Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Hard Ways and the Love of God

This morning I've been thinking about some of the hard ways in which God has led me.

It is, indeed, of ultimate importance that we come to understand that God never has any thought toward us other than total and complete love. But I guess that means that we also come to disassociate our ideas and our experiences of love from our desires for indulgence. Indulgence means that right now, today, I have an idea of something that I believe will satisfy me, and I want tons of that and I want to wallow in it, even disappear into it. That's pretty much a definition of disordered love, is it not. First, we know by experience that what we think will make us happy today doesn't always make us happy tomorrow. We also know that just because a little of something gives pleasure does not mean that a lot of that same something gives a lot of pleasure. Sometimes a lot of something just makes us sick, or at least sick of that thing. And disappearing into something? People disappear into prison cells.

Disordered love is about willing bondage.

What about real love, then?

Yes, there is such a thing. Even people who "believe in God" sometimes doubt, based on their experiences, whether real love exists, or at least if it will ever show up in their lives. If God loved me, then I wouldn't have xyz going on in my life, children wouldn't suffer and everyone would be good to each other. It's not a far leap to chuck the idea of a personal God entirely, except perhaps as a cultural icon, an idea, after one questions God's love in this way.

Moderns like their theism to be self-styled, and this kind of junk betrays that one has remade God in one's own image. I think what one is really saying is If I were God, I would get rid of xyz in my life, and I'd make everyone happy. I'd be a great sugar daddy!

Reminds me of listening to a bunch of kids (or maybe candidates!) making plans for the country after one of them becomes President. Everything is free and everyone has all the money in the world.

Back to the top. I've been thinking about some of the hard ways in which God has led me.

God's love, the real stuff, has as an effect our freedom. When we really let God do His thing with us, it will (get ready, you can take it) hurt, but only to the extent that what binds our lives up gets broken away and what imprisons us gets destroyed. We simply have to want real love more than we want the bondage we create.

So, I was thinking of all those jobs where I had to make and answer hundreds and thousands of phone calls. Me, the phone-phobic woman. Some of those I answered were extremely intense when I worked for the Right to Life office and got grieving or angry or sometimes just downright evil people on the other end. And I thought of the time I spent in Japan. At a time when I struggled to speak even to friends in English, I plopped myself into a foreign country by myself where I could not communicate with anyone beyond the level of a toddler. For 30 months my soul scraped the dregs of isolation and loneliness. And then there was the whole infertility thing, when I felt that God Himself was thwarting my deep desire to become a mother. That pain was only second to the pain and mental torment I'd endured wondering if I would ever have a husband in the first place.

Often during these years I'd say to the Lord through my tears, "I don't see your love in this."

God's every thought toward us is love. His every movement toward us is love. His every desire toward us is love. Love entails the giving of oneself. But for God to give Himself to us in a way that we can receive, we need to have space, openness to Him. All of these painful things were really like sunlight shining on me, melting my frozen, fist-like heart that would not open to receive anything from God because of fear and shame and all that bad stuff. If ice could think, it might think sunlight is an enemy bent on its destruction. It might not realize that there is an entirely different state in which it can exist -- that of life-giving and refreshing water. It might not realize that it is meant to be part of a cycle of movement and change and that if it gives itself even to the hottest sun, it won't be annihilated.

Sometimes the things that cause us the most pain are the deepest evidence of God's loving presence in our lives. He is coming to liberate us. It is who He is and what He does. He is our freedom. We can trust Him.

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