When I first met my wife, I decided I wanted to abandon myself to knowing everything about her. So first I learned who her favorite band was. And I was hooked. I wanted to know her dreams, what she wanted to be when she grew up. I wanted to find out what it was about me that made her laugh. I wanted to keep a good thing going as long as possible.
I am learning a little bit about brain activity now and it is fascinating to me the way we are wired. I had no idea that, each time I fell in love, there was a chemical explosion of happiness in my brain that doctors call dopamine. When a relationship is new, this particular activity is sweeping over other mental processes, which makes guys do really irrational things like throwing rocks at bedroom windows (don’t laugh, I totally did that once- some things you have to go through with to know they are terrible and ill-fated plans), spending money on dead flowers, and writing songs.
In other words, scientists seem to finally have caught up to poets. We used to know these very biological processes as butterflies.
But the other side of that coin is that the longer you know somebody, the more that initial chemical process seems to take a back seat. Those butterflies are replaced with a level of committed passion that can endure lapses of judgment, outbursts of anger, negligence in taking out the garbage, and the like. It is like a friend told me the other day about his wife. They were becoming more and more one person- so much so that words were oftentimes unnecessary intrusions into the sacredness of their time together. Those intense feelings of pleasure- far from being replaced- had been deepened and strengthened as their love grew deep roots.
Some days- more days than I would like to admit- I remember how I used to feel about God. I remember that initial burning desire to tell everybody about Jesus. I remember that feeling of security that was so present it was like I could feel the arms of the Almighty embracing me as I laid down to sleep. I think back and I wish I still felt those initial butterflies- dopamine, scientists call it- I once knew so well. But there is something new going on inside of me. I am getting to know him, and those roots are growing ever-deeper and ever-stronger.
The people of God have a term for this transformation from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood (which makes us more like children in the end, more capable of awe, more capable of wonder). We call this process learning to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
There is no better picture for this growth than falling in love. My wife loves Jesus and she hates Shakespeare. She loves guitars and she hates violins. She loves reading and hates watching tv. And she is starting to rub off on me.
This is the great hope of Christian discipleship, isn’t it- to have the life of Jesus rub off on us? Are we about building a life, rooted and strong, off those initial feelings of spiritual bliss?
In all simplicity, this is what we are trying to do from our first steps after him. We want to love what he loves and hate what he hates. We want to fall into a love that is strong enough to never let us go.
So what is it that God loves? And what is it that he hates?