Sunday, 7 September 2008
A friend was asking me about how I became a Christian & after I gave him a brief summary, he asked; "Has it made a big difference to your life?” “Yeah, totally” I replied. “I know that no matter what I do, I’ll always be loved.” He responded; “No matter what you do you’ll always be loved...that’s nice.”
I’ve reflected back on that conversation with frustration because I had managed to communicate so little about something so profound. The love I was lamely describing so blandly is not ‘nice’. Nice is tea with vicar and cucumber sandwiches. That's not the Christianity I gave my life for....
These are the things I wish I had said about why knowing that ‘no matter what I do I’ll always be loved’ really matters, and alters every aspect of my life:
When I really believe that I am unalterably loved, I have a deep core knowledge that I am OK. I’m freed from having to try to prove that to myself or to others through pretending I am cleverer, kinder, prettier, cooler, funnier, fitter, younger, older, richer or better than I really am. The limited levels of all of those that I do have are OK, because I am OK, because I am loved.
When I am reminded by friends of the truth that I am unchangeably loved, I have a solid foundation that will remain even if I lost my job, my home, my family, my friends, my dignity and even my earthly life. That means that when I am able trust in that love a little bit, I can hold all of those things a bit more loosely, which frees me to know that even if I lost everything, I could never lose everything.
When I do take a moment to think about this tenacious love, I can start to learn from it how to love other people. So when someone hurts me badly in a way I didn’t deserve, I can learn both how to forgive them when my instinct is revenge, as well as how much it costs to do that. I can learn that because I know how it feels to receive it.
I know how earthly love feels. More than once I have been in love and been the object of another’s adoration. I have also known the consistent and sacrificial love of a stable family. Those are wonderful, wonderful things, but anyone who has ever been involved in loving me on any level will know how slippery I perceive it. No matter how much love is told or demonstrated, I have a frustratingly reliable tendency to demand that it is proved again and again. God’s love is the only love that can permanently silence me in that, because it’s been proved once and for all by the irrefutable symbol of love – the cross of Christ.
You’ll notice that I started all of those first few paragraphs with qualifying sentences like ‘when I remember to’ or similar. That’s because often I forget about this love or what it really means, and behave in entirely opposite ways to the ones I describe. That’s why Jesus describes His followers as sheep: we are so easily distracted by the next dewy-sweet patch of grass that often we think that the grass is all that life is about & we forget about the Shepherd busily keeping the wolves away. The good thing is that even when I'm behaving like a stupid sheep, all of those things remain true. Sometimes I remember it and my whole view of myself and the world is turned upside down again.
‘Nice’ is not really the word, is it?