I’ve gone through many books in my day. When I was at A&M I didn’t have a television so not only did I find my actual textbooks entertaining but I read about a novel a week. Other than the textbooks though, I’ve rarely read for self improvement or to gain some insight about myself…. big mistake. At any rate like I said I’ve gone through a small libraries worth of books. But this book, “Love Does,” went through me.
I got this book at Christmas from someone very special. Someone special that I failed. At Christmas when I got it I judged it by it’s cover and thought it was about love and relationships so I put it in my “read this sometime” pile and moved on.
It wasn’t until my duality and some problems that I’ve had since childhood resurfaced and I caused more emotional wreckage that I picked this book up. I realized it’s not about relationships but about one relationship, the most important relationship, our relationship with God.
This isn’t a book review but if you are interested in moving from loving God to working for God read this book. I’m not personally there yet so I’m focusing on one aspect of the book that became very important to me, and that is how the author shares the many faces of Christianity. My favorite face was the BB gun shooting childhood friend who showed him that Christians aren’t finger pointing starched shirts, or that at least they don’t have to be. It was the boy who lodged a pellet in the author’s leg that showed the path to the church and to God. It made me start to think that maybe I didn’t have to be perfect to be loved.
Let me back up a little even though I just read in a book about 25 mistakes by authors that the flashback is a horrible way to tell a story (it was number 5 I think). Over the past year I’ve had an amazing person in my life, she taught me so much about God’s grace and love. For the first time I started seeing that God is about love and forgiveness and not about accusation. I started to see that maybe a person like me who was damaged and had done so much wrong could be loved by God. I have given in to most types of sin and I was like Oscar Wilde in that, “I can resist anything but temptation.” But I thought that if I just did some good then I could make up for it and earn some love. I secretly never thought that I deserved love, mostly because I couldn’t love myself.
In stead I destroyed love because I sought it out in all the wrong ways.
I’m going to interject here a minute also (probably mistake number 12 in the writer’s book but I haven’t gotten that far yet) to admit something else about myself; I’m a crier. Since I’ve tried to be more open I have opened up the waterworks all over the place. A kodack ad, that “Christmas Shoes” country song, anything can make my eyes water and shower down the tears. My kids have now started to watch for these things and they get ready to comfort me. A while back my son and I were watching tv and an ad came on that showed a little three legged dog at a pound, when people would walk up he would get all excited and wag his tail, but the people all kept walking past. Each time someone would approach, the poor little guy’s excitement and hope was slightly less until finally he would just sit in the back of his dog run rejectedly. Then they showed him up close, his three little legs jumping and happy as someone was scratching his ear. Off screen you could hear the pound worker say, “I’m so glad you’re taking him home, he’s been through a lot.” Then the camera pans back to the man taking the dog and you see a veteran with a prosthetic leg and he says, “So have I.” Well of course I lost it, my son was ready and came over to hug me even through his laughter (ok I’m crying a little writing about it now also) but he was like, “Dad it’s a Purina ad!”
I am new to church and sometimes worry that people will look at me next to them and think, “Oh great that weird crying guy is here, the pastor is just talking about the pot luck diner for Pete’s sake.” But honestly I know they are welcoming and as comforting as my kids. In fact this past Sunday a friend who knows that I have stumbled mightily as I began to learn what it is to be a Christian came up to me while I was wiping a way the tears from an inspirational song to hug me and offer support and encouragement.
I know God sent her, to show me that I don’t have to do good, I don’t have to be perfect to be loved. God loves us no matter what. In my job I work with men who have committed the most serious of crimes, some of these men beg for forgiveness and I know they shall receive it. I feel my role right now is to treat them with the humanity and to see the infinite grace that God has granted them. And yet I hesitate to receive that grace myself because I don’t feel worthy.
I remind myself of that book whose cover I judged and the bb gun toting young christian who God loves, of the woman who God sent to encourage me after I fell, of the men who have taken lives for greed or passion who are seeking and deserving God’s grace and I feel stronger.
I also think of the little three legged dog from the Purina commercial and I know that when we feel that we don’t don’t deserve Jesus because we’ve “been through a lot” we have to pan back and remember, so has He, and He went through it for us.
I did stumble but God was there to pick me up and hold me in his love. When I have a setback of my own making I like to read the following;
Isaiah 40: 30,31 “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”