God's Love is Safe : I am Safe in God's Love : You are Safe
~No matter what we face.
She was talented, wise, quirky, hard-working, kind, and so much more. There were many reasons to love and respect her. And I miss her.
My earliest memories of her are the images of her and my Mom working on Missions Week activities at our church. As the Children’s Director, she was the one who taught me the usual songs every child learns in church. Even as young as I was, I remember thinking to myself, “How does she have so much energy?” while she would be-bop to and fro across campgrounds, church fellowship rooms, and VBS classrooms. These were the things I witnessed her doing, and they make me smile to remember them. But the memories I cherish most are the ones that most people did not always see.
Ms. Methel (as everyone called her) was a close friend of my Mother’s throughout my childhood. I remember sitting beside the fire, watching my Mom and Ms. Methel playing Scrabble for what seemed like hours. I listened to them share their hearts over cups of coffee in my Mother’s kitchen, or at a fast food restaurant between our house and hers. I saw her face when it wasn’t gleefully telling a room full of 4-foot-tall wild things how much Jesus loved them. I heard her when she didn’t have all the words to explain God or what He was doing in her life. Instead, she would wave her hand as if she was backhanding a fly, and eventually say, “Well, Pat,” (speaking to my Mom) “I guess the answer is: I don’t know…BUT, I know God does, so I’m going to trust that.”
She believed that. I heard her say the same thing in front of a sea of children at camp, and in private conversations between sips of hot tea with a friend. Through the years, that never changed.
As I grew up, she became my counselor while my parents went through a wretched separation. From her high-rise office looking over the city, we would stand by the window and say, “When I am overwhelmed, I start to count the church steeples across the horizon. On a clear day, I see them all. On a cloudy day, some are hidden, but I know they are still there even if I cannot see them. It reminds me that God is here, even when I cannot see Him.” I now count the church steeples during airplane rides, since I do not enjoy flying. My eyes grow hot with tears when my son will count them with me.
Just before I left for college, she stopped by our house to visit. She picked up the new Bible that my Mother had just bought for me, and said, “Daly, I’m sorry I don’t have a graduation gift for you. But, there is one thing I will give to you now: There are no more than 31 days in any month, and there are 31 chapters in the book Proverbs. There is wisdom here for every single day of your life.” I still read a chapter in Proverbs on most days, and I have done so since the day she mentioned this to me. It has changed me – is still changing me. I measure my life by the words written in that book. It was one of the first “devotions” I ever read to my sons. It was the best gift she could have given me.
While my Mother was dying, Ms. Methel would visit her frequently. She would rub lotion on my Mom’s feet and hands while she sang an old hymn. They would share short, funny memories and a glisten of a tear would wet their eyes. They would speak kind words, encouraging words to each other about a future neither of them could see. This was not a new thing because my Mom now faced death; it was what they had always done. Again, Ms. Methel would say, “I don’t know why God is allowing this, but I know that God is still in control. All that I know to do is to trust Him.”
Mom passed away. I got married, had kids, moved away, and tried to grow up and be a responsible adult. Ms. Methel became a widow, and her own family grew; her body aged and wore away as all bodies eventually do. But her uncanny ability to tune into the presence of God at any present moment only strengthened.
The best conduits of God’s love to others, are those who have experienced God’s love the most.
John 15 “Remain in my love. You will remain in my love if you obey my commands…My command is this: Love others as I have loved you.”
Ms. Methel had a way of loving others – imperfectly yet intentionally. She reminded me of who I was. She reflected myself back to me, rightly standing as a mirror for all of who I was, especially the parts I could not see. Yet, she did not condemn, she instructed, and she loved. She stood as a witness to my life, in so many various stages, and saw a wholistic version of what made me who I am. Over it all, she encircled it with the love she had been given, because she knew that God's love was what I needed - what everyone needed. She saw who I was and who God was, and she echoed God’s invitation to become aware of His love for me, simply by loving me.
Perhaps it all began as simply religious rhetoric; maybe she merely set out to “love others as I have loved you” as a religious checklist. (Although, I sincerely doubt this to be the overarching truth.) Regardless, I know that at some point, she simply kept her heart continually hidden in the love of Christ, and through that, she loved me. When I would visit her, I always sensed that any moment could be a holy moment…I only had to slow down enough to catch a glimpse of it. To linger in that moment. To be tuned into God’s presence in whatever way He arrived. It was clear to me, God’s love for her had made her a vessel of the loving presence of God.
Through brokenness, she oozed the love she had been given. To be with her, was an exercise in savoring the goodness of God over all of my life – including all that the mystery of the Lord entails. Like a rainbow encircles the earth completely, even though we only see it in part, God’s lovingkindness towards us encircles it all. Like a rainbow, Ms. Methel was a refracting of love, casting a spectrum of love in all its forms towards the present moment, as God would shine His love upon her. I felt seen, supported, and loved over it all.
This is the feeling of safety. When we enter into the safe presence of the Lord, we learn what it means to experience being safe – to have His lovingkindness encircle all of who we are and what we are experiencing – even though our finite minds can only “understand in part” the workings of God’s love (1 Cor. 13:9).
It is the result of both the rain and the sun – the good and the bad – what we understand and what we must believe by faith. If it is not good now, He will make it good. If it doesn’t make sense now, it will one day. If we feel want now, He will restore what was taken. When we are stained, He will wash it white as snow. He has made all things good and will continue to make all things good (Rom. 8:28) BECAUSE “His mercies never fail” (Lam 3:22). A heart that can say, “I don’t know why God is allowing this, but I know that God is still in control. All that I know to do is to trust Him” because I know that He is love.
This is the result of “reasoning together” with God (Isaiah 1:18). We experience His safe covering that encircles all of those who are His. Within this realm, He reconciles our debt so that we may know of His love for us. He gathers us within His presence, awesome as it is, and sinks us deep into His tender desire for us, even when we enter with “fear and shaking” (Phil. 2:12). We lay down what we can no longer hold, and He helps us to recognize and trust His presence in our midst. Because what we really need is Him – and He wants to pour His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
In John 15, Jesus instructs us to remain in His love by following His commands, and every command can be honed into a single aim: “love others as I have loved you”. This means that we must endeavor to understand the capacity of the love of God for us before we can ever truly fulfill the commands of God. Being found in God is contingent upon our love for others, which is contingent upon remaining in His love.
This isn’t a timeline of events. It’s a continuum - a cycle of continually meeting with God, wrestling with Him, reasoning with Him, enjoying Him, waiting on Him, and receiving love from Him, before we are engaging with or loving our neighbor. And loving others will inevitably drive us back to God as we continue to reason with Him about how He has loved us, so that we can love others. This is the spiral that drills into the rocky soils of our hearts, so that we are “deeply rooted and built up in Him” (Col. 2:6-7).
This is why God first invites us to reason with Him, so that we would know the unending depths of His love: although we are stained, He will make us “white as snow” (Is. 1:18). It is important that we answer that invitation continually, so that we are remaining in His love in all the ways He reveals His love to our hearts. As we return again and again, to reason with God about His love for us, we are convinced of His love, and can refract that love to others. Although we do not know the answers, we can trust Him, because we know that “He is good” (Ps. 119:68), and we can speak this same goodness over the lives of others around us – no matter what we are facing. We can become the a safe conduit of the love that has been poured into us. We can confidently say to others: I know that God's love is safe, and I am safe in God's love; so you too are safe in God's love - no matter what you are facing. I will simply remind you that I don't know what God is doing, but I know that I can trust Him. You can too. You are safe here.