Ever had someone show interest in you, who you are not interested in. Every time they’re in the room you just want to run a mile. The more they pursue, the more you want to run. I have, I’m married to Him lol. Somehow, somewhere in his pursuit of me I fell in love. Here we are a little more than 17 years later still in love. My journey with God I guess has been similar.
For so long I thought God was unapproachable and unloving, angry and uncompromising. If I did anything wrong I would be punished and have to face severe consequences. Every plan I made seemed to fail, it felt like God was laughing at me and His face was turned against me. Understandably I use to do things for Him out of fear and ‘obedience’; that is an angry obedience. I was angry at God because I thought He was determined to see me fail. I had a deep sense of shame. I felt unloved.
I have learnt that this is not who God is. After all, if God was as unloving as I thought, then why did He give up His son, allow Him to be accused of wrongs He never did and die on the cross, all for the sake of love? What did He think He was going to achieve by doing something so awful by today’s standards? I know as a mother I would never do this. God wanted to restore the relationship that He had lost with His most precious creation. What destroyed the relationship, sin i.e. not obeying what is right in God’s eyes. Just as one wrong cannot be fixed by another wrong, so it is with sin. There needed to be someone who had never sinned to make right those who had. Jesus death on the cross was that, He was punished with every sin imaginable to open the way of forgiveness for those who had wronged. That sort of love is incomprehensible. Who was the object that God so desperately longed for, that he would sacrifice something as beautiful as His son? Me… the world, His beloved creation. How can I say this with such assurance, that story is just a fable, right? My knowledge is not because my parents drummed it into me or because I read it in some fancy old book. I have this knowledge because He willingly pursued me with His love. You have no idea how many times I have heard His voice saying repeatedly to me “I love you”, “You are my beautiful little girl”. Most times when I heard this I rubbished the words, saying it was not possible. After all Christianity was just a list of do’s and don’ts, that if you did them then God would bless you, but if you didn’t, then God and His church would judge and punish you. The concept that there could be a loving God who wanted a relationship with me was beyond anything I could understand. The love and justice I was use to was based on a series of levels ranging from what is perceived to be right through to what is wrong. Some wrongs are easy to show love and forgiveness for, others are not. For instance an angry child blowing a raspberry at you might cause some disappointment (or even a slight smile), but showing love and forgiveness toward that child isn’t that hard. Now image something more horrible, or just a wrong that someone keeps doing time and time again. Displaying love and forgiveness for injustice of this scale is more challenging. That is the reality of God’s unconditional love. It is a love that is available to everyone. Perhaps you think this is not possible, or maybe unfair. According to our own sense of justice you’re probably right. God’s love is gracious, given even though it’s undeserved. Still struggling, remember I said the words “it’s available”. To receive this unconditional love requires faith and obedience. The ability to believe in God and all He has to offer, and the willingness to obey and surrender all of yourself to Him. My healing could not be achieved without these three things: His love, my faith and willingness to obey.
I remember one instance where I was grappling with an addiction, that had gripped me for years. The shame I felt about it was huge, I wanted it gone. But no matter what I did I could not stop, I guess it’s called an addiction for a reason. The moment I experienced any pain I would plunge into the addiction. When I came to my senses again I would be filled with guilt and pain and I would be swallowed up again. It seemed like a never-ending cycle. I repented often, I tried to work harder at avoiding the addiction, but nothing worked. My counselor tried to tell me about grace and God’s love. Grace? Impossible! How is grace and love going to fix my problem?
In one counseling session I received a vision of Jesus standing before me. That’s right, Jesus. Anyway, He stood before me with his arms out to me and said the words “Come here Cheryl, let me love you”. My reply “No God, I pointed to my wrong and said God look at what I am doing wrong, I’m a failure I can’t come”. His response, “Let me worry about that, just come here and let me love you”. But I could not, well not until I fixed the problem. This went on for months! I was trying to shore myself up against rejection. You see I believed that I had to be ‘perfect’ for Him to love me. To love me when I was unlovable, why would anyone do that? Was Jesus telling me my addiction was ok? No. Were there consequences to what I was doing wrong? Yes. I was hurting my husband, my children and Him. I was destroying myself in the process. His heart was broken for me and He kept calling me to come. He knew the source of the addiction, and knew how He could heal the source. He knew every hurt that I had incurred, every bit of darkness that lay hidden in my soul, He knew my anger, my need for love, He knew everything. Most importantly Jesus knew that in myself there was no way I could overcome, he knew I needed Him. Every time I took steps of faith and obedience and entered into His love, He would reveal my brokenness. Not to condemn me or reject me as I thought. But, to show me how He could lovingly heal it. When I felt abandoned, I discovered He was there; when I felt unprotected, he revealed His might; when I felt ugly, he would lovingly ‘hold’ me, cover my shame and replace it with His worthiness. Where I was harmed, he revealed His anger with the perpetrator and demonstrate to me the release found in forgiveness. Where there was darkness, he showed me how He could set me free. He proved to me that I could trust Him wholeheartedly, that He was safe. What I found is that every time I let Him love me, my brokenness was replaced with His wholeness. The more I allowed Him to love me the less power the addiction had over me. Yes, I did have to make choices to change, and no, it was not easy. Some of the choices I made were very painful. But even in the pain God’s love was with me and helped sustain me. It took faith to believe God was enough, that he could meet all of my needs and that what He was saying was true.
I cannot say that I am perfect or will never fail, that would be foolish! But I now know that God’s love is always available. That it has the power to forgive, cleanse and heal. It’s up to me to choose to reach out to Him and take those steps of faith and obedience.