There, I’ve said it out loud…well, obviously, I’ve also said it to all of you, too. From John 3:16 to “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”, and all the scripture the Navigators told me to memorize, the root issue for me is that what my mind knows is a long way from what my heart believes.
Intellectual truth does not fill an empty heart. Oh, I know He loves you, and my heart embraces His grace in your life, and I weep for your pain, and pray that you will accept His acceptance, and feel His arms around you, and know the tender touch of “nail scared” hands. But as for me, well, my stuff, my pain, my ministry, my sin…it all is so much deeper, louder, stronger, and more real than the truth. The flesh is so much stronger than the spirit, the battles in the war have so few victories. Living, knowing in my head that in the end, we win…well, it just hasn’t been enough to relieve the exhaustion of my efforts to be a “godly man” and therefore believe that He really loves me. I know it’s “spiritual pride” to think “I’m too ugly for Him to love me”, but even that knowledge doesn’t fill the void.
On another “dark night (day, life) of the soul” I was reading again with gratitude that Paul couldn’t get it right either.
Romans 7:15-20 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
“It is no longer I who do it…” wait a minute, is my new nature, new creation in Christ really that “distant” from my behavior? “…but it is sin living in me that does it.” Does that remove responsibility…no, but it does lead to the reality of Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,…” The voices in my head, the accuser and his condemnations are nothing but lies. That’s great, but again, what my head knows and what my heart believes are so far apart.
So then I head to I Corinthians 13 to see if love can help me with my pain. We all read it at weddings and tell Christians to love each other this way. Because we are proud of our Greek knowledge we get to explain that this is “agape” and only God can love like this, and will through us. But you know what, I still see it as something I have to do. And not necessarily something that applies to how God feels about me.
Then one especially dark morning God led me to see this “agape” as not only the exegetical truth about God’s love, but a description of God’s love for me.
So lets try this starting with I Corinthians 13: 4-8a:
4“[God’s] love [for Lea] is patient, [God’s] love [for Lea] is kind. [God’s love for ________start putting your name here] does not envy, [God’s love for ________ ] does not boast, [God’s love for _______ ] is not proud. 5[God’s love for _______ ] is not rude, [God’s love for me] is not self-seeking, [God’s love for me] is not easily angered, [God’s love for me] keeps no record of wrongs. 6[God’s love for me] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7[God’s love for me] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8a[God’s love for me] never fails.”
As we know repetition and application are two of the most powerful elements of teaching. So almost every morning, I read the “paraphrase” to my heart. When my mind gets in the way, when the voices shout “it’s not true for you”, I tell them to shut-up and leave me alone. I tell them to “be quiet because God is speaking to me…his son, in whom He is well pleased.”
Hope this helps some of you; it’s making a difference in my life, maybe it will in yours.
Love and pray for all you, whose names I don’t know, but who names and hearts God knows and better yet, who God loves.