Love, Anyway

In Facing the Giants, there’s a key question:

Will I love God anyway?

The characters face losing dreams they hold close: coaching football, winning a championship, starting a family.  And each time a hardship comes up, they have to answer the question,

Will I love God anyway?

My favorite line in movie comes from the woman who so desperately wants a child, after she believes she’s been given another round of bad news:

“Lord, I will still love you.”

For most of my life, the idea of still loving God even when He does not move as I ask was like the idea of climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro with toothpicks.

It all started when I was little.  I didn’t hate God.  I just saw no reason to be around Him.  He didn’t seem to care very much about my prayer.  Even my prayers that I thought were unselfish, like praying that friend wouldn’t be lonely anymore.  God didn’t seem to care very much for the quality of my prayers, I thought.

God didn’t seem to care very much for the eloquence of them, either. I didn’t get better response when I picked better vocabulary.  Nor did God seem to care very much for the quantity of my prayers.  I didn’t get better response when I prayed the same words over and over, either.

Since God didn’t seem to care about anything I prayed, I wondered what the point of prayer was except to keep me out of Hell.  So I prayed to stay out of Hell, and also with a far-fetched hope that maybe God would one day pick my prayer “ticket” out of the bowl of requests He got every day.  I thought about the book Please Try to Remember the First of Octember.  I wanted to keep a long running list with Him, just in case He ever decided to respond.

Every time my life would crash, I was more and more sure God did not love me at all.  And so I very naturally felt it was right for me not to love God.  When I faced a big heartache as a young teenager, I decided to make a new agreement with God.  I would acknowledge He was there, and He would maybe save me from Hell, and, other than that, we could leave each other alone.

Failing in social circles, losing my dad, struggling with my health . . . every bad thing that happened started a new list for me.  Not a list of things I wanted from God, but a list of things I was holding against God.  I didn’t feel too bothered that I didn’t love God–other than that He might send me to Hell for it–because, in my book, God didn’t love me.  It annoyed me to hear that God loved me, but I fixed that by avoiding the places I thought He exclusively stayed: the Bible, Christian radio, church.  I still went to church (dutifully, grudgingly), but I made sure to clench my list of grudges against God extra tight whenever I was afraid I might change my mind.

. . . As I’m writing this, I’m searching in my mind for a bridge to try to explain to you what happened next.  But I realize I can’t find a middle ground because there was no middle ground.  If I tried to give an order of steps for what happened, I’d never get to salvation, because I didn’t have steps.  I had a plunge, straight into God’s love.

One day, God just pushed me in.  That’s the only way I can explain it.

I realized it wasn’t about my struggle to love God.  It was about His struggle to love me.

My struggle: anger that my sin and other people’s sin causes problems.  Here’s what I found out: not God’s fault.

God’s struggle : anger and grief that our sin separates us from Him.  Here’s what I found out: instead of treating me like I treated Him, instead of making a list of proofs that I clearly hated Him and why He shouldn’t bother with me . . . God pursued my heart.  He pursued my heart even though it cost Him His life.

God figured out a way to die.  When I think about that, I still can’t believe it.  God figured out a way to die.  It’s impossible for God to die, but God figured out a way to die.

God became human not so we would decorate our houses with nativities at Christmas time, but so that He could die.  The manger is a symbol of death: God’s death.

God in that little wooden manger.  God finding a way to die when He could not die.  God dying so He could forgive us.  God didn’t just pay the penalty that we owed to someone else.  God paid the penalty we owed Him.  Like a judge taking the death penalty for the man he convicts.  That is a taste of God’s love.

God’s love letter to us (His Word) . . God’s gift of His Son . . is a personal love for me, for actually me, for me, for me, for me.  Once I knew that, I knew no matter what happens . .

I will still love God.  If my sin or the sins of others causes me pain, I will still love God.

–But that’s nothing.  Here’s what is something:

God still loves me.

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway
See now, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking
Yes then, I turned away with a smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
Yes,You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
You love me, yes You love me
How You love me
How You love me
How You love me

–You Love Me Anyway, Sidewalk Prophets

Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to me. I haven’t come from heaven to do what I want to do. I’ve come to do what the one who sent me wants me to do. The one who sent me doesn’t want me to lose any of those he gave me. He wants me to bring them back to life on the last day. My Father wants all those who see the Son and believe in him to have eternal life. He wants me to bring them back to life on the last day.”  (John 6:37-40, GWT)