Tuesday, July 16, 2013

pragmatism and the lavish love of God


I grew up on a farm.

That doesn't mean much in my life now, for I’ve always been a city kind of girl. My mom made sure there was more than just farm culture in my life growing up and I have fond memories of trips to see the Nutcracker, Broadway shows, museums and all others kinds of things that she believed would make me a more well-rounded person.

I was still the girl who had to get up at 6am in the summer and help her brother irrigate. The girl who rode on the back of pickup truck and shucked sweet corn after a morning in the field, picking it by hand. I was still the girl who mowed an acre and half of lawn on the homestead, rode horses when she could, and had a chore list.

I was also the girl that got lost in the music of Miss Saigon and Les Miserablés, lived my life with rich imagination (okay, it was more like my version of a pop music video but… whatever) and wanted to know more about Van Gogh, devoured The Catcher in the Rye and was often brought to tears by sections of Rachmaninoff’s Themes on Paganini.

Growing up on a farm meant we lived our life simply but not without some splurging. Both my parents are intensely practical (which was not my bent) and for the most part, I lived by the rule of “If you want it, you need to earn it.” I never did without, and having a pragmatic temperament was how I was raised.

I took a week off from work at the end of June to fly home to Nebraska and spend some time with my family on the farm. I checked the weather before I left and planned for almost 100 degrees, which is incredibly rare for that time of year. And I was disheartened, because it was 110 in the desert and I was ready for a reprieve.

But it wasn't that hot the whole time I was there. Nearly each day was 80 or 85 degrees, with a perfect gentle breeze. The lazy mornings on my parents’ deck were 65 degrees, which found me bundled up in a blanket with a cup of coffee and The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning. This is book about discipleship, but because it’s Brennan Manning, you cannot miss his heart for teaching us the spectacular, lavishing love of Jesus Christ.  Not in a “yeah, he loves the world” kind of way, but in a heart-crushing, mind-wrecking, hits-you-right-between the eyes “He loves me” kind of way.

One day during vacation, on my way to have coffee with a friend, I rolled the car window down and actually remember feeling hugged by God. It was as if he knew I needed to be refreshed and that the weather was the way my soul would be rejuvenated.

The idea that God would provide beautiful weather while I'm in Nebraska seems ridiculous from a pragmatic point of view. Why would God make the weather beautiful for me?  That just seems silly. And when I say it out loud to my family I wonder if they have an element of disbelief in their minds. It's almost as if I can see them smirking and saying “Doesn’t God have better things to do?”

But he doesn’t.

“Nothing is more puzzling to me than our massive resistance to the inbreak of God’s love. Why are we so churlish to receive? Are we afraid of becoming vulnerable, of losing control of our lives, of acknowledging our weakness and need? Do we keep God at a safe distance to protect the illusion of our independence?” – Brennan Manning writes in The Signature of Jesus.

For me it’s some of what we mentioned, but far more. For me, it’s my practical and sensible side insisting that I am not important enough to have such a frivolous prayer answered.  This is all rooted in the belief that my desire for comfort is not a way God will show me his extravagant love… that I am too insignificant for this to really matter to God.

But I am not.

Every day during this week, I would arise around 7:30, grab a coffee cup from the kitchen, and putter my way through the house and make my way out to the deck (I learned after the second day to grab a blanket), join my parents for coffee and bird watching. It was perfect weather. 

And there were moments that I dismissed the feelings of “God is being so gracious to me right now with the weather because he knew I needed a reprieve so much…” -  thinking to myself, “Why would God do something as trivial as give me nice weather while I’m on vacation?”

The night time included more time on the deck with more time reading (I finished three books) with lightening bugs, crickets, frogs jumping around my feet, oak trees as high as the heavens and green, green, green grass. None of that exists here in the desert, and I miss it desperately.

Because of my upbringing, I approach most of my life in a very pragmatic way. I also approach my feelings in a very pragmatic way.  (Which is a real challenge when you are a very sensitive person.) So when I have these kinds of feelings about God’s everlasting, , crazy and frivolous love for me – well, those feelings seem silly.

But the Bible says differently. If the cross taught us anything it's that God loves us deeply and passionately… and he will go to any depth to show us how much he loves us.  If he would allow his son to die for that love, why wouldn't he make the weather pleasant for me on my vacation because he knew I needed a break from the Arizona desert weather? It sounds crazy to think this, yet God’s love for us just that - crazy.

It is a challenge for me to live and rest in this kind of love. I’m not completely sure it can ever been understood, and sometimes the most important thing in my life is to understand things. Understanding helps lead me to acceptance. And that is a barrier I am facing right now.

“The most difficult thing in mature believing is to accept that I am an object of God’s delight.” – Alan Jones

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth in named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3: 14-19


1 comment:

Friar Tuck said...

Beautifully written, as always. And inspirational.