How Much You Are Loved

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The other day a friend of mine posted this beautiful photograph of her infant daughter.  She said she walked in to check on her and found the bunny tucked in beside her. If you knew the family you’d know that that is no ordinary bunny.

That particular bunny belongs to the baby’s oldest sister. We’ll call her Sarah. Sarah loves that bunny. She really, really loves it. You’ll usually find the bunny dragging along behind Sarah or tucked in with her for a nap. That bunny is probably Sarah’s Very Best Thing in the whole world. And she loaned it to her sister.

My friend commented that her sleeping daughter, “doesn’t even realize how much she is loved.” That resonated so deeply with me. Isn’t that a perfect picture of grace? God gave us His Very Best Thing long before we were old enough to understand.

Long before we knew the cost.
Long before we could to respond.
Long before we had any idea how deeply we are loved.

It’s amazing when you think about it. By the time you were born, and even long before that, God had already declared His love for you. He had already sacrificed. He already whispered out across time itself: You are loved! You are loved! You are loved!

In the photograph the baby is asleep. She doesn’t even know the gift has been given. But it’s there all the same. Sometimes when I’m waiting for God, I make the mistake of thinking that I’m waiting for Him to show up.

Where are you God? Can’t you see that I need You? DO something!

But the truth is that I’m not waiting for God to show up; I’m waiting for His timing and that’s not the same thing. God is already there, tucked in beside me as comforting as a well-worn bunny. He’s whispering the song He’s always sung: You are loved. You are loved. You don’t even realize how much you are loved.

 

(Thanks to Baby’s parents for permission to use the photo. Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.17.32 PM)

Why Aren’t You Married?

love-quoteI think I could be good at being married.  I’m a good communicator. I’m generous and encouraging and willing to compromise. I stay calm in a crisis and I’m learning to admit when I’m wrong. But I am in my mid- (okay late-) 30s and it has not happened for me so the question of, “Does God promise you a spouse?” hits pretty close to home.

Here’s the quick answer: I don’t think He does.

I don’t see God making a lot of promises about what is going to happen to us in this life. (He does promise that we will have trials in JOHN 16:33, but who wants to focus on that?) God talks a lot about what He will do for us, in us and through us but there’s no verse that says, “And lo, your life will work out just the way you hoped it would and I promise you will get married.”

The majority of people get married. But not everyone does.  That may not be what you wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. I don’t say this lightly – I know the pain of not having the thing you want the most, but there is freedom in letting go of false ideas. Underneath our longing for a spouse there is often a web of lies and false beliefs. If we can unearth those lies, pull them up by the roots, then I promise you there’s freedom there too.

Lie #1: Single people are leftovers

Sometimes we desperately want to believe that God promises us a spouse because we’ve attached our worth and identity to that maybe-future-relationship.  We’re afraid that if we stay unmarried God is telling us that we’re really not worth that much. It’s like being the very last kid picked for the team, only so much worse.

This is a lie we often feed ourselves. We start to think that God has given this other person a spouse because they met the criteria. They were smart enough, faithful enough, pretty enough, rich enough, thin enough, holy enough. They passed. And so by extension, if I don’t have a spouse that must mean I failed the test. Marriage means being chosen so it makes sense that the unmarrieds can feel like leftovers. But God doesn’t make leftovers, spares or extras. Married or single, none of us are second-best. We are all God’s first choice.

Refuse to believe the lie that you are anything less than God’s very best work. Refuse to listen when you hear someone whisper, “He’s still not married so you know there must be something wrong with him.” Satan wants you to feel small and unimportant but God’s dreams for you are big, huge, Technicolor dreams. So step up, lean in and stand strong in the knowledge that you are amazing because God says so.

Lie #2: Living single is unfair (in other words, God owes us)

You have to let go of the idea that being unmarried is unfair. Living single definitely has its challenges but fair has very little to do with it. The problem is, we think we’re entitled to certain basic things. We have these expectations about how the world works: everyone gets married. Everyone has kids. Everyone is healthy. But take a look around and you’ll see that’s not the way the world works.

We live in a broken world, a world that falls short of God’s original dream. Redemption is coming but here and now injustice abounds. It’s not fair that I get to eat while millions of people starve. It’s not fair that people experience violent crimes every day. It’s not fair that some people go through life missing a leg or their eyesight or the chemicals that would keep their brain quiet.

We live in a world that is not the way it was supposed to be. God promises that He will make all things new, but He doesn’t promise that that will happen here on Earth. Fair is not the point. Grace is. Everything we have from God is a gift, every breath, every moment. Cast away the lie of fair vs. unfair and rejoice that we have a God of second chances, new beginnings and do-overs.

Lie #3: The Bible says God will give me what I want

So what do we do about Psalm 37:4, Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I wish I knew. I do not think that you can take this verse to mean that God will give you the thing you really, really want if you’re a really, really good Christian. That goes against the message of the Gospel. If we could be good enough on our own we wouldn’t need grace.

I know men and women who are kind and smart and funny and compassionate and would love to be married. They have prayed and prayed and dated and joined eHarmony and gone on missions trips and gotten involved in church. They long to be married and so far God has said, “No”. Or at least, “Not yet”.

I do not know why but I believe that God does.

And here’s the really hard part of faith: that has to be enough. Knowing that God knows when I don’t know has to be enough. It’s not faith to say, “God I totally trust You when I can see what you’re doing.” Or “God, I believe you have good plans for me when I’m getting exactly what I want.” The hard work of faith is what happens when it hurts, when it breaks, when the thing (or person) we long for doesn’t show up. Faith says, “God I can’t see where you’re going with this, but I’m still in.”

“Does God promise you a spouse?” is not the question that matters. The question we need to focus on is, “Will you still love God if you never get married?” Will you hold on to your faith if He asks you to live your life single? Will you refuse to believe the lie the single life is less than, second rate or just not as good?

Stop waiting for your real life to begin.

Sometimes we get so fixated on the thing we’re asking for we miss what God is doing. Don’t focus on a future that might come. Instead, get excited about what God is doing right now. What are you learning? Where have you seen God really show up for you? How is He blessing you? What sort of family is gathered around you now?

Life is happening right now. The choices you’re making count. The work you’re doing is important. It’s time to think about grown-up things like life insurance and retirement savings and mortgages. This is not the prologue. This is your God-given life. Make peace with God’s timing and gently rebuke anyone who tries to suggest that His timing is off.

God has plans for you and they are good plans, never second best or left behind plans. Be encouraged. As Sarah Bessey writes in Jesus Feminist, “You are not forgotten.” Let the truth of the words sink in; let it ring out in your heart until you can’t hear the lies any more. You are not forgotten and you are enough.

(This was originally written for work and posted here: thelife.com)

Lent: God in the Dishwater

sinkLent does not come easily to me. I was raised in a tradition where Lent was something those other people did. It was brushed aside, unnecessary. As a child Lent was for kids who couldn’t eat chocolate, or had to swear off TV for 40 whole days! I was glad to be well free of it.

But as an adult I’ve been intrigued by the idea. I’ve read of Lent as a time to make space, a season of peaceful simplicity and I find it resonates better with my heart now than it did all those years ago. This year I had been thinking about what do to for Lent but nothing quite felt right until the other day when I walked into my kitchen.

I stood there in my beautiful miracle kitchen. The kitchen I had not even dared to dream of, the one I didn’t even ask for and God gave it to me anyway. The first kitchen I have ever owned. The one I got to remodel with the cabinets we choose together and the counters that almost look like stone. It was my delight, or it had been.

It was stacked to the rafters with dishes.

I stood there and I realized that I had forgotten the magic of the gift of this kitchen. I was not treating it like the blessing it was. It had become familiar. And there, I realized was my Lent. With God’s help I am committed to no dishes in the sink for the next 40 days. It is my intention to leave the kitchen clean each night and to use those moments as a place of quiet, a time to reflect, not just on this particular gift but on all the gifts of God. I hope to find God in the dishwater. (He’s been in worse places.)

So this was day one, and the alter, so to speak, had plenty of refining to offer. I took a deep breath – I have promised myself not to rush the dishes. I lit a candle. I put Acoustic Moods of Worship on, not too loud, and I did the dishes and thanked God for this kitchen, for this home, for the dream realized. I found my stillness, sudsy and warm and oddly peaceful.

Barb Erochina, a poet and a friend wrote, “This is why I mark Ash Wednesday – we keep breaking each other’s hearts.”  Oh that these quiet moments would manifest in one less broken heart. May my stillness birth one gentle word, one extra moment of patience. May these hands, set to humble work, work also at the task of forgiveness, of making room and making amends.

God, You who makes much of the small efforts of your children, help me to step in to this moment, this stillness where you always are. Lead me into quiet moments where I can hear the song you sing. This is my Lenten prayer, made whole in the truth of who you are and the power of your name in which I pray, amen.

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