"Abide in my love." What does that mean exactly Lord? It was so much easier before things got so personal and complicated. I remember when I was planning our wedding and the anticipation of it all was intoxicating. I could see it all in my future and I knew everything was going to be beautiful because I prayed and you had answered. I could envision our perfect life, our perfect love story, our perfect children. I saw it all there in my dreams, bright blue, cloudless skies as far into the future as I could see. I never pictured anything less than perfection and those expectations have paralyzed me over and over again. My life has the shell of all of my prayers and dreams, but the guts are very different. My reality is nothing like what I was anticipating, and I hate it, but I love it. My dreams were impossible, but I didn't know that. My dreams never included a husband who had an opinion of his own or children with real personalities, or learning struggles, or temper tantrums. My dreams didn't include losing my mom to cancer, when my babies were to young to remember her. My dreams didn't include struggles at all. I hate the hurt that comes with the struggle, but I know it's all for His good.
A few weeks ago I was sitting on the patio reading a book, when my 12 year old daughter plopped down in the chair across from me. I knew something was bothering her immediately. She began making small talk, that led into an hour long conversation, that eventually came to the heart of her struggle... she's mad at God because she has some very real hurts and struggles that she can't understand. We cried together as I shared with her that I know how she feels. I don't know why God does what he does. I do know that His ways are not my ways and 100 percent of the time I am fighting to have my will over his. My dreams never included having tear-filled conversations with my daughter about why God allows us to hurt so deeply. Knowing that her faith would have to be her own and not something I gave her, the only comfort I had to offer her was that it's in the most painful moments of my life that the presence of God was the most real to me. I had to be honest and admit to her that if my life were the perfect picture I wanted it to be I would never turn to God. I would worship a very different god, the one of my own making, a dead god, who NEVER interfered in my life. That is NOT the Creator/King of this universe. He does what He wills and that includes messing with our little lives and using them for His purposes. The only way He's ever gotten my attention is through a painful circumstance.
I want God to prove his love for me by doing what I want... like a genie in a bottle, I make a wish and he grants and poof I know he loves me. You can imagine my inward struggle when He doesn't answer my prayer or change my situation or when he allows me to struggle through a long, hard season. Jesus says "Abide in my love" and I say HOW? Like a spoiled, narcissistic child I play the game "If you loved me you would..." I fight and struggle to have my own way until I'm completely limp with exhaustion, because you can't fight with God and win. Defiant and angry with my fist lifted in the air, I cry out for proof of this unconditional love, waiting for any answer other than the one I already know. He whispers the same thing to my heart every time, "BUT God demonstrates HIS OWN LOVE for us in THIS: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
When John the Baptist, Jesus' own cousin, was sitting in prison, waiting for his execution I'm sure he was thinking that if Jesus was really the son of God he would come and set him free. In fact he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to say, "Are you the one we seek, or should we look for another." Basically, he is saying "IF you were really God you would get me out of this mess." Jesus sends them back with a very simple message... "Go and show John AGAIN those things that you hear and see; The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. AND BLESSED IS HE, WHO IS NOT OFFENDED BECAUSE OF ME." Jesus is Messiah even when our circumstances make us question. God is good, even when life is not.
If we have our eyes on our circumstances we will doubt God's goodness and sometimes even his existence. If we have our eyes on our pain, fears, or perfection we will live in disappointment. Jesus said "Abide (live) in my love." How do we do that? The only way to abide in the love of God is to remember (keep in mind) what Christ has done for us on the cross.
It's a constant struggle for me to keep hold of this truth. I want God to prove his love for me by giving me a struggle free, perfect life, but what I fail to realize is that I would never grow, never have a real faith, never mature. I'm thankful for this reminder every time my 2 year old throws a fit. I see myself in the struggle between his will and mine. I see how little he knows and how his limited understanding determines how he views his world. He wants what he wants with no thoughts of consequences... I am so much like that. I'm so thankful that God knows better than I do and that he will not allow me to have what I want IF it's not for my good.
Abide in my love. Stay there. You will have peace that passing understanding and bear much fruit, but you have to stay in my love... My love is that when you were hopeless without an escape, I made a way for you to be forgiven and have eternal life. While you were covered in sin and standing in judgement... I took your place. I bore your punishment. Abide in my love.