Devotion: A Sacred and Signature Affection!
“The material creation is not just some detour from our heavenly existence. It is the very good abode created by our heavenly Father. Creation is not some icky, regrettable mistake on God’s part. It is the product of his love.” James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love.
It sounds strange to claim that delight begins with devotion. When we think of delight, or things we enjoy, we intuitively assume that devotion is the last thing required. Who needs devotion to enjoy things like ice cream, or a roller coaster, or a massage, for example?
Yet, for those activities that require more than the fleeting enjoyment of temporary pleasures like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, for example, true delight is both uncovered and discovered through living a life that’s devoted.
Devotion, which is, in my opinion, one of the signature gifts of Christ’s Ascension, is also woven into the very fabric of Creation. The joy of practicing devotion or the desire to practice devotion – is also a Signature Affection of Creation.
The Thumbprint of God’s Love
The phrase Signature Affection is one that helps me imagine what the thumbprint of God’s love feels like. I employ this phrase more precisely to signify a God-given love (affection), delivered by the Father, to His Children, at the time of Creation. This love has, unfortunately, long-since been distorted or leveraged for lesser loves.
Yet, to have been touched by His love once – to have tasted of His Signature Affection – is to long for its touch again! Indeed, our thirst for love can be traced back to this initial moment when we once drank deeply at the well of His love! I think this is the type of experience Tolkien was hinting toward when he penned, “We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature…is still soaked with the sense of exile.”
This Edenic longing, to which Tolkien refers, is a desire to experience the type of goodness in today’s world we once enjoyed in the Creation account. It’s the type of goodness James K. A. Smith discusses in the quote which launches this blog. A reminder that Creation is not some lamentable choice God wants back, but the very outcome of and product of divine love.
Framing devotion within creation is important because to do so will help us see how the Father both lovingly and deeply wove the practice of devotion into the wool of human life!
The Father’s Love as the First Love
But why devotion? Why is that a Signature Affection of Creation? Because the ultimate goal of our Father is that we, his children, take constant delight in Him! He knows that delight – unending, eternal, totally satisfying delight – cannot be experienced apart from devotion. Or better, the practice of devotion. In fact, practicing devotion is the way to properly order or align our loves. As our loves become properly ordered, then we begin to taste the unending delight our Father alone offers!
What’s abundantly clear in the Creation account is that we began this life with our loves properly ordered! This proper ordering is notable when one reads some of the earliest interactions the Father has with His creation.
See, for example, Genesis 1:26 – 31:
“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.”
Devotion Was and Is Required for Community
The creation account drips with delight. In this pristine environment, God is inviting us to a life of devotion. It’s a life of devotion for us built by a Creator who is devoted to us. AS we read further into the Creation account, we find that the resources are extravagant. They are lavishly showered over us and creation as a whole. Furthermore, we are invited to enjoy the resources – a joy, or delight, which would naturally spring forth from our devotion to Him.
In other words, God knows that our ongoing enjoyment of Him will by-in-large depend on our ongoing devotion to Him. As long as we are devoted to Him, then our delight in Him will be the force behind our desire for Him. In creation, devotion, delight, and desire are joined. It’s as if they are entwined, even entangled in an eternal dance with one another.
Notice that this convergence of devotion, desire, and delight is also experienced in the rhythms and rituals of everyday life. There are at least three of these ancient and ordinary rhythms. These rhythms are, in one way or another, commonly experienced by every human who has ever walked the planet.
The rhythms and routines of everyday life are:
Rhythms and Rituals: A Reflection of Divine Love
The everyday rhythms of work (cultivate), relationship (be fruitful and multiply), and rest/worship, were and are the original and sacred context in which devotion was enacted. Devotion was originally practiced in the communal rhythms and rituals that are common in the experience of everyday life.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, takes place outside of the context of meaningful community within the story of Creation. The story of Creation is nothing less than the story of the Sacred ordering of life.
There was and is a profound and powerful beauty in this process. If Adam and Even had persisted in devotion, they would have discovered desire for more of each other, the Father, and the fruit of their labor. If they’d have discovered this sacred – desire, or right ordering of their loves, they would have found rest in their delight of the Father and their delight in the Father.
The sacred rhythm we find in Genesis 1 – 2 is shaped by divine love. This divine Love manifests itself in devotion to God, one another, and creation. As we experience devotion in these three sacred areas, we then desire more of the joy we find in God, one another, and creation. As we discover this joy – which is the natural outcome of rightly ordered desire – we then take delight in God, one another, and creation. This delight then moves us back into a life of devotion.
This sacred rhythm we experience the perfect harmony of divine love, manifesting itself in work, relationship, and rest.
Early on, however, devotion becomes divorced from desire through deceit, setting in motion a proclivity to long for distorted delight which plagues us to this very day.
It’s to this radical self-inflicted distortion that we turn our attention to next week.
Disrupting to Renew!