Saturday, May 19, 2012

Love Always, God

LOVE         PEACE   
         HAPPINESS        JOY 

The letters sparkle in 3-D, written in light on the wall, on the ceiling, on the floor.  Nobody can see them.  But he can.  He has no idea why - for he has always felt unloved.  Yet there they are.  They appeared as he, exhausted, sat in a friend's apartment after a very near-death experience which sent him to a hospital in a different city: how close to death, he never knew.  

It is like a gift.

The letters dance.  They seem to be alive.  He watches them grow, shrink, change color.  They last - on the walls, the ceiling, the floor, even the bathroom fixtures - for hours.  

He's still never been able to make sense of it, now more than six years later. He relegates it to an hallucination brought on by over two days with no sleep (even though he was barely conscious or unconscious for most of his brush with death.)  He still struggles with whether God loves him or not.  After all that, I used to think.  After his life was spared, and he lived to eventually be returned, restored to his spouse, his children, his friends

But that is the burning question isn't it?  Each of us needs to know that he or she is loved - unconditionally. 

 Not just to know, but we want to have it proved to us. Over and over and over.  Whether we like it or not, we are vulnerable in that area; it's where we're broken inside.  All of us.  No matter how healthy or mature we think we are, it seems ... it's like we have within us that insatiable child mind that constantly asks that one question with each new deed or misdeed: "Do you love me now?"

And sometimes God does prove His love overtly.  More often though, He tends to ask us to trust His love, to trust His goodness, when the circumstances scream the opposite.  In those times, looking for the divine Yes and always being willing and expecting to hear His answer - or shutting ourselves off from the struggle - keeps us sane. The first has the potential of such joy, yet opens us up to being hurt over and over again - the second relieves the pain, but shuts off our feelings and lets us succumb to despair, to be incapable of feeling anything else; sometimes it is hard to know which is worse, because we can't imagine things being any worse than they are when we are in either one of those two states.  

I could give a bunch of pat answers; I have memorized them all, having grown up in the church - which is so full of them it makes me sick! (Of course the church is not the only place those little catch phrases, or similar ones, exist; I've gotten very tired of listening to the smugness of them, no matter where they crop up!) None of them is satisfying to the honest seeker, the one who has tested out those pat, superior, black-and-white slogans and found them sadly lacking.  They're colorless. Lifeless.  Simplistic.  Dogmatic, even.  (Do I really need to trot them out? you know the ones I mean...)

People don't need to hear the answers to all of their questions, or to know yet another opinion as to WHY they're going through a rough time.  People need love.  People need acceptance.  They don't need judgment.  They need to be listened to, appreciated, validated, treasured. They need to have the freedom to experience honest doubt without fearing condemnation from those that SAY they belong to Him, that they represent Him.

God doesn't need people to defend Him either.  He would like for those who seem compelled to come to His rescue .... to stop and realize what on earth they are doing .... and just get out of the way and let Him do what He does best: lavish love on us even when we hate and misunderstand Him, shine light into our thick darkness in spite of our attempts to turn it off, and rain hope into the desert of despair even while we prepare for a sandstorm. 

Sometimes (though perhaps briefly at times) we get it.  There are rare moments when we understand that no matter what we do, how we feel, what the circumstances are, whether we believe it or not, whether we are faithful or not, whether we are doing the right things or keep falling into the wrong things, His love for each of us is constant and sure.  It's there in spite of what we feel we deserve or don't deserve; it is there in spite of how hard we try to drum up love for Him (this ALWAYS fails because there is no way we can sustain it).  

God loves.  ALL ways.  Always.  He patiently repeats the lesson over and over because we need it over and over....  LOVE.

That's God. Love.

We love him, the apostle John wrote in one of his letters, because He first loved us.  

And ONLY because He loved us first.

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