In my reading this week, I came across a paragraph that hit me like a ton of bricks, except in a good way. Okay, maybe a ton of kittens and not bricks. It had to do with obedience. The writer of a devotional I’m reading pointed out that love is the key to obedience. I didn’t disagree, but I I had it backwards. I felt I had to obey to prove I loved. And that doesn’t work. When I tie how much God loves me to how obedient I am today, God’s love appears to waver. That’s not true.
No, the writer said, the focus is Jesus’ love for me. I don’t have to work to obey. (Yes, I make choices, but just bear with me here.) My focus isn’t scouring the Bible to know all the rules to obey. The focus is scouring the Bible to know how much Jesus loves me. Do you see that? Not how much I love him–because that’s sporadic and shifty and a sure recipe for disaster. No, how much HE loves ME. And once I get it, I will obey out of gratitude. I hate to use the word gratitude, because if feels too neutral and small. Big gratitude. Monster size. The kind that brings tears. All-encompassing. Life defining. Epic. The stuff of legends. BIG.
So my Bible reading has shifted into a search this year. Paul wants me to know how wide and deep Jesus’ love is for me. I can get on board with that goal. So much easier than proving I love God when some days I don’t. I was building a bridge to God based on my love. Not a solid bridge. The Spirit says it was built by Jesus’ love for me, and it came from his side to mine, not something I built to him. I don’t see that yet, not always and not clearly, but it’s there, solid and safe.
The day after reading this I was reading yet another writer, and she was walking through the passage in Mark where little children are brought to Jesus and he says we have to approach him like children. And the question was what does that mean? I have kids. I love kids. But my first thoughts were entitled, whiny, self-righteous… Yeah. I don’t think Jesus meant all that. But I want to understand it because this has to do with his love for me. It has to do with obedience in a way, but more with how I view God and how I view myself. How can I approach Jesus as a child?
Two days before this I’d read Psalm 131, and the Spirit nudged me back there, where David compares himself to a child. He says he doesn’t involve himself in great matters. Like a child in the back seat on a long drive–the child says Are we there yet? but doesn’t demand to see the map and navigate. He trusts Dad and Mom know the way. David talks about resting against God, having a quiet soul, a calm soul. Knowing God was talking, I excitedly pulled up Bible Gateway on the computer and looked up this Psalm in all the English versions, adding adjectives from different Bible versions: humble, dependent, satisfied, safe, peaceful. That’s how I am to approach Jesus as a child. Like a chubby, well-fed child who is so content he lounges, dozing, on Mom’s chest. It made sense now.
Jesus wants me to get it, so he corrects me. He wants to show me his love. When I look for it, he’ll gently draw me closer and make connections. Right now, my connections to God feel something like a rickety rope bridge over a chasm. I don’t yet trust it. But the Spirit and I are hauling logs this year, filling in the bridge with planks, adding to the rails, building better supports. They’re there already on his end, but I have to learn to see them on my side. Instead of simply opening my eyes, he lets me work, lets me feel each log with my fingers, pound each nail, smell the sawdust, makes the connections real for me so I won’t forget, so I’ll know this bridge not simply by sight but with all my senses. Soon I’ll be able to fly across that bridge with complete faith. Satan won’t be able to set it swaying in every breeze.
Because my word of the year is coming into play: Reestablish. I’m learning about love and obedience and listening to the Spirit as he makes connections. I knew all this once, but not deep in my soul, and God is reestablishing everything in my spirit so I can hear and understand and then turn and do what he wants me to do. This time the bridge is strong because I’m intimate with its every curve and step, because the Spirit and I are exploring it together and he’s showing me its tiniest details. This time, I walk it for the right reasons, because I know I am loved with a patient and everlasting love.