What I’ve really be thinking about this week is God’s love. I’m stuck on this topic because not only is it taking this long for me to grasp it, but I’m starting to think it may be the only truly necessary topic.
Yesterday at the end of a lecture on the book of Ecclesiastes, Angela wanted us to spend time sharing what we had learned about God’s character this year. She connected this thought to the question that, since life is meaningless without God (vanity, vanity!) how does knowing him give life meaning?
What I’ve been learning about God in the last few years has to do, first of all, with the message of the Bible as a whole. Big picture- God’s desire is to dwell with man. Time and again, we make a mess of things and time and again He steps in to set things right. But this “dwelling” isn’t just about cohabitation- it’s not just about the Most Holy Place or about Jesus coming to earth, or even, ultimately about our final hope of living in His heavenly mansion. The Being Together that God wants is a kind of active presence that I’m just barely able to wrap my mind around.
You know how some people are always someplace else, even when they are with you? Their eyes are looking, not at you as you talk with them, but far away and they merely nod their head in rhythm with the tune of your words. Then there are others who are so present that you actually feel heard. Their eyes pierce into you and they respond to what you’re saying with insightful questions, laughter, tears. They are with you and completely present…
I’m becoming more and more convinced that not only is God asking me to be that second kind of person with those around me, but he’s asking me to be that with him because it perfectly describes him all of the time: Actively Present.
But why does this matter? Do we really want this Holy and Almighty God to be always present with us? I used to have a good friend who was gripped by a deep inner shame. Sometimes I would gaze at my friend simply out of enjoyment but instead of feeling loved, this would cause them to feel scrutinized, picked apart. My motive in being present with them was love, but they were not able to receive that love from me. For this reason, God’s active presence may not seem like a beautiful gift. And this is why it’s so important to first know his tender and unconditional love.
Brennan Manning spent all of his words on this one idea- that God’s deep and complete love for humans not only saves us from our sin, but also saves us from our exacting religion. He suggested that at the end of our life God’s question to us would not be about how many people we witnessed to or how many good deeds we did, but did we believe that He loved us? Another great messenger of this reality is Dan Baumann, who says that the Christian life is all about discovering the love of God over and over and over again.
And God’s love is not abstract. It is not simply a “good force” in the universe which spurs us on to social justice and charity. God’s love is not made up of the definitions our current culture uses to promote its own desires. It isn’t for one second “tolerant,” but it is unconditional. God can love us unconditionally because his love is not based on our loveliness. God’s love is based on his goodness and it is what makes us lovely.
Here is why it matters to me; I wake up nearly every morning and feel a sure sense of my own capacity to fail. This sense of my lack sits in a puddle at the base a thick wall of the world’s need. The bricks of that wall are made up of daily tasks, individuals whom I call friends, and everything else in the world that needs fixing. As you can imagine, it’s quite a recipe for despair. More and more frequently, as I gaze up at that towering structure, I feel a tap on my shoulder. When I turn around, there stands this mighty warrior wearing an expression of joyful kindness. He just says, “tell me,” and it’s an invitation not just to share the words, but to share the burden itself. As I share these things, my perspective shifts and my watery limbs gain strength- not because I am any more capable of healing the world, but because I see my secure position on the arm of this great and gentle soldier.
To know that the Unimaginable, Eternal, Omnipotent Creator of all things is also perfectly present, and totally personal in this moment with me and that his feelings about me are delight, affection and extravagant love- This is my purpose today and every day for the rest of my life.