Friday, February 11, 2011

Love Story

     It is Valentine's day, a holiday that simply has never resonated with me. I don't know if it is because I am not a romantic person or if it is because I am a pure romantic. You see, like most women I have always harbored a secret wish to be swept off my feet; to feel adored, beautiful, and cherished. It is a fact, however, that my blunt pragmatism gets in the way of this. For one, I suppose to feel adored one must feel adorable, a feat that I have never been quite able to achieve. Also, my mind will endlessly trail off after the logic formed by personal experience, always wondering what is expected of me in return or sifting through motives.  As far as Valentine's day goes, I suppose that any act of admiration on that particular day seems more like a cultural obligation than romance. The spontaneity and surprise is gone, almost like having someone declare their devotion by reading from a set of note cards, occasionally stumbling because the speech was written by someone else and therefore unfamiliar.

     The fact is, however, no matter what girlish knight-in-shining-armor fantasies I hold, I am adored, cherished, loved with a love that knows no bounds. What's more, to beat any fairytale, I am adored by a king--and not just any king, the King of kings. This was quite a shock for me to realize, and it was only through my habit of motive analysis and experience at discovering what is expected of me that I found that His only motive was merely pure, unabashed, and untainted love.

     It took me some time to sift through the facts, but what captured my heart was nothing more than the simple rescue of a damsel in the very great distress of being chained in a filthy cage, helplessly forging link after link of her own chain, driven onward by the whispered lies of a wretched beast, doomed to death. However, His love is so pure that there was nothing in my utterly depraved state that revolted this King. No, indeed, He left His throne behind, forsook all the elements and trappings of Royalty, and came to me as a measly peasant. He did not muster all the forces at His command, charging into the lair of the whispering beast, armor blazing and sword held aloft. No, he quite simply lifted me out of my prison, washed me, placed my chains around Himself, and surrendered His life in my place. He stepped into my filth and decay so that I could have life, and have it abundantly.

     More than that, He conquered death, rising again on the third day after His execution and placing a boundary around the beast himself--the jailer now jailed. Oh, this beast has quite a romp, for a time enjoying ownership of the area he has staked out, whispering his nonsense and cackling with glee as those under his dominion add link after link to their chains. He throws his might into recapturing those who were woken from his spell and now pick their way through his principality, proclaiming the news of freedom to other prisoners and stubbornly remaining free.  But his guile is confined and limited and he romps on borrowed time in his stolen land, for someday my King will come again, this time in full glory, shining like the sun and sword at the ready to reclaim the territory that is rightfully His.

     It still makes me shudder to think what He did, and more so to realize how often I would crawl back behind my bars and begin to work on the chain again even after He set me free. But I was free, and I am now free; gradually making my way farther from that cage and finding kinship with other former captives. As I travel toward His kingdom, it is my hope that I can share the truth of His sacrifice with others who still listen to the father of lies as they forge endless links of unnecessary chains; for it was not only for me that He gave Himself up, but for all of humankind. It is now that the choice lies with us. We can accept the freedom He offers, or we can choose to sit and drink in the beast's deceit.

     Either way, our path is not easy, for if we choose to follow the King who freed us, we willingly enter His war against the monster and his monstrous cunning. If we turn away from the proffered freedom, we choose to remain slaves to relentless effort without hope. The creature has set himself against the King and will do all in his power to reclaim us or render us ineffective, and he will strive to keep the prisoners unaware that the links they are bound in have been broken. He will practice trickery and deceit, and he is a master at it. However, we know also that our King has sent us an emissary of His Kingdom, the Comforter, to be with us in this battle and to teach us how to fight the fight of love. This is the seal of His love in our hearts and cannot be removed, and it is this Spirit of truth that will carry us through if only we will surrender our whole hearts to Him. It is true that either path holds pain, but while one path leads through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with the Comforter as your guide, the other path ends within that Valley, utterly alone.

     As it turns out, in all my sorting, searching, and picking apart, I did find an expectation that my King has of me. What He expects of me--or of any of us--in return for His act of love and rescue is that we give ourselves wholly in love to Him, holding nothing back. He asks only pure and untainted love in return for His love. Love is His singular motive. Even now, and perhaps for the rest of this earthly part of my life, I will strive to throw off the shackles of my former prison and utterly embrace Love. It is my prayer that you will join me, and let us all together make the love of our Savior and King a lifestyle; every day, in every way marveling at the wonder and splendor of it and surrendering ourselves to Him so that He can use us in His great redemption plan for all people, nations, and tongues. This is the love I celebrate today, tomorrow, and always.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


     During a discussion about the first chapter in 2 Corinthians last night, I was struck by a common phrase that I have heard, namely, that God will not give us more than we can handle.  I began to wonder where I had heard this and, indeed, was it even Biblical? I know that I, myself, have said it often. Out of the blue, however, I could only think of one verse that comes close.  If I am incorrect and simply unable to call to mind a crucial verse or passage saying that God will not give us more than we can handle, please correct me! However, the closest I could come off the top of my head was 1 Corinthians 10:13 where it is said, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it."  This verse does not say that God will not dish out more than we can take, but that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. This does not in any way refer to trials or affliction, but merely temptation. We also know that God does not tempt anyone (James 1:13) although He will permit us to be tempted in order to test and prove our faith and faithfulness, or to expose areas where we need to surrender to Him. He sends trials, but He does not send temptation -- that is the work of the one called Accuser and Tempter, the father of lies.

    In verse 8 of chapter 1 of 2 Corinthians, Paul says, "we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself," (emphasis mine).  Paul, it seemed, had more than he could handle at the time. However, he goes on to say in verse 9, "... but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God..."  As I pondered these words, I began to think of the many verses on suffering, affliction, and tribulation that the Bible contains, and I could not think of a single one where it was promised that we would never receive more than we could handle. In fact, the implication often was that we must patiently endure the tribulation (John 16:33, Romans 5:3, 8:35, 12:12, 2 Timothy 2:3, et al). Indeed, we see that God often sends affliction to refine and shape us (Isaiah 30:20, 48:10, 2 Corinthians 4:17, et al).  Jesus, also, told His disciples that when He went away, the Helper would come who would convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement. This Helper, the Holy Spirit, would also "guide them into all truth" (see John 16:7-13).  As a point of fact, why would we need the Helper, this Parakletos, which means both helper and consoler, intercessor and comforter if there was no suffering to come? Who needs comfort if there is nothing to need comfort from?

     I have been mulling these things over for the past few hours, and I can only say that I stand corrected. No longer do I believe that God will not burden me beyond my strength, as I have said before. I do say He will provide a way out when I am tempted to doubt His goodness during those trials or afflictions, but it is still my choice to take it. However, I dare say that God will, indeed, burden me beyond my strength in order that His power will be made perfect in my weakness, and so all will know of His might and not of mine. When I have health trouble that bogs me down, dulls my mind, and makes my job seem impossible,  past trials that seem to drag on my emotions like an anchor, or any other affliction or trial, let it never be said, "Look what Heather endured and how strong she was to stand through it all," but instead, "Look what the Lord has brought her through, weak and small though she is. How merciful, how wonderful, how majestic is He!"

 Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.