“This hunger for something radical—something so true that it burned in his bones—was a constant in Eugene’s life. His longing for God ignited a ferocity in his soul.”Winn Collier, A Burning In My Bones
I just finished reading a biography of Eugene Peterson, A Burning In My Bones, written by Winn Collier. The quote captures a thought that has stuck with me today – a question –
Does my longing for God ignite a fire in my bones?
In the deep of winter, Herman looked at a barren tree, stripped of leaves and fruit, waiting silently and patiently for the sure hope of summer abundance. Gazing at the tree, Herman grasped for the first time the extravagance of God’s grace and the unfailing sovereignty of divine providence. Like the tree, he himself was seemingly dead, but God had life waiting for him, and the turn of seasons would bring fullness. At that moment, he said, that leafless tree “first flashed in upon my soul the fact of God,” and a love for God that never after ceased to burn.~from a biography about Brother Lawrence
That idea again, in a biography about Brother Lawrence, a love for God so intense, it was described as a fire, a burning within.
And what might that burn within look like? In reading Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 to the Pharisees twice.
I ·want [desire; delight in] ·faithful love [mercy; lovingkindness] ·more than I want animal sacrifices [and not sacrifice]. I want ·people to know me [the knowledge of God] more than I want burnt offerings.Hosea 6:6 EXB
[Jesus speaking to the Pharisees]Matthew 9:13 EXB
Go and learn what this means: ‘I ·want [desire; require; am pleased by] ·kindness [compassion; mercy] ·more than I want [ not] animal sacrifices [Hos. 6:6].’ [For] I did not come to ·invite [call] ·good people [the righteous; meaning the “self-righteous” who feel no need to repent] but to invite [call] sinners [ those who recognize their need to repent].”
[Jesus quoting scripture to the Pharisees]Matthew 12:7 EXB
The Scripture says, ‘I want ·kindness more than I want animal sacrifices [ mercy and not sacrifice; Hos. 6:6].’ If you ·understood [had known] what these words mean, you would not have ·judged those who have done nothing wrong [condemned the innocent/guiltless].
Clearly, to burn with a love for God within has little to nothing to do with self-righteousness, with judging others. In fact, we can let our Christian practices get in the way of knowing God – especially if we engage in them as routine, checking the boxes, somehow seeing our service for Him as some sort of misplaced sacrifice.
Jesus shows the Pharisees that he has a different view of what it means to be a sinner than they do. … The Pharisees consider themselves to be righteously healthy before God because they define righteousness by their observance of the law — their “sacrifice.” But they are blind to their real sinfulness before God.Michael Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary
Instead, God invites me, invites you, to see our “real sinfulness before God.” It is not that He doesn’t want our good deeds (ie., church attendance, adhering to the law), but He wants the motivation of our hearts to be for HIM! He wants us to learn His kindness, His compassion, His mercy. He invites us to experience Him with repentant hearts, understanding that apart from His grace we are undone.
My soul yearns, even faints,Psalm 84:2 NIV
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
May this be the prayer of our hearts!