Invited into Real Love
I need real love for a very broken me. There's a lot about myself that I cannot fix. There are more aches than I can heal, more stains than I can expunge, and more than a few things I cannot change or understand.
I need a real love for the broken, painful, shameful pieces of me.
What I don’t need is a love that is not real love at all. Something that loves me only when I am the best version of myself, and shudders at the sight of the worst version of myself. Nor do I need a love that would only take what’s broken in me and replace it with something good. Replacement does not always equal love, since the sting of guilt and the fear of reprisal could remain.
I need a really real love that wants to prove I am fully, truly loved in spite of my sin while also rescuing me from the sting that can remain.
The Bible speaks of a God who knows all, sees all, hears all of who I am – and loves me fully. And Jesus reminds His disciples to “remain in [this] love” (John 15).
I do, so desperately, want to remain in His love.
When God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), this isn’t some whitewashed, general love. It is the intricate, tender, devoted, intentional, pursuing, and enveloping love of God for those who are His own. The kind of love that says, very literally, “There is nothing that can separate you from my love” (Rom 8).
“Love must be sincere” (Rom 12:9)…real, genuine, true. Otherwise, it is not love…it is a delusion. I’ve come to realize that God will never deny the reality of who I am, because He knows that to do so is to betray the genuine love that only He can offer. Instead, He invites me to Him with my whole, real self.
It is not God who hides from us. God is continually revealing Himself (Rom 1, John 5:29, John 1). It is us who hide from God. Neither does He hide His love. He puts it all – the ugliness of sin and the sacrifice of His Son - on full display – and the theme of His great love runs from Genesis to Revelation. We were made to experience the reality of this kind of love. The love that would look on our stains and choose to “make them white as snow” at such a high price. We yearn so desperately to be loved despite being deeply known, and God offers this love in full. So why do we attempt to hide?
If we ever thought we could deny Adam and Eve as our spiritual parents, then our habitual propensity to hide ourselves from the only person who already knows us would betray our delusion. From the beginning, humanity has attempted to hide. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves, blamed each other, and even blamed God (Gen 3). Moses tried to negate his calling by arguing with God who appeared as a bush set aflame by holy fire (Ex 3). Jonah, despising the grace of God, attempted to run as far as he could in the opposite direction (Jonah 4). The Israelites, throughout the Old Testament, spurned God’s love for them; and by the time Jesus walked among them, they had constructed a religious order that hid the dirt inside the cup by merely cleaning the outside (Matt 23:25).
We too, hide, although we were never designed, nor do we have any excuse, to do so. The truth is: God knows we do not want to see ourselves because we feel shame and indignation at the same time concerning what is in our hearts. So, we hide.
I often wonder if Eve also felt this sort of shame when the Evil One told her, “Surely you will not die. No, you will be like God – knowing good from evil” (Gen 3). I wonder if, in that very moment, Eve thought to herself: Maybe I should be able to discern between good and evil. Maybe I’m supposed to be more than what I am. Maybe it would make me more useful to God here in the Garden. I wonder if I am capable of more than what I’ve been created for…?
Maybe I’ve thought the same sorts of things: I should be able to fix this. I shouldn’t feel so incapable, frail, inept, lost, confused, slighted, forgotten, small…I would be more useful to God if I wasn’t selfish, prideful, angry…
I know for sure I have forgotten God’s love, and the expression of love in His care and provision towards me. And most of all, I know I have forgotten His desire to be with me – to have me near to Him because of His love for me - to walk with me “in the cool of the day” as He did with Adam and Eve long ago.
Somehow, I think that we are all undeniably like Eve: We have been duped into believing that God is ashamed of who we are - as if it wasn't His idea all along to make us human - with feelings, thoughts, limits, and a deep desire to experience love. We so easily forget that we were originally created to “love God and be loved by Him” and that through this type of love, we bring glory to His Name.
For whatever reason, and in whatever condition we are in –God is not the one ignoring the real us; we are. Yet, God knows that we will never understand how real His love is for us until we deal in the full reality of who we are. So, God offers us the solution to face the wall of our pride and shame: "Come, let’s reason together…” (Is 1:18).
Let’s consider: Why did God call out for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Surely the God who sees all knew exactly where they were. Why did God ask them how they realized their nakedness, and whether they had eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? The God who knows all things would surely know these answers without having to ask. Why does He desire this type of transparency?
The answer is this: God's love is the realest form of love we could ever imagine; and because it is so real, it can only be experienced when we are meeting Him with our real selves.
God wants all of us.
God, Eternal, continues to compel us to come to Him – with all the things we hold within.
God called out for Adam and Eve in the Garden. He called out for the return of Israel in the Old Testament. Jesus came to “seek and save that which has been lost” (Luke 19:10). The One who sits on the throne says, “To the one who is thirsty, come; and to those who want to drink of the living water, let him come and drink freely!” (Rev. 22:17). He is still calling out to all who would hear: “Come, let us reason together” about what is truly inside our hearts. He invites us to accept all that He has to offer – for all the things that we hold within.
For our confusion, strong assurance.
For our betrayal, true justice.
For our grief, joy eternal.
For our tiredness, sustaining strength.
For our inability, unlimited provision.
For our stains, clean slate.
"Come, let us reason together" is a repeated invitation to experience the true love of God afresh for whatever our hearts hold. If our sins – dark as scarlet – can be washed white as snow, then we can trust that the reality of God’s love can also “heal our diseases and bind up our wounds” (Ps 103:2-3), comfort us “in all our afflictions” (2 Cor 1:4), “instruct us”(Ps 32:8), remove our fear and confusion (2 Tim 1:7), and that we will “find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16) time and time again.
God invites us to come to Him in order to receive from Him, and He dictates that we come with all that we are, hiding nothing so that we can reason with Him in reality. He knows that this is the only way we can experience the true vastness of His love for us.
This mercy is not for salvation alone – it is for salvation now, in this present moment, as we are “walking with Him” in the life unfolding before our eyes. God still swings wide the door of His own heart and asks us to receive from Him instead of hiding. He offers freedom from the spiritual delusion that we can change ourselves apart from Him – or that He expects us to be able to do so. He has made a way for this freedom through our continued practice of showing up to "reason together" with Him about all the things we hold in our hearts – not just our sins, but our heartaches and struggles as well.
God is a deeply personal, all-consuming, unlimited being whose love for us overflows out of this very nature.
God wants to “reason together…”
about the reality we are experiencing right now…
and why we feel shame and fear.
He invites us to talk about what we don’t understand and what we cannot change.
He desires for us to “come” into this holy space to be with Him
so He can prove His love to us…
where He freely offers His mercy as we freely offer our brokenness.
Where He “reasons together” with us about who we are
and who we are not,
and who He’s created us to be.
The invitation is always open.