Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Contradictions

How can we be honest with both our faith and our doubts? Sometimes I'm afraid to doubt, and sometimes I'm afraid to believe. Both stem from a lack of love. John says that he who fears has not yet been perfected in love because perfect love drives out fear. When I am afraid to be honest with my doubts, I am somehow believing that my lack of faith has made me unworthy of God's favor, God's work in my life, God's love, God's forgiveness and grace. I am somehow afraid that my questions are stronger than God's power and grace in my life. That his love for me is conditional. When I am afraid to show those same doubts to others, I am believing the same about their love. I have not yet been perfected by the love that drives out fear, knowing that that love is unconditional and eternal. He has loved before the creation of the world and will love long after this world is gone. That's pretty amazing...


On the other hand, there are times when I am afraid to believe. This God I have placed my trust in is sometimes unpredictable. Often times, actually... While I can see glimpses of his beauty and majesty and glory and am drawn to that, wanting to be absorbed in it, I am also afraid of him. I don't mean the "respect" kind of fear. I mean really afraid. He has the power to hurt me if it fits his plan, and he has the power to leave me abandoned and break my heart because I have placed it in his hands. How do I know he won't? Sometimes it feels like he already has. Maybe it would be safer to keep myself to myself, and keep my life in my own hands. At least then the only person who can hurt me is me. This fear too stems from not yet having been perfected in love.


A God so powerful and wise can only be trusted if he is a God who loves, and who loves without limits. I cannot trust a God who might take revenge, not forgive, not consider my heart, consider others more important than me. How is it that God mysteriously loves absent from all these things? He is just, yet perfectly loves those who have committed injustice. He sees and knows my offenses completely, but forgives even before I know I am wrong. He loves himself and fulfills his ways yet thinks of me and knows the very hairs of my head, loving and caring for each part. He loves my enemy passionately, loves me just the same, lays down his life for us both, and asks me to do the same. Such an opposite love, but so perfectly entwined and filled. It seems impossible to live with these contradictions and to accept the wholeness and perfection of even the ones we hate, but somehow they are the only thing that make love true. A God who can hold them all in balance and fulfill them all without faltering: this is impossible in our world, and so it seems impossible to believe or understand.


Sometimes I feel like I am believing a fairy tale in order to cover over all the pain, but I do not want a band-aid God, or a Tylenol God for that matter. I want a God who loves fiercely, who both pursues me with all his heart and who will settle for nothing less than for me to pursue others that they may also know him. This is the balance of the contradictions. That the joy and the tears work together for the perfection of his love. This is not a soft love that knows only comfort, but a passionate love that will endure and ask to endure anything for the sake of the ones he loves. A forgiving love and a just love. An accepting love and a demanding love. A giving love and a sacrificing love. It is the working out of these contradictions in me that perfects me in love. When I live only in the comfort, I know only one side of his love. Though the other side of love can be painful, this too is necessary if I am to be perfected in it. Having walked through the contradictions still faced with his love, where can fear have a hold? If I am on the mountaintops, this is love. If I am in shakels, this too is love. Oh, Lord, though I still am not perfected in love, and I shiver even in saying it: perfect me in love, that I may know that whatever comes is perfect love. And may that love push fear further and further out of my heart, mind and life that I may live wholeheartedly and fearlessly, always.