Saturday, June 14, 2014

To Be Loved

Something good happened to me recently.  Some people would have seen it as a victory, but to me?  It felt hollow.  I didn’t understand.

But it was like a man who threw a party.  This man was me.  I put together a surprise party for someone I believed was special.  A good friend.  My best friend.  So I prepared the whole thing—got it all ready and invited people over.  I told them to bring gifts because, although it wasn’t my friend’s birthday, he deserved it.  And everyone shows up.  They’re all there and waiting.  They wanted to see this friend too, because he must be a great guy if I prepared a celebration for him like this.  It wasn’t a small gathering.  And these people show up and we wait. 

And we wait all day. 

Some people begin to wonder why I brought them here.  Was it a joke?  I say “no, it’s no joke.  He’s coming.”  But it’s too late, they tell me.  They have families and things to do.  They are polite as they leave, and eventually it is just me, sitting in this house, waiting for my friend to show up.  I keep running to the window when a car drives by, or a person walks past, or when a dog barks, or there’s a bump on the roof, despite knowing he wouldn’t come from that way.  (First, because he’s not Santa Clause, and second, there’s no chimney anyway.)

Three days go by.  I wait, just to make sure.  But every phone call that is not him, every wrong car, every false alarm—even the lack of emails in my inbox—eventually becomes too much.  I can’t sit there anymore.  I have things to do, too, and I have put them off for too long.  So I give up, and I leave.

Then I throw another party, this time for someone I know will be there.  And again, people come and join in.  The guest of the party shows up, and everyone has a good time, except me.  Because this time, the person we were celebrating?

That was me. 

The friend in my story was Jesus, and I have to ask—

Has this ever happened to you? 

Have you every approached a point in life where you wanted to see the power of God, but…didn’t?

I am no fool.  I know God didn’t have to show up to a “party” I threw for Him.  He’s God.  He does what He wants.  But what if you felt like God was the one who told you to throw the party in the first place?  Someone might say, “well if God didn’t show, obviously He didn’t tell you to do it, because He’s God.”  Again, God does what God wants, and God never lies.  But do you believe the Bible, I ask?  Because the Bible was written by people that believed God was speaking to them.  How do you discern the difference?  And if you were seeking God when a message came from who you believed God to be, and He had already made evidence of that by revealing His nature to you, how would you then abandon that belief?  And how long would you wait for Him to show?

You see, God spoke to me, a while ago, during a time in my life that I needed Him to.  It was the first time I had ever heard the Voice of God clearly.  In speaking to me, I finally understood the truth that the Bible had outlined for me my entire life.  God spoke, and there was light.  I cannot relate the joy and freedom that I felt during this time.  I decided I would never pursue the things in the world again.  I would live here, but I wouldn’t be from here.  An alien in a foreign land.

For awhile God continued to speak.  He continued to guide me and, even during many stupid mistakes on my part, be patient with me while he taught me a new reality.  God revealed a different kingdom than the one I had worked for my entire life; a kingdom that was infinite and beautiful.  God’s voice was a comfort I didn’t want to live without.

And then, one day, it just…stopped.

I didn’t understand.  I thought maybe I had some unrepentant sin I wasn’t confessing.  As though God were controlled in this way.  I tried changing the channel on all the old ways I had heard from him.  Adjusting frequencies here and there.  But all I heard were the echoes. 

“Be loved, son.  Learn to be loved.”

But nothing else.  So, I thought, maybe if I throw Him some parties, He’d show up.  He had to.  I gripped anything I thought would bring Him back.  So I threw Jesus a party, and I waited.

How long would you wait?

I waited three years to hear His voice again.  During those three years I tried to throw more than one party, all with the same result.  What was perhaps more confusing was that I saw the evidence that God was working in other people’s lives, even through the truth I shared with them during my walk with the Almighty God when He was speaking to me. 

I began to despair.   Once to a point where I thought I would not come back out a believer.

But finally, God did speak.  Perhaps the final time in a long time.

He was at the party, he said.  I responded that I never saw Him, but He assured me He was there.  Where?  I asked.  Where were you!?  Why would you come to a party disguised?  Or through the back, making me look like an idiot in front of my friends while I waited!?  How is that good!?  I didn’t understand.

“Son, I was at the party, but I was waiting for you.  A different party, in the same house.”

The parable of the prodigal son was suddenly so relevant.  I was the lost sheep that God found and rejoiced over.   I was the son who returned.  I thought I would arrive at my Father’s house and give Him something…anything.  Because I wasn’t worthy.  I wasn’t holding onto excuses, but I wanted to give something back to God, despite owning nothing of value. 

And instead God was waiting to take me inside to His celebration. 

I believe the way this plays out in the lives of Christians is that the Spirit, God’s gift to mankind through the cross of Christ, is available if we learn to be loved.  I never wanted anything except to inspire people to hope in Jesus, and I thought I would do this by creating a circumstance where God had to show up.  When He didn’t, I felt that maybe my radio wasn’t tuned correctly, or that the method I had used previously to communicate with Him was somehow broken.  But I knew that, if this were the case, then all the truths and joys I had learned about God during my walks with Him could also be called into question.  The freedom I found in God could be merely psychological, and the joy a result of manmade, selfish desires.  There was no way to prove otherwise.  But because the life of God was so beautiful when I knew it, and that hope began to look less promising when He didn’t show up to my parties, I began to despair.    

But the hope was always there.  In another room, waiting for me to respond.  God wasn’t speaking anymore because He wanted to reveal his Spirit in me, and He couldn’t do that if I was addicted to his Voice.  Like Peter, so bold when Jesus was alive, but a coward when his Lord died, I began to fear, thinking that maybe the Savior had died.  I didn’t realize that the Spirit was being hindered in my life as I desperately clung to the Voice, as I’ll call it.  Not that the Voice was bad, in fact it was incredibly good, but it was only the beginning.

Peter eventually was sent out to spread the Gospel, the Truth, even after he had denied knowing Jesus at all.  God, in his mercy, met Peter where he was in his fear, and called him home.  He gave Peter the robe and told him that He loved him, knowing that Peter would respond, and follow Jesus fearlessly.

If you are Peter before the return of Jesus, I want you to have that hope.  I cannot give it to you, and you cannot create it yourself, but we can both know that God is there and real, ready to accept you into the family and celebrate your return.

Maybe He’s just in another room, waiting to start the party.

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