Saturday, March 10, 2012

Radical Love

I have been reading Philip Yancey's book, What Good Is God? For several years prior to my beginning this blog, as well as the first year or so of writing it, I questioned God's existence. Reading anything faith based caused such enormous anxiety that I avoided it in order to survive each day. Then my sister-in-law mentioned, in passing, her love of Philip Yancey's writings. I bought her a book she asked for and simultaneously purchased The Jesus I Never Knew for myself. Later I bought What is So Amazing About Grace.

These two books were the only faith based writings I could read without experiencing panic. Yancey asks the hard questions honestly and without wincing. In reading his books I found company. I was not alone in my questions.

During this season, my faith was literally reduced to the cross. I discarded much, questioned all, but when faced with the gift of Himself for me I knew I still believed. The cross was too radical to be fiction.

An agnostic I worked with once mentioned the ridiculousness of a God who would sacrifice himself. In response, and to my own shock, I responded: "That is exactly why I believe. No one would EVER make up something so ridiculously illogical." In all the other religions, god's are demanding not giving. This one element, grace, became the only sure truth for me.

During this season I sought the answer to why? "Why did this happen to ME? Why, TWICE in my life, did a pastor sexually exploit me?" From this question came terrible conflict. I saw only two possible answers - either something was wrong with me or something was wrong with God. Either I deserved the abuse or God did not love me. I vascillated between my anger at myself and my anger at God. Shame was the ultimate result.

Through the struggle, I found a third option - free will. God granted the human race free will. God is love. Love means relationship. Relationship can only occur in the presence of free will. I got to choose. Bob got to choose. Minton got to choose. The church got to choose. Sin resulted in pain. Pain I have lived with for 40 years.

However, not only have I experienced the pain but Jesus has felt every ounce of it - at least this is my belief. He feels my pain. What sacrifice.... Jesus gave up the distance between the throne and the world's pain. He knows within his consciousness our pain. This leads to a different "Why?" with the only logical answer being relationship. God so desires relationship with us that He is willing to give us choice and accept our sin and pain.

Without free will there is no love. Without the freedom to choose, my husband's love for me is empty. If I do not have the freedom to leave, then my love for him is robotic. Only in free will can we love each other.

In the end, the question as to "Why did this happen to me?" is no different from why did 9/11 occur or why did the holocaust happen? The answer is in relationship. God so longs to relate with me, his creation, that He cried as abuse occured but by letting go, something all parents must do, He gave me Himself.

In that gift of Himself there is no place for blame. Abuse did not happen because He did not love me enough. Abuse did not happen because I deserved it. Abuse happened because God and Jesus love me so much they would not take free will from me or the rest of their creation. In that reality, I suffered but I did not suffer alone.

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