April 21, 2013

True Love

Ask someone, anyone what the love of God is like. Depending on the person asked, the answers are going to differ. Common ones may be: "God loves me for me." "God's love is unconditional." "God loves everyone."  "God's love is accepting." "God's love does not depend upon our performance." "God's love is beautiful. Unending. Wonderful. Compassionate. It does not condemn."

Most of these are true. The love of God is compassionate, unconditional, not based on our performance, and beautiful. He takes us we are. Yet, these definitions, I find, are incomplete. We love to picture this warm, gentle God who holds us. He does. Yet there is more to His love than rainbows and sunshine. We have diluted the love of God.

{When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some "disinterested", because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly  invoked, the "lord of terrible aspect", is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host
who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.}
The Problem of Pain
C.S. Lewis

He loves us so much, not only did He sacrifice His son, a widely accepted fact in Christianity, but He will do whatever it takes to heal us. He doesn't want us to simply live and be happy. He wants more for us than that. He wants us to live empowered by His love, and free from ourselves. Think about it. What is more freeing than forgetting about ourselves? We all think freedom-giving-love helps us to be who we think we are. No, it helps us to be who we can be, and to forget about that person more often than not in thinking of others and Him. He loves us too much to let us remain as we are or think we are. More often than not, we know ourselves less than anyone else. 

So when it looks like God is trying to ruin our fun, He is really trying to heal us and make us who we were meant to be--more than anything we could be on our own. This life is not about finding ourselves. It is about becoming our true selves--creatures made to be loved by God, love Him, and love others. Not with a diluted love, but with the determined, furious love that is true love, love in all its actuality. A love that sacrifices, does not give up and isn't afraid to "do whatever it takes to give me Your heart." (Tenth Ave. North, Don't Stop the Madness) Read the Old Testament. His love is not an easy love and yet it is. Hosea, Jeremiah, David. They can all tell you about His crazy, hard, beautiful love. 

As Lewis says of Aslan, "He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion." His love is not tame. In some ways it is a bit scary. Yet gentle, too. This is the paradox of His love. I know it will change me, make me uncomfortable, oust my fears and insecurities that have become as comfortable as my favorite sweater or shoes. It is going to hurt. Yet I have never wanted something I fear so much. 

April 7, 2013

it's the little things

I often say "it's the little things." Sometimes even I wonder why I say this. I long for mighty moments of God. Those moments when shadows seem only a memory. The moments when His power is fully felt, His spirit fully discerned. These moments are wonderful, fulfilling and good. I have had these moments, when tears of joy and adoration fall and my body trembles at His majesty.

I am learning, however, it is the small moments that build my faith more. Small moments of clarity that come like an unexpected letter or smile. If only we saw these moments for their utter beauty! We long so much for the grand moments that we often overlook these small happenings. I have found that it is the steady, slower work of God in my life that is most beautiful, however. My wrestling matches with Him on the darkest, loneliest nights have built more faith than the best concert or retreat. 

       As I walk this shadowy path, I find small moments of realization like wildflowers amidst dead leaves and brambles:

      Thinking on my mountains I miss so much. It reminds me that my longing for something more, something deeper is my longing for Him.

     Tripping and not falling on the sidewalk. Stumbling is inevitable. Falling is too. In the stumbles and even falls, there is One who will lift me up and teach me to walk again. Sometimes we stumble so that we can learn to walk better.

     Sitting in my dark room as the glow-in-the-dark stars gently gleam on the walls. All about me are little glowing stars who comfort me with their faith, people who share the love of God. Though we are in the dark, their light gives me courage.

     Falling asleep listening to worship music. I felt as though I was falling asleep in the arms of the Creator, and in those moments, fear was dimmed and peace blanketed me.

     Walking in the budding woods and finding the first sign of trout lilies. New life I have been given, and though winter comes, cold and hardship come, spring will come once more, and He will deliver me from my valleys. He keeps His promises more faithfully than Spring herself.

     Innocent smiles from strangers. A gentle reminder that I cannot see all that He is doing, and there is more going on that I may ever know. if such a smile encourages me, what might it do for another?

     A kind deed seen or received. He is at work. That in itself is enough.

Small lessons culminate into larger ones. His whispers in the ordinary keep me going more than the big moments, in fact, they are what make the big moments monumental. Gentle reminders, like invisible post-it notes across my life, are finally put into perspective in those moments. At the same time, the small promises fulfilled fuel my trust in Him for the big ones. 

Want to be content in your discontentment? Want to be encouraged? Look for Him everywhere. You will not be disappointed. He is constantly at work, if only we would notice. Do not be so eager for massive moments of conviction and change when it is the everyday work of His that changes us most. 

"Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love." -Gandalf

April 2, 2013


{That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.} Anne Voscomp

Though I often present a face of serenity or at least disconcerted humor, there is a battle raging in me. My flesh--fears, doubts, lies, sins--viciously battles the Spirit of God over my soul. I feel thin and shredded. It might sound odd, but as I have related to some good friends, I feel as though I have been walking around in a dense cloud of my fears. Sometimes they form themselves from the cloud and I grapple with them. Other times they simply lie there, just out of reach, but dimming my sight.

God has brought them to my attention on purpose. He has put this dense cloud about me that I might face my fears. He has brought me to a place of weeding out the lies in my life, refuting them with truth so I can better wrestle my fear. He has had to hurt me to heal me, for this clouded grey is rather lonely and hard. He has had to take me apart, to remake me. 

As much as dismantling hurts, I have also found it to be one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Never before have I felt so undone, so attacked and yet so content. I am content to be discontent. Days are long, school is tough, but God is good. I am not what I will be, I am full of sin and holes, but He is still good. He has plans for me. Plans I never would have made, never would have had the courage to pursue without Him. 

Why am I sharing this? Sometimes I don't know, honestly. It is terrifying. I trust Him, though, and am simply following Him through this.

My hope, I guess, is to encourage you. If you are struggling, in the dark, feeling abandoned, alone, wondering, I want you to do something. Seek Him. It is hard, friends, but wrestle with the hard questions, face them, do not run away. Be willing to wait for Him. Sometimes He makes us wait, to build our faith. His distance and silence can teach us.

Whatever you do, cling to any shred of Him you can. He promises He will be found if sought wholeheartedly in Jeremiah 29:13 and the following verses from Hosea 6. (v 1 &3)

"Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up...Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as showers, as the spring rains that water the earth."