We hadn’t been to church in awhile and the person who keeps track of that sort of thing started to notice. She called and left a message letting us know how much they loved and missed us. I made sure to find her the next time we were there to tell her how much I appreciated that she reached out to us. We don’t know each other well and my hairstyle was different so when I approached her, I could almost see the gears turning in her head in an effort to place me. Even before the light bulb came on and she realized who was talking to her, she opened her arms wide, inviting me for a hug. I read her precious expression to say, “I may not know you, but I love you.” Even without instantly or fully comprehending, she threw open her arms with love. And in that moment, God taught me the first part of a beautiful lesson. When your understanding fails, throw open your arms to Love.
l’ve had some serious questions for God over the last few years. One particular question that kept nagging me was, “why are we even here?” I didn’t understand why God would bother creating us just to suffer here on earth for all of our days. If the goal was to get us to heaven, why not just skip what I considered hell on earth? It didn’t make sense to me and I wrestled. Sometimes I still wrestle. But one day I read a quote from Henri Nouwen that stopped me in my tracks:
"God loved you before you were born, and God will love you after you die. In Scripture God says, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love.' This is a very fundamental truth of your identity. This is who you are whether you feel it or not. You belong to God from eternity to eternity. Life is just a little opportunity for you during a few years to say, 'I love you, too.'"
Oh, the beautiful ache of conviction. Without the pain of this life, could we really love? Would skipping right to heaven be able to produce a deep love like the love experienced through pain? Or would we simply possess a fair-weather love? I have started to believe that God put us here to learn and experience the full measure of love so that our hearts can be ready to embrace a greater Love than we can imagine in heaven. He is stretching our hearts to hold all He intends to pour into us. And this is our only opportunity to learn to love Him back with a pure, deep love. Oh, how sorry I am for squandering such an opportunity! I am afraid that if I don’t learn to love well here, my heart won’t be big enough to hold all the heaven love God has for me. My prayer has been, “God, stretch my heart to hold heaven love.” I want my heart prepared for the beauty of heaven and if that means it needs to be painfully stretched, so be it. When all else fails, I throw open my arms to love.
My arms have been closed for a long time. As long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to protect myself. I’ve been trying to fix myself and others and I cling so tightly to my perception of control. God is showing me that my control is just an illusion. The ‘solid’ ground I built has been cracking along the fault line for awhile now. The ground quaked again today when, despite months of treatment, my Lyme-fighting numbers plummeted in the wrong direction, almost down to where they were the first time I tested positive for Lyme. I have been searching, always looking for the next thing to try, relying on doctors who seem just as stumped as I am. And it has resulted in very little, if anything. I am disheartened and tired. Exhausted, really, from fighting for control. The ground shook so hard, it’s releasing a volcano that has been simmering for quite some time. But in the midst of my gut-wrenching tears, something amazing is happening. I hurt so, so badly but, at the very same time, I am relieved to have nothing left to do but let God fight for me. I’ve tried to let go so many times but my fight for control is such a habit. I needed to get to this place, a place with nowhere else to turn but to God. It’s amazing to me that in the midst of my devastation, I have a glimmer of hope, maybe even more hope than I’ve had in a long time. I am heartbroken, but I have nothing to cling to but God. And that is the beauty. God is the only one who knows how to heal me. I wonder if He’s just been waiting for me to let Him. The song below, by Selah, has been my anthem lately. When all else fails, I throw open my arms to Love.
As I lay me down, Heaven hear me now I'm lost without a cause after giving it my all Winter storms have come and darkened my sun After all that I've been through, who on earth can I turn to? I look to You. I look to You After all my strength is gone, in You I can be strong I look to You. I look to You And when melodies are gone, in You, I hear a song I look to You After losing my breath, there's no more fighting left Sinking to rise no more, searching for that open door And every road I've taken led to my regret And I don't know if I'm gonna make it. Nothing to do but lift my head When the levees are broken, my walls have come crumbling down on me When the rain is falling, defeat is calling. I need You to set me free Take me far away from the battle. I need You to shine on me I look to You
I hope that someday soon I will be able to follow the example of the precious friend whose instinct it was to welcome love before she fully understood the circumstances. Instead of waiting until all else fails, I want to open my arms to Love in the midst of pain. Even if it is as gut-wrenching as it feels right now, I want to welcome it, knowing that God is filling my heart with true love, deep love. Before I even understand what is happening, I want my heart to be stretched with heaven’s love.
Instead of throwing open our arms to love when all else fails, may we throw open our arms to Love first so that nothing fails. May our arms remain open to accept love in whatever form it comes and, in turn, fill us so much that it overflows to others. God, we love You, too.
"He gave me the grace to hope before, so I am asking that He would give more grace, again, even if it is harder to grasp this time. Grace to feel joy and grace to hope for life and grace to fight hard...Grace to have arms so filled with Him that they have to remain open and that He spills out." - Katie Davis Majors