Well, this seems like an appropriate subject for the month of February... As I was driving around running errands the other day, I was mulling over some of the content, questions, and conversation that came out of a women's Bible study I attend. The topic on my mind? You guessed it: Love.
Due to so many factors over the course of history and our own unfortunate human tendencies, it seems that most people tend to think of God with more wrath and judgment and rules and as a disciplinarian than they do as Love. And thankfully, as I grow to know Him more and more, I find that what I have experienced of the character of God is more closely tied to His love for me than Him being angry, judgmental, quick to discipline, or needing appeased.
So why is it that we have such a hard time believing that God loves us SO much? We SAY He does, but why is it that our actions don't express that we truly believe it to our core? Why is it that the undeniable peace that is the byproduct of knowing the extent to which we are loved by The Father doesn't resound in more of us? Wouldn't we, when known how much we are truly loved - regardless of what we do or don't do! - truly LOVE more and more perfectly? ...We're still stuck on the treadmill of thinking we need to do more and try harder to please Him...
As I pondered some of this, my daughter jibber-jabbering from the backseat, I couldn't help but think that God didn't have to create us the way He did - in the form of humans that can reproduce and create families. If our human minds can come up with all sorts of crazy lifeforms to put on the Big Screen and entertain ourselves with, why did God settle with a man, a woman, and their offspring as His means? Love! Something was suddenly making sense to me... Let me explain!
Jesus refers to God as His Father, and God refers to us as His children. That, among other passages and verses, leads me to believe that there is something special about family; that He was intentional about designing us in the way He did - to be able to create families of our own. God loves us SO much that He wanted us to be able to catch glimpses of the love He has for us, and He uses the means of family through which to do so.
As I thought about Love in my life and what that looks like right now, I couldn't help but think that Love motivates so much of what I do. (That statement is not meant to come across as arrogant!) Let me explain... My love for my husband motivates me to do so much of what I do every day: do the laundry, speak kindly, make meals, keep the house tidy, take care of the bills, get up with Paisley at night, be more self-less, keep the house stocked with the things we need for daily life, look for ways to be intentional about expressing my love, among many other big and little things! My love for my daughter motivates me to, well, get up in the morning!, to prepare healthy food, to examine my actions, to speak gently, to be patient, to stop what I'm in the middle of and give her the attention she's needing, to read that book for the 6th time this morning, to give up my wants so as to make her my top priority, to be okay with being interrupted a dozen times a day, to give up my precious sleep, to give up financial gain in order to stay home, among many other big and little things! Add to all that the overwhelming feeling of love I have for both of these people, and it's enough to, well, make this pregnant woman shed a few tears! Because..... all of this tells me the following about this God that I serve:
If I, in all my imperfections and just plain humanness can experience and commit to and share love to the overwhelming extent to which I do, how much more and perfect is His love for me?
The love I have experienced as a mother has helped me understand so much more that God's motives for His actions when relating to us are derived from pure, super-human Love. Aren't my actions towards my daughter (albeit flawed at times; thankfully, though, His aren't!) derived out of my love for her? Of course! My love for my daughter motivates me to be SO intentional about pursuing her heart; how much more would His perfect love motivate Him to pursue our hearts? To what even more extreme lengths would He go to make sure that I know that I am loved by Him?
Why would God create such a love as I have (and I know others have) experienced as parents towards our children that compels us to action if it weren't a human replica of how He relates to us, His children? And if we all saw Him through the lens of that Loving Parent, what would that change in us?
The Bible says that God IS love. Not that He is wrath, He is judgment, etc. So, if He IS love, and He is perfect, then He loves us perfectly. And yes, the Bible talks about His wrath and judgment, but that wrath and judgment has to come out of a place of pure love, if it is of God! We have to remember that we can't ascribe our human emotions to God's. When we read about His wrath in the Bible, we read it with a human understanding of what we know wrath to be, based on flawed, imperfect, far-from-perfect loving humans around us. We have never experienced wrath from someone who perfectly embodies love. How can we then pretend to assume we understand the depth of meaning in those verses? It's a shame that they get used to manipulate and instill fear...
So, stop DOING out of fear, and simply rest in the knowledge that the One who IS perfect Love, loves you more perfectly than you could ever imagine. When we come to realize and catch glimpses into how much we are truly loved, everything else will sort itself out. All things good are a byproduct of that: relationship with Him, our obedience to what He's asking us to do today, patience, peace, and the ability to love those around us a little more perfectly today than yesterday...