May 23, 2009
Good morning, Papa! Just spent 1/2 hour reading those notes I typed last night - and hearing You... well even more, knowing Your love, experiencing You (and You are love!) ... and adding my own - Your own - thoughts to the notes... and reading a good deal of 1 John 3,4,5 ... how could I have missed this REALITY - You! The God who loves because He is love! - before: strangely, oddly, the books/epistles of John (and all the other NT references to Your love) have always seemed like a post-script, like a "PS - I love you" at the end of a rather long letter that contains, in large part, a pointing shaking finger... kind of like the little love note is there at the end to "soften the blow" of the rest, to, I don't know, make it more palatable. Well, of course, the "letter" always started with "God loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son so (someday) you won't perish but have everlasting life..." ... so you better do this and you better do that, so you will keep Him loving you, keep Him pleased with you, keep that gift He's given you. And yet, all the time, there was always also this feeling that if I dared to stop and think that through and find it wanting... find that kind of conditional love to be wanting, that I'd be heretical, evil...
Even in my own love for my kids and for others, I found that even if they did dishonor, disrespect, disobey... I still loved them (even if, in my humanness, I was often hurt, angry, frustrated, lashing out...).... in fact, I loved them more, if anything.... I felt their pain and anger and disillusionment, and wanted to soothe them, bring them healing, take care of them, help them... be in ever deeper relationship with them... And all along, I couldn't help but sense Your presence, Your unconditional Father love, Your affection... and yet, it seemed like "Your Word" (filtered through the teaching of human "leaders" .... oh Father, I struggle with the "L" word... help me to understand it through Your eyes, in Your love... help me to love Your leaders without having the "leaders must be: ..." checklist always at my side, looking for their shortcomings so I can justify avoiding their leadership!... a little trick, by the way, that I myself devised: can't blame anyone else for it... Papa?) Anyway, it seemed that Your love, according to my head-knowledge understanding of it, was loaded with conditions... and I just wanted love that wouldn't stop and wouldn't fail when I failed...
I've been trying so hard not to be "a failure" ... a let-down, a disappointment to You... but it's always been hopeless... no matter how hard "I've tried," I've always ended up "failing."
"How can You love me when I'm so unworthy, such a failure? You gave me this great gift... [I did understand Your love in that!] ... but now I don't deserve to keep it... and not only that, apparently (oh, I dare not even say this, it sounds so ungrateful and childish and even evil, heretical... but here goes...), apparently You are just hovering there, watching me every second, ready to pull it all out from under me if I "backslide" [yes, I really did think that...]
I remember when I "went to the altar" at that camp when I was almost 13, and "gave my heart to You" (but still feeling guilty because I didn't cry my eyes out like everyone else)... I really believed I now had to spend the rest of my days with a long face, walking around in sombre old lady clothing, reading my Bible religiously many hours every day... and never breaking any of the long list of "thou shalt nots" (You know... dance; wear lipstick - or even worse, other makeup; wear jewellery or bright cheery clothes; read anything not strictly religious; go to movies; swim on Sundays; etc etc etc)... and especially, never have fun! Never be just happy! (Well! That didn't work out well, since You made me a basically fun, happy person...).
You know, Papa, over the years I have known Your love, over and over. I've experienced it, loud and clear, so many times... day in and day out. But I've always had this "fear" hanging over it - fear that if I don't line up with all the rules and regulations, somehow Your love with be withdrawn! I don't know, I grew to know Your love in such a way that I couldn't imagine how You could do that when You loved me so much... and yet... apparently it was so...
And then I read The Shack ... and whatever else people - especially theologically-minded ones who are self-appointed guardians of "truth" and lookers-out-for-heresy - well, whatever else people say about it - it suddenly opened my heart to the amazing fact that YOU LOVE ME! Period! It was like the most amazing light, beyond anything I could imagine, just came flooding in to the darkness of my sense of unworthiness and failure, and my fear of rejection, of losing Your love and affection and approval... of losing Your love.
And no, it didn't change me instantly into a perfect person... but it has been a light, a living light, that won't be pushed back, a door opened that cannot be closed, relentlessly pushing, reaching into all the deep, dark, musty corners of my life-long "knowledge about You," and slowly but surely (and sometimes instantly!) cleaning them out, bringing life and light - bringing Your love: moving me more and more and more from just "knowing about You" (and I know plenty... though it turns out that it was definitely an incomplete knowledge... and in some cases, downright wrong!) to really "knowing You!"
That guy who wrote that review said that all truth is in Your Word - referring to the Bible. But without the Truth, the living light, the living loving Truth who is You, Your Spirit living in me/us, with You, even the truth in the scriptures falls short - dangerously, disastrously really: the letter of the law kills - but the Spirit, Your Spirit, brings life! And that life - and that love! - grows and spreads in us - and through us to others, too!
1 John 4:15-21