Thursday, July 17, 2008

I suppose one advantage to insomnia (or perhaps the only advantage) is that you have plenty of time to think. That's a curse and a blessing. The whirling away of my brain that began as soon as I turned off the light at midnight turned into a blessing.

I feel like I had an epiphany tonight about God's love for us. I was thinking about Meg, and wishing that there was some way that I could relate to her and communicate the love that God has for her. (I think it's often easier to desire things of that nature for other people as opposed to ourselves). As I reflected on the concept of God's love, I envisioned Christ's sacrifice on the Cross for us. And suddenly it hit me: I've always viewed the Cross completely wrong. Tonight it seemed like the verse that we all know by heart, John 3:16, came to life for me, surprisingly in my thinking about Meg. The thought came to me that I'd do anything to know that Meg could know the love of God. And that thought brought the love of God for me to life in new ways.

Since I'm not a father, it's hard to know what it must be like to have such love for your child that you would do anything for them, so the impact of imagining what Our Father's love for us must be like doesn't resonate with me as strongly as does my love for Meg. Tonight I realized that I've always viewed Christ's death and sacrifice on the Cross as something that "just had to be done," as if Christ was duty bound to die for us, and God the Father was duty bound to offer his only begotten Son on our behalf because it was what the rules required. Sure, it was motivated by love, but it was really done regretfully, to fix the screw up that Adam arranged for all of us. Basically I think I've just seen the situation as one where God's been batting clean up ever since with a constant tsk, tsk and a roll of the eyes.

Tonight, a glimmer of God's overwhelming love wedged it's way into my thinking. I realize that I have absolutely no concept of how much God loves me. None. I know rationally that He does, I accept the truth that He does, and indeed I see evidence of His love in my friends, family and life but it all feels rather intellectual. The magnitude of His love for me, a love that exists as more than an academic reality, is something I don't believe I have ever come remotely close to grasping. Tonight, I saw clearly that God WANTED to offer His Son on behalf of us, because of His love. I know it's something I should have learned back in Vacation Bible School, but apparently it didn't stick. Here's what I saw tonight: He offered Himself up for me because He delights in me, and everyone else who's ever walked the face of the planet. His love for one person is more immense than the purest love of all of humanity. And here's the most remarkable part for me: it's not a love that's motivated out of obligation from the Maker to the made, but rather it's motivated out of love that stems from a God who genuinely LIKES us.

I guess tonight was a good night not to sleep, since I began to see a glimmer of the fact that indeed God happens to like me.

And really, that's more profound than knowing He loves me.


alison said...

Several years ago, as an awareness of God's love pierced my shroud of fear, I was amazed to find that the Bible is full of God's love. I would tell people this and they would look at me with a "Duh!" expression on their faces, but I wasn't embarrassed because it was so real for me. I had finally internalized something that had been an intellectual reality for decades.

Sherry C said...

Dan, funny that you should close this post with this:

"...God happens to like me. And really, that's more profound than knowing He loves me."

Just last week, I was explaining to my kids that when I look them directly in the eye and, with great feeling tell them that I like them, it is by no means a lesser form of affection than saying that I love them. On the contrary, I have long felt that like is, in many ways, stronger than love.

When I was a kid, there was a family friend my age that I couldn't stand. I always justified my own dislike of her in my own mind by convincing myself that, of course I LOVED here, in the Christian way that we are called to love each other, but it never said in the Bible that I was called to LIKE her.

LOVE was something grand and sacrificial, done out of a sense of duty, but LIKE showed real affection and fondness, having everything to do with free will and choice, and thus, much more genuine.

I get it. And yes, you're right--He likes you.

Dan said...

Thanks for the comments. Sherry, you hit it right on the head: to "like" someone springs out of a choice and is completely motivated out of free will. To imagine that our God CHOOSES to give Himself to us out of sheer delight in us is powerful.

(And notice how I naturally fall into talking about sheer delight of "us" instead of saying sheer delight in "me." It gets a bit uncomfortable to bring it away from the macrocosm to the microcosm--my humanity makes it easier to talk in broad terms of God's love for us all, as if I'm standing in front of a group of high school students, proclaiming the love of God for them. But God is showing me that He wants me to know that He delights in me, Dan M. It's a little uncomfortable, since delighting in someone, and liking someone, and desiring a close relationship is an intimate thing...and that can be scary, even if I recognize and know that God's love is the only source of true happiness. My prayer is that I can learn to accept the truth of his delight in me, and I don't think that will come easily for me.)

alison said...

I think love is more of a choice than like. Our dislike of a person is useful to reveal the shallowness of our love or the complete dearth of it. Too often Christians justify their lack of love. Too long I have loved too little - my intimates and the sometimes tiresome people on the edges of my life. This is just a side issue, but important.

The real point is opening yourself to the love of God, Dan, which could be the most important work you will ever do. I have heard people disparage the focus on God's love, but you can't separate it from any of his other attributes. He is love. To love and to allow oneself to be fully loved requires incredible vulnerability and courage.

All this to say: accept the truth of his delight in you.