About a year ago I posted this piece I wrote for a class I was in at the time. Tonight in one of the Bible studies I’ve been attending, we talked about how it is sometimes difficult to accept God’s love. Instead of trying to rewrite what I’ve already written, it makes the most sense to re-post this piece, “Love is Hard.”
“God’s love will never change us if we don’t accept it.” ~Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
My belief in God has been ingrained into me. For this I am thankful, but it doesn’t make believing certain truths any easier.
The truth of his love, for instance.
On a semi-regular basis I find myself wondering how a God so big, who knows so much and knows me so well, could possibly love me. How, despite my constant failings and forgetfulness of his faithfulness, he is always there loving me and welcoming me back.
It’s not as though I try to convince myself otherwise. I don’t have a running commentary in my head saying, “You fool, how could God possibly love you, amidst all your mess and distractedness and temper tantrums?” There are days when the thought crosses my mind, but in general I do better than that. It’s just that believing God loves me unwaveringly, to my very core, forever and ever with no amen…it sounds absurd.
There comes a terrifying problem if I can somehow allow myself to allow God’s love to encompass my entire being. To feel and begin to understand a love that strong shouldn’t, and arguably can’t, leave me the same way that I am. If God has seen fit to love me so much, how dare I think I should do anything but love others? What room do gossip, doubt, worry, fear, and envy have in the life of one who is loved beyond all reason?
Blame would come in handy at this point. Some sort of defective doctrine in the churches or Christian schools I have attended, maybe a Bible study gone awry, that somehow gave me this drop of doubt that God might not love me as fully the Bible seems to suggest. Unfortunately, there is no place to lay blame. These organizations and events I have been a part of have done nothing but drive into me, “God loves you, God loves you, God loves you. Always and always.”
As far as back story goes, mine is fortunately trauma free. No broken home or abuse. Only the typical tales of middle and high school drama, of feeling left out and not knowing who I was. Nothing large enough to point a figure at, hand over the blame of my feeling unloved to.
My family, once again, provides no scapegoat. As the daughter of two parents who have been together for nearly thirty years, sister of two siblings who are each happily married, aunt to three of some of the most precious children you may ever meet, and granddaughter, cousin, and niece to an extended family that all claim and practice Christianity, they have left me no wounds large enough to notice. Although my parents and I butted heads when they refused to let me stay up past 9, or see a PG-13 movie at the age of 12, it was all rooted in love. Love that tucked me in as a child, woke me up for church as a teenager, and that welcomes me and my dirty laundry home on weekends.
Tales of my friendships run a slightly different course. Here I could perhaps drop off some of the blame of my love-doubting, as friends whose words of love fell flat as they wandered away. But although there are scars that remain from such episodes, there are too many nights of laughter, deep talks, baking, movie watching, and pure love for me to feel comfortable blaming it on this. Friends have left, it’s true, but enough have stayed. Enough have allowed their shirts to be my tissue, their ears to be my sounding block, their arms to be my blanket, that I can’t dump blame on those few that have wounded me.
Where, then, does my inability to deeply believe God’s love come from? Not from my circumstances, not from people. Maybe from the brokenness that can be seen the world over, but that feels too easy. Original sin shouldn’t be left entirely to blame for my love-doubt.
Perhaps it boils down to the sheer fact that being loved is hard. There is an element of fear in allowing myself to be loved completely by God. If I am loved that much, I must be better than I think I am. I must be capable of being a better person tomorrow than I am today.
Because God’s love is too much to leave me the same. Although I have experienced human love, it is only a fraction of what it is like to be loved by God. His love never ends, never fails, is all-knowing yet all-encompassing. It has the power to rebuild, change, and shape me into a better version of me than I ever thought possible.
And a love that strong…it has the power to save, but it also has the power to crush. William Blake said we must “Learn to bear the beams of love.” A love so amazing, so divine, that it has the power to change everything I know.
Perhaps, most frightening of all, me.
Til next time…