So, the other day I’m sitting by myself, out on the balcony of a beautiful, sprawling home, overlooking the entire San Diego basin. A tourist, a grateful refugee, sitting in a lush, God-favored land that blissfully doesn’t even seem to notice that others, less than 400 miles to the East, are taking on low flame, like so many quail roasting on a spit.

I have finished my speaking for the weekend at a local church, and now I have an afternoon with nothing I really have to do. I could be doing some writing or corresponding on Facebook, but I choose to just sit, overlooking paradise, reflecting upon my life.

This would be a time, historically, when I might pray. But praying and I have had an odd relationship these last few years. Somewhere, with all the accompanying logic and justification, I have been able to convince myself that God hears me just fine when I talk to Him in my head. And I am correct. He does. And so, I do. I think about Him, think with Him, talk to Him continually, all day, in most everything I do. But it’s in my head. I don’t actually talk out loud to Him very much anymore, unless I’m praying for meals or in staff meetings.

…So sue me.

Anyway, I’m sitting there, talking to Him in my head. And this thought emerges; gently and kindly, without the shame accompanying the usual filler I can still, after all these years, invent to beat myself with.

Here’s the thought. “I long to describe a God to others who adores us, who will never love us less by anything we fail at, or love us more by any goodness we express. I describe a Lover so endlessly and deeply delighted in my very person, on my worst day, in my worst behavior. I describe a Lover so much a part of me, that we describe Him as fused with us. And I believe it with all my heart. No one has ever loved me like this. But…but even strangers, and enemies in traffic get to hear the sound of my voice! Not that it’s a particularly great voice. But it is the voice He created for me. The One who loves me more than I love myself. I’m pretty sure He truly enjoys the very sound of it and never gets tired of it. And when my voice is directed towards Him it must surely undo Him, like a life companion, on the other side of the planet, calling in at the end of a long day.”

I’d never had that thought before. The man who publically presents himself as so deeply adored by the God of the universe, has somehow thought it common and even maybe annoying for Him to have to hear my voice…again and again, rehearsing rehashed versions of old issues.

“But, wait, that can’t be true. He loves my voice. My voice and the entire life it gives expression to. Of course He does….Oh my…”

And in that moment, staying silent in my head suddenly made little sense. Or at least it was no longer even close to the full expression of how this lover wants to express his grateful love.

In the middle of the afternoon, looking out upon a majestic San Diego vista below, I said something like, “Thank you sweet God. You are everything to me. You are my entire understanding of love and the meaning of why I stay. Precious Jesus, I’m here. I’m struggling, but I’m here. Thank you. I’m not even sure what I want to thank you for. I guess You, Your person, Your love, Your endless goodness and faithfulness to me. Thank you for choosing to make someone like me, with all my oddities and contradictions, and choose to love me with all You are.”

(In truth, I think I’ve added some of that last part now. Its more of what I wished I’d said. I probably only got out the first two lines, before I longed for my verbal words to get out of the way of my faster paced heart.)

But I wanted to say all of it…and ten thousand sonnets more. I did actually get some of it out. And in that moment, (long pause) I felt a deeply uncommon and sacredly unsettling experience. I think I felt gratefulness. Gratefulness of a Lover savoring the audible words of the beloved.

And so this relationship with the One I came for, revealed itself into more…Again.

…I need to sit on that balcony in El Cajon more often.

John, one of the three amigos, part of the ever-increasing, and ever-grateful tribe of grace.