When I was twelve I fell in love with you. I remember it happening. My father opened the Word like breaking bread and painted a picture of a love story. Am I mixing my metaphors? He spoke and I saw the obsession in his eyes like a disease compelling his actions and eating at him from the inside. I saw visions of white and lace, a husband and wife, a community of siblings, love and acts of honor, noble sacrifice, joyful communion and rich fellowship. A quest. I had never seen it in action, in real life. But I heard the memory, like a rumor, lifting off the pages of truth.
Here I am now. Over twenty five years since those early days of wide eyed wonder. Years have slipped by since that first breathless commitment to serve. I bear the battle scars of loving you. You can’t see them. Unlike the scars of motherhood that stretch across my skin, these lines are etched in my heart. In secret places. But they are there. I feel them at night sometimes, throbbing in the darkness. They don’t hurt as much after a careless word or thoughtless action. No, those happen in life, all of us say things we regret. It’s after my husband is devalued or his gifts mocked, it’s when his honor is questioned, or my love isn’t good enough for you, it’s when we have to say goodbye again. It’s when we become invisible or worse, the enemy. The scars ache when I see young believers devoured, heavy laws laid across their backs, the hunger for grace creeps into their expression. It’s when Jesus is obscured by fear or pride or envy or hate, and the blame lies at our feet. Blame because we’ve called sin by it’s real name and that’s unpopular, and in the end rebellion is easier to embrace than love. That’s when my scars hurt.
I haven’t been in a location yet that didn’t leave a scar. At first I flinched and resented the marring. But I don’t anymore, at least most days. I’ve seen some men and women develop a resentment and run away. I understand that, but I can’t do it. I think it’s because I love your Bridegroom more than I love you and my love for him gives my love for you value, meaning, and purpose. And of course I recognize that I’m not guiltless. I’ve let you down too. Your heart bears the marks of my shortcomings and graceless moments.
I have a request. Instead of me loving you in spite of and through it all, why not let’s try something new? Why not allow me to love you, and you love me back. Like I’m your friend or daughter or sister, your very own, and we belong to each other because we belong to Christ. And let’s not forget him. Let’s do everything for his sake, and by his Spirit, as if he’s more important than blue jeans, and coffee in the sanctuary, and favorite songs, and drums on the worship band, and you sat in my pew. Because then maybe I won’t be embarrassed inviting a neighbor to church and maybe they’d come and just maybe they’d see Jesus too.
I really want to love you. You’re stuck with me. I have nowhere else to go. I’m like a dog on a scent and it smells like rain on the horizon. Like the Spirit’s going to fall. And I wouldn’t miss it for anything. But, I’ve stood in the storm before, wind tossing to and fro. I’ve heard the thunder and felt the hair raise on my arm, only to have the hot wind of pride kick up and chase the storm away. And each time I’ve stood bereft at what we’ve all just lost. The promise of less of us and more of Him. And inevitably we go our own way because the memory of what just happened is too raw to bear. But one day I’ll be there, face down in the dirt, when the cloud breaks over us. I’ll grab your hands and we’ll dance around like children in the free flowing grace, and forgiveness will stream down our cheeks. It’s what I live for. And if it doesn’t happen on this earth it will happen on another, at a banquet, with a Lamb.
So, you see, you’re stuck with me, it’s inevitable. But I have one last request. Instead of making it a chore for me to love you, could you make it a joy?
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Hebrews 13:17