Jesus, the One who is worthy of all our love,
Sometimes we don’t follow You because we think it will be hard, and I guess we’re not up for hard. We want easy and fun. So we try the popular road because that is just what it offers.
And after a little while we fall flat on our face like little kids who have stumbled on a rock as they play. We get all torn up and broken because the world doesn’t turn out to have the things they advertised. And if they don’t, who in the world possibly could? So we lie there on our faces bruised and bloodied.
We think that following You is all about rules. Somehow we get it stuck in our heads that Your laws are a bunch of do’s and don’ts and why would we want a life of that? Sometimes we feel so empty on our own that we try to do things right again. We try to live by the rules. We try to spend time with You. I think some of us get stuck there for years… sometimes lifetimes.
Others of us can’t handle that kind of life. We want something more. And whether we look for it in the world, or by trying to keep all the rules we somehow always end up tripped up on our faces. Broken. I think some of us have become convinced that is the only way to live.
But right when we think there is no hope, this gentle Hand reaches down and touches us on the shoulder. It’s You. And Your face is the kindest face we’ve ever seen. Your smile has a certain gentleness in it that wins a part of our hearts that we didn’t even know existed. You pick us up off our faces and then sit us down and put Your arm around us and tell us that You love us. That You have for all eternity. That You hadn’t been able to bear the thought of life without us and that is why You had come and been torn to pieces. So we wouldn’t have to. You whisper that we don’t have to live empty and broken on our faces. That there’s more than the world has to offer. And even-- more than just keeping the rules and going to church like good people. That both fall far short of what You really made us for.
You say it gentle— that You made us for love. To love You. To be loved by You.
And we reel. Awed and shocked that something so unbelievable can exist. That the One we thought was a distant authority figure in the sky actually just wants our hearts. That He’d come down here and be with us.
We don’t understand, but we say yes. Because how can we say no to an offer like that?
We slowly start opening up. All those dirty secrets buried in our little hearts start to come out before You. We start to tell You everything, because the more we open up the more deeply we come to know Your love. It seems unbelievable that You’d still care after You hear our stories. But somehow the more we tell You, the more You seem to care. It’s the craziest paradox we’ve ever known.
But then this whole thing is. We always thought that You wanted to control us, but then You came along and simply loved us. And somehow our hearts are so captured that we start doing all those things we knew You wanted but we hadn’t been willing to do before. And now it doesn’t even seem so hard because of the love burning in our little hearts.
We always thought it was the world that offered fun and happiness but now we find it at the place we’d least expected… in Your arms. Instead of being a place of restrictions it turns out to be the freest and happiest place in the world.
We burst with joy and we can’t help but share how You won our rebellious little hearts and made us Your friends. We think this is it for eternity.
But sooner or later, everything comes caving in.
Doubts pull at our hearts and try to convince us You aren’t as loving as you say. Fear tears us apart. Pain breaks our hearts— the hearts that we thought would never break again. And all our little dreams? Well, You keep asking for them too.
We hadn’t expected this and we question and tremble. But eventually we begin to let go and give everything back to You. We realize that the one and only thing worth holding onto is our relationship with You. And so while we may cry as we lay all our treasures on the altar, something inside of us still sings because we have You.
Somewhere along the journey, though, we start fighting battles we never would have expected. The devil ambushes us and attacks and we’re surprised. We’ve fought him before… we’ve fought battles of surrendering our selfishness, our little dreams, our pride, our love of anything but You. But these battles are different. These are for something deeper and more mysterious.
It’s at times like this that I can’t help but think of Much-Afraid and the question the Shepherd asked her.
"Do you love me enough to be able to trust me completely, Much-Afraid? …Would you be willing to trust me even if everything in the wide world seemed to say that I was deceiving you— indeed, that I had deceived you all along? He said nothing for a little, only looked down very tenderly, almost pitifully at the figure now crouching at his feet. Then, after a time, He said very quietly, Much-Afraid, supposing I really did deceive you? What then? It was then her turn to be quite silent, trying to grasp this impossible thing He was suggesting and to think what her answer would be. What then? Would it be that she could never trust, never love him again? Would she have to be alive in the world where there was no Shepherd, only a mirage and a broken lovely dream? To know that she had been deceived by one she was certain could not deceive? To lose Him? Suddenly she burst into a passion of weeping, then after a little while looked straight up into His face and said, My Lord— if you can deceive me, you may. It can make no difference. I must love you as long as I continue to exist. I cannot live without loving you. He laid his hands on her head, then with a touch more tender and gentle than anything she had ever felt before, repeated as though to himself, If I can, I may deceive her. Then without another word he turned and went away."
It’s not that You’d ever deceive us. But sometimes I think you ask such questions because You want to know if our love is deep enough to pay any price.
Sometimes you ask for surrenders that seem utterly crazy to our minds. You ask us to give up things we thought You’d promised all along. You ask us to fight battles when we thought it was time for rest. And we’re tempted to think You must not really care after all. That maybe it’s all been a mirage.
But somewhere up high you look down, the same tender friend You’ve always been, with tears in Your eyes—hoping, waiting while you hold Your breath to see how much we are willing to give up because we love You.
You aren’t far removed like we fear. Even in our most joyful moments in Your arms, You were never closer than now.
We’re normally the ones with the questions, but I think that behind all these battles to surrender and love You through the dark, are some questions You have.
How deep is your love really? How much are you willing to lay down for me? Will you love me even if I strip you of everything you ever wanted, even your expectations of what friendship with me will give you? Are you really willing to follow all the way? Even when what I ask makes no sense?
Oh Jesus. How can we say anything but yes to our best Friend? The One who won us in the beginning.
And so we fight. We hold on through battles we never thought we would be strong enough to face. We choose to love when we’re not even sure what promises You’re fulfilling and what ones You’re asking us to give up. We can’t see the ground we walk on. That’s why we cling to faith. Honestly, we’re not always sure what it means to follow anymore. Sometimes we fail. We let the enemy win and we crumple confused on the ground. We wonder if we’ve really changed at all since the very beginning. But then we remember the way you sat us down and told us You loved us and won our hearts, and we. just. cannot. give. up.
We stand back up and keep fighting. Because we love You. We lay down every hope. Because we love You. We are willing to fight every remaining moment of our lives and die on the battlefield if necessary. Because we love You.
Sometimes, God, we don’t understand this journey. Actually, a lot of the time. But You’ve captured our hearts. And we can’t stop walking it. Even if You take everything. Even if You were to deceive us. We can’t live without loving You.
You’ve spoiled us for any other life. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
We don’t know where you’re taking us, but we just want You to know…
We echo with Ruth…
Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
We’re in for the long haul, Jesus.