visiting my grandparents at their mountain home just outside Asheville, North Carolina, my whole life. But spending time in the home of Billy and Ruth Graham continues to be a powerful experience for me. My grandparents have been walking with God for more than seventy years, and they know him better than anyone else I know. Their simple, single-hearted devotion to their Lord saturates virtually everything they say and do. Every time I spend a few days with them, I leave with a renewed passion to know God the way they do.
I walked through the front door and immediately made my way back to their bedroom, where I knew they were waiting for me. My grandfather sat in a chair next to Tai Tai (it’s what I call my grandmother), who was sitting up in bed. Neither of them gets around well anymore, so they spend most of their days together in their bedroom reading, talking, and praying. When I walked into the bedroom, their faces lit up. After giving them both a hug and kiss, I sat down next to Tai Tai. They asked me about Kim, the kids, and the church. I asked them how they were doing.
As we talked, I noticed a large three-ring binder next to my grandmother. The open page contained eight or ten words in extremely large print. I asked her what it was. She told me that because her vision is so bad now, she had asked her assistant to type up all 150 psalms in big, bold letters and put them in three-ring binders. She pointed to her shelf, where there were at least ten more binders containing the rest of the psalms. Every day she sat in bed, incapable of moving on her own, meditating on and memorizing those psalms.
That image, testifying to her passion for God, affected me profoundly. My grandmother was in her late eighties, with severe physical limitations, but she pursued fellowship with God with every last bit of energy she possessed. Because of her lifelong thirst for God, I consider Tai Tai to be one of the greatest Christians I’ve ever known.”
After I kissed my grandmother good night and went to bed, I couldn’t fall asleep. I lay there thinking and praying, “Oh God, I want to desire you the way Tai Tai desires you. I want to experience the same holy passion for you that is so evident in her.”
As we seek to grow as disciples who joyfully pursue intimacy with God as part of a life of knowing and treasuring Jesus above all things, may more and more of us pray that prayer– and live it!