If you haven’t already, I’d suggest starting at Reflections on “Love Does” by Bob Goff (Part One) and working your way up to here. Not really necessary though.
Bigger and Better
I used to think I needed to sacrifice for God, but now I know faith is like a game of Bigger and Better.
Bigger and Better is this amazing game where you start with something really small (like a dime or a rubber band) and you keep trading it with people and you end up with something bigger and/or better than you started with. Instead of seeing endless sacrifice and suffering, oftentimes God is offering something more amazing than we could come up with ourselves. Bob references a CS Lewis quote, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (90) For me, I oftentimes feel like God has asked me to sacrifice so much when, in fact, he’s been taking my false idols and giving me Himself, giving me Love, giving me Truth, giving me Relationship. I cling to my heart of stone as God offers me a heart of flesh. I cling to a job that pays a lot of money when God offers me a job that brings joy, freedom and the ability to transform lives in the city I love. I cling to a dead relationship when God offers me healing and sanctification. Bigger and better is the name of my Abba’s game. I need to respond with joy when he asks me to lay something down so I can pick-up what He has for me.
I used to think I had missed the mark and God was mad about it, but now I know “missing the mark” is a stupid analogy.
I’m going to skip the story here and get to the point. A lot of people take religion and focus on how we fail God, the ways that we “miss the mark” and fall short. But most people aren’t doing this out of ill-will or malicious intent. “The people I know, they are mostly aiming their crosshairs at stuff like being loved, not being lonely, finding some security, and a bunch of other things that are actually pretty normal and worth pursuing. In fact, I think God put it in our hearts to aim for those things…” (107-108) But God also created us in such a way that we start out life helpless and… kind of dumb. We have to learn everything, and part of learning is failing. It’s getting hurt. It’s understanding the bad so we can better appreciate the good. It’s how we learn discernment and gain wisdom. “These days the view of God I hold on to isn’t Him being mad because I missed the mark. It’s the one of Him seen through a bloody eye, scooping me into His arms, getting blood all over His shirt, and carrying me away to get healed.” (108)
What kind of God are you
that would be the Creator of all that is, ever was, will ever be,
with power unknown and depths unsearchable,
yet you would walk amongst us?
You, who would call us ‘very good’
and give us authority over your creation?
What kind of King dies for the least deserving and most wretched?
Who suffers for the sake of those that inflict the suffering?
Your mercy and grace are unfathomable.
Darkness yields to your Light.
Deceit and Lies are dust in the Wind of your Truth.
Hatred crumbles when pressed by your Love.
All the universe will kneel at your name.
And I am betrothed to You.
I am Your beloved and you pursue me with relentless patience.
You are my God, my Sustainer and Helper, my Stronghold and Salvation.
My Hope and my Redeemer.
I give thanks that You would know me and love me with an everlasting love.
I dreamt of you, the one I don’t know yet. I heard the sound of our laughter ringing like bells, echoing across time. We were oriented toward one another and I sensed your hand before it settled on my neck or played with my hair. We were surrounded by people we loved, but as we spoke with them our fingers would seek the others and our bodies gravitated towards one another until we touched. I knew you by the feeling of comfort you gave me, by the love you had for me that wrapped around me like a wooly cocoon. And in my heart I was reminded that I was living a life of answered prayers.
Oh, my sweet one
I shall sing a song over you
A song of thanks
For you are a promise delivered.
I call out to my God and say,
I hear You and trust in Your promise
for You are a living God
who works miracles far beyond me.
I sing a song of Love,
I sing Your praise all my days,
I sing blessings over you from above,
My little act of my God’s grace.
I dreamt it was dusk and I’m looking in the mirror. I’m in a very simple, pretty wedding dress and outside I can see the twinkle of hundreds of white lights against the sky set on fire as the sun disappears. I’m alone. I smile at myself and head down the steps.
The building is silent but when I open the door I walk into a crowd of people, people I know congratulating me and giving me gifts. I grab a drink and manage to mutter “thank you” as I try to reorient myself. Several people say, “I’m so happy for you and ______!” But they keep saying the wrong name, the name of a man I’m not meant to marry, and so I gently remind them I’m marrying ________.”
I’m standing at the edge of this square and a guy I don’t recognize (but I know him in the dream because he’s the best man) runs up to me. “Kara, how long are you going to keep him waiting? He’s standing up there, waiting for you.”
“Oh no! I had no idea. I didn’t know where I was supposed to be! Let’s go.” And he grabs my hand and guides me through the crowd. It’s dark now and the twinkling stars are echoed in the tiny white lights crisscrossing above me. Inside I panic a little. It’s time. It’s here. I’m about to get married.
I freeze and close my eyes as our friend pulls on my hand. I open my eyes and he’s looking at me. “It’s okay, Kara. It’s going to be great. Trust me.” I take a deep breathe and step forward. The crowd suddenly opens up and there’s a path from me to my future husband. This tiny town square is full of people we love, and they all quiet down. String music begins to play somewhere and I smile at our friend as I let go of his hand and walk towards the one I’m meant to marry.
The pain of a broken heart who can mend, and who would want it mended when suffering is solace?
I can think of no other injury to the spirit which manifests itself so fully in the physical than this. That we sense a mortal wounding and declare our death, sure that life and joy have slipped through our fingers like sand too fine to grasp.
This heart is a healthy muscle, doctors proclaim, to our silent astonishment. Yet inside our chest a pain clenches and crumbles, gnaws and weeps, mourns and bargains until our stomach is a pit where our heart lies… impossibly small and mangled at the bottom.
This price we gladly pay, do we not? We all know the cost of love going in, and love I will gratefully mourn. We do not lament the loss of the worthless, the meaningless, the unloved. And so it is in my lament I know the depth of my happiness and discover it once more, for in it I learn that I have loved exceedingly well.
You question if you could be loved without seeing the love you are surrounded by. There have been people every step of the way loving you; there has been challenge, support, generosity, encouragement, comfort and presence.
Your fear isolated you. That your past is too much, that you will be known, that if you let people in they’ll see you the way you see you: as not enough.
My beloved, fear not. I am with you always and I provide exactly what is needed. I know all of you and I love you more deeply and profoundly than you know. I know this is hard for you, that familiar chains that weigh you down can be difficult to cast off. But it is all for good.
I am with you through the tears and pain. I am emptying you of things that aren’t of me: rejection, bitterness and their companions. You are meant to be filled with my Spirit and know the fruit of its freedom.
Imagine the love you feel which cannot be broken or lessened, which is unconditional. This is a taste of how you are loved by me.