Taking a break today from The Last Innocent Age. I was thinking about this topic today, and on my way to my office this morning I guess I wrote this entry in my mind. Once again I have been thinking about, and considering the love of God. How much He loves us. How we can't outrun that love, out wrong that love, fall outside the bounds of His grace, or ever push Him so far away that He won't come rushing back, even more determined than ever to love us relentlessly.
We live in a world that is increasingly lacking in open demonstrations of love. Especially when you are a little older, have been through the minefield-laden holocaust of a divorce, failed your hyper-religious upbringing a few hundred times and slowly...over a period of time that somehow rushed by while you were fighting to catch your next breath...became something or someone you never thought you'd see looking back from the mirror.
I get accused of being a bit too honest on this blog from time to time and I know it's often true. But I do that because I realize that inside of us we all carry something...or several things...that we would love to unload and bare for the world to see, if only someone else would do it first. If we could see someone with problems like ours, coming clean and being honest and finding redemption and hope and happiness...maybe we could open up about our dark secrets and the things that haunt us and the things we can't seem to forgive ourselves for. The pictures that are emblazoned on our memories that we can't make go away. The voices that keep screaming in our ears.
There has to be an icebreaker, it seems, and sometimes thats me.
The last few days I have been wrestling with my own relationship with Jesus Christ and with how I think I've failed Him, and disappointed Him, and betrayed Him, and let him down. I get so mad at myself for being so darned human. I feel like the worst Christian in the world, and maybe I am, but compared to who? For every Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, there has been a Craig Daliessio. A scoundrel with dirt under his nails and a sack of shame and doubts and regrets slung over his shoulder. For every Terry Chapman, Paul Walters or Steve Allen or Jerry Falwell or Steve Berger or Dave Lewis, (men whom have been my pastors and my biggest spiritual influences at one point or another in my life) there are ten Jim Bakkers' or Brennan Mannings. Men who loved God deeply, but who couldn't find the release from the voices that screamed at them in the wolf hours when their honest mistakes turned to serious consequence, and their well intentioned dreams shattered like glass.
To talk about others would be here-say so I speak only of my own experiences. I know I love God. I know I don't like living that love for God the way a lot of other people do. That's part rebellion and part common sense. I'm not like others. Now granted, there are elements of living my faith that are universal. But most of my walk of faith will be uniquely mine and strictly between God and me.
Again for the last few weeks I find myself wrestling with the question of whether God really loves me, really forgives my mistakes, really wants the best for me, really sees nothing of the failures, sins, faults, shortcomings and broken pieces that make up my character. Does He really only see a child He adores? Does He really forgo the judgement for the stupid, rotten, selfish things I've done in my life because He already punished Jesus for them? Is the consequence of my actions really all the punishment there is for a believer? Is God really broken hearted over the distance I have allowed to come between us?
I have learned the answers to all these questions is a simple yes.
I learned it again...as I so often do...through my parenthood.
I was showing a friend of mine a video of my daughter singing at her talent show and the whole truth was illustrated there for me. Here is the link: Morgan Singing at her Talent Show When you open it up and play it, you will hear...immediately after she is introduced...a very loud "YEAH!!" in the background. That would be me. I was thinking about this today. Is my daughter perfect? Nope. Does she have issues? Yes...in fact right now my little girl is wrestling with some things I never thought she would be wrestling with. Things far too complex and confusing for a 13 year old girl. Has she done things that disappointed me? Yes, of course. But I realized something as I was writing this today...she has done things that have disappointed me...but she is not a disappointment to me. She can never be. She is my daughter. She is the love of my life. She is my reason for getting back up when the world knocks me down and she is the fire in my breast that burns in the darkest night and makes me press on. When you watch the video and you hear me yell...that is what God does for us. I thought about this today. God is wildly, passionately in love with you and He is your biggest fan! He is not like an earthly Father. He cannot turn His back on us. He turned His back on Jesus instead. He does not punish our sin...(assuming we are believers) our sin is punishment enough. The awful loneliness and isolation of separation from the only Father who loves us perfectly is more punishment than most of us can bear. Do I get upset with my daughter? Do I feel let down or saddened sometimes? Yes. But I never ever stop loving her! In fact, because I know her, and I know her heart and I know how demanding she is of herself...I am usually broken and sorrowful because I know there is no punishment I could ever dream up that would be more harsh than the one she is dishing out to herself immediately.
I have a friend whose eldest child is going through a period of extreme rebellion. He has become someone and something my friend never saw coming and my friend has spent a lot of nights in tears and sleeplessness over his wandering son. The young man won't talk to his mom but for some reason he has begun opening up to his dad. His dad is infinitely tougher and more strict than the boys' mom, and for a while the boy hid behind his mothers' leniency. But over time, the young man realized that he actually wanted some structure and he started gravitating towards his dad. We were talking about it once and my friend told me he thinks it's because, despite his being tougher...his son never once doubted that his dad loved him.
I wish we could get to that point with God. I wish I could stop stiff-arming Him and rejecting Him so that He doesn't get to reject me like I think He will. I wish I could stop fighting with Him over things He doesn't want to fight over.
I am going home Friday after 3 weeks away. I am going to see my daughter for the first time since the middle of May. I won't ask her what trouble she has been in. I won't check to see if she has clean clothes on or whether she has brushed her teeth. I won't check the condition of her bedroom or of her heart. I will simply smile as big as I am capable of, grab her in my arms, kiss her head about a thousand times, tell her I love her over and over again, and love my daughter as much as I am able to express.
That's what God wants to do with us. We all run from Him. That's our nature and if you doubt me, look no further than Adam. As soon as he sinned he covered and hid. God had never been mad with Adam before. Adam didn't even know God could get mad. But as soon as he failed, and he heard God walking through the neighborhood for a visit...he ran and hid.
If you are running and hiding...stop. Your Father doesn't care what you've done. Let me emphasize that. He does not care what you've done. David was an adulterous, murdering, liar whom God called "The Apple of My Eye" and described as a "man after my own heart". Peter was a foulmouthed, impulsive, reckless, fisherman who quit under pressure more than once. But God loved them both. God loves you recklessly, wildly, unselfishly, unconditionally, passionately, and without limit.
God doesn't care what you've done...He misses you terribly. He is that voice yelling loudly when you attempt your dreams. "YEAH!" He wants you to come home to Him and just be yourself. He doesn't want you to follow anyone else's prescription for repentance. Just come home. If you could listen closely for just a minute...that's what He would be saying..."Just come home. We can't heal this if you're over there and I'm over here...just come home to me" Just let your Daddy love you. He misses you more than you realize.
He has never stopped loving you...