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So he got into the boat and left. - Luke 8:37b
We've all been taught that Jesus stands knocking on the door to your heart, waiting for you to let Him in. We've grown up staring at the picture in rooms where elderly people gather (I don't know why only older people hang this picture up, but it must be a rule somewhere). I could write about how I'm not sure that's quite how it works, but that's another post for another day. My point today is that we were given freewill. We are free to follow after Christ, and we are free to send Him packing. The beauty of this, though, is that we now have the ability to legitimately love. Love is a choice that one must make, so if we did not have the choice to not love, we would also not have the choice to love. It's a little bit of a mind twister, but I promise it makes sense if you let it sit for a moment.
None of this is to say that Christ ever stops loving us. I don't believe that He does. But it's just like any other relationship. A man may love a woman, but that doesn't mean the woman will return his love. She may actually hate him. No matter how many things he does for her, no matter how many times he professes his love, she only pushes him further away and tells him to leave her alone. Eventually, someone will take that poor man aside and say to him, "If you truly love her, let her go." Jesus loves us more than any man can love any woman, and He chooses to leave when we ask Him to, because He wants us to experience the fulfillment of loving Him freely and wholly.
Some of you have been reading my blog since it was a Xanga (whoa.) or it was a LiveJournal (Can you believe those websites still exist?) or it was in the notes section of Facebook. (The only one of those that still exists is on my Facebook. I was going to try and link you to the old ones, but they've been "purged".) If you're one of those people, it may surprise you to hear me take this view, since I vehemently espoused in the past the Christ will never leave us. I still believe this. I truly do. Let me take an excerpt from the Facebook rendition of the blog to help me explain.
We talk about how we "walk away from G-d" or how we need to "return to G-d." But I don't like it. G-d promises that he will never leave us.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of [your enemies], for the L-RD your G-d goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6This is not just semantics. The Bible is not saying, "G-d will not leave you, but you can leave G-d if you want." The Bible is saying "G-d will not ever leave you." So what of our times of sin? What of the times that we fall short of the glory of G-d? I answer this question with the parable of the ant.
"G-d has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Hebrews 13:5
I have always been fascinated by ants. They're really cool. They don't seem as dirty as other bugs. They're so strong but so fragile. They are incredibly organized and seem to appear out of no where. They climb up the steepest angles and make it seem like no problem. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors... some breeds also have incredible super powers. I could sit and look at them all day - perhaps that's why I've been attacked by them so many times. Regardless of the reason why, however, I can now add to the list one more fact about ants: I am also allergic to them. Yes, one bite from any kind of ant - red, black, brown, big, little, it does not matter - and my body is red, puffy, and annoyingly itchy.
Think of G-d in terms of the person watching the ants, and us, in turn, as the ants themselves. We run around and fascinate Him. He could sit and watch us all day. In fact, He does. Sometimes we run away from Him as fast and as far as we possibly can. When we realize what we've done, we say, "I've come so far! Look at me, I'm a thousand ants away from G-d! How could He possibly be with me now? How could I possibly get back to him now?" But think about this. If you stay still, and an ant runs away from you a thousand times its length, you can still reach it. The same is true with G-d. No matter how far from G-d we run, we are always within his reach. This is the joy of having a G-d who is so much bigger than us. He truly never does leave us, even if we attempt to leave Him.
But that's not the end of the parable. See, I didn't talk about my allergy for no reason. Just as I am fascinated by the ants, G-d is fascinated by us. Just as the ants get scared and bite me (and in turn, attempt to kill me), so do we turn and bite G-d, and we succeeded in killing Him. Every sin is another bite, another strike to the nail.
I went to visit Kyle [Funke's grave] while I was in Raleigh recently. There were ant hills all around his grave, and I saw them. While I was talking to him, I allowed some of the ants to climb on my arm. I like them a lot, so I didn't think much of them. It wasn't until after they got scared and started biting me that I realized the sound of my voice, though I was talking softly and tenderly in the moment, was probably too much for them and their tiny ant senses. So I returned them to the grass. I watched my arm start to swell, and thought, "It wasn't their fault, really - they didn't realize what they were doing." So I didn't hold it against them the next time I ran into some ants. I still sat there and watched them go about their lives. I know the same is true for G-d, because He said so. As He watched his arms and legs swell around the nails that had been driven through them, He called out:
"Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." -Luke 23:34Don't think that the situation is any different for you. There is no grudge that is held. The fascination has not been tapered. G-d absolutely adores you, and chooses to be with you, knowing that you may very well bite Him. He has already forgiven you, so forgive yourself and move on.
He leaves, but He doesn't leave. He is G-d, after all. We are always within His reach. I know it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but I'm not. I'm going to show you how this all fits together, but you're going to have to give me just one more blog post to do it, because this is getting entirely too long. I will wrap it up in the next one and tie it with a nice, pretty bow.
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