The Lord loves me! He loves you. His love is so free and liberating that it has no counterpart in our experience. So often we experience what we think is unblemished love from those around us and then discover that there is an overlay of broken human need mixed in with that love. We begin to sense that people often need me, not for me, but for the possibility of feeling good themselves; people need me, because I have looks or position that enhance their own; people convince themselves, that I am a reflection of their own desires, and then are disillusioned when they discover I am truly other than themselves.
The Bible describes God as saying “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” (Jer 31:3). He says “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love”; ( Hosea 11:4) Paul, a writer in the Bible calls people to “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma”. (Eph 5:2). The focus of each statement is that God has loved you. You – yes, you – as you are, not as you wish to be.
The writer Paul, captures this amazing depth of love in Ephesians when he says God’s mercy towards us flows out of a love which he has for us. This love, didn’t arise out of His heart as a result of the changes he has made in us, after he fixes up the broken patches in us. He loved us while we were yet messed up and rotting. Christians tend to make this statement very impersonal and abstract. It is so tragic when we make this a theology, not a life changing look of love.
Stop and think about this! God’s eye roved over the earth and saw you. He saw your lying, he saw your addictions, he saw your hatred and acts of violence towards others but His eye didn’t stop there. He looked past that, to even then, look at you.
What did he see?
He didn’t see what you see. What he saw, did not cause Him to recoil in shock and dismay. What he felt was not a quickly covered gut reaction of disgust. He looked into your eyes and as He did His heart turned over within Him. His eyes sharpened. His attention focused. He groaned with a powerful recognition. He loved you. He was captivated by you. He wanted to come into your sphere of attention. He desired to be known by you. He desired to be loved by you. Would you be willing to feel toward Him what he feels toward you?
Many say they know this, but unfortunately that understanding is all tied up with our own past experience. We frequently come to terms with being loved for something other than ourselves. We intrinsically believe we are not worth loving as we are. We comprehend that our physical beauty is not really as good as it could be, so we need to add to it to make ourselves more attractive; to hide our “flaws”. We understand our own shortcomings and character flaws. We passionately hang on to the thought that others are not as aware of these scars, as we are, when we stare at ourselves in our own mirror. We are often gripped by fear of being discovered, of being “naked” and ashamed. So we hide behind activities, pretence and addictions. We are terrified of true nakedness. We belief that to be seen without our outward clothes of respectability will condemn us to the horror of disgust across the face of the one we need to truly love us. To be truly naked and unashamed, is to allow all of who we are to be known, without dressing it up in the clothes of tender acts of love, or gentle words of wisdom. The invitation is to be resting in love; Resting in the eye of the beholder – this God who is the King of Joy, the Prince of Life.
In the first part of the Bible, the Old Testament, the priests were given garments especially designed to enhance who they were When we step back and consider this idea, it makes sense to us. We do dress up to enhance our appearance. There can be a delightful elegance and shimmer to clothes that enhance a person’s complexion, their eyes, their form. The little girl who spins in front of an audience knows that the eye catching garments will draw eyes to herself. She wants to be seen, to be acknowledged as a beauty. This desire is not just to showcase a piece of silk or colour, but to showcase herself, the beauty underneath the silk.
I believe that most of us recognize that our woundings in life create a problem for us. They taught us that, while the attractive things we put on were amazing, somehow there was something lacking in us, the vulnerable childish one who thought she might be seen. When we shockingly receive the life rending impact of these powerful arrows of censure and judgement, our journey of chasing after elusive recognition and love begins to accelerate. Very often, our life courses are set early, by unknowing comments and looks, that chase us down through the hallways of time.
Our clothes are tattered and torn. We race, weeping deep within, trying to cling to our sense of self. Sometimes lashing out in various acts of aggression, sometimes curling up to hide, hoping if no one sees us, the arrows will not be aimed at us.
Yet, still the echo of our heart’s cry, is for love. The cry to be seen for who we deeply wish we were, and not for who we so woefully, despairingly, believe we have become.
And then, we learn of a new set of brilliant clothes that can become ours.
New people entering the community of faith, soon become aware of the qualities that are attractive. Since we are social beings, we are designed to be aware of the signals that speak of acceptability. Generally, we zero in on those very early in our relationships with new groups. We quickly determine if we have the clothing needed to belong in this particular group. When we find ourselves lacking, we seek to discover if we have the potential of conforming to the new dress standard.
What would you say is the social dress of the day in the circle of people who you know call themselves Christian ? Does it feel that their are messages of inadequacy that they broadcast to those who don’t conform to their standards?
The standards of Christian conduct that most Christian people would adhere to goes back to what is seen as the traits that would have been seen in the man called Jesus. The characteristics that often come to mind when we think of him are the virtues of humility, of kindness, of gentleness, and love. I personally am also attracted to righteousness and justice as I grew up in a third world country that often lacked these qualities. These qualities are generally well perceived in our communities.
To be a person who has these traits is a significant benefit to any person. They are gifts of God and precious.
When a person takes a look at what God says in the Bible, it is interesting to note the imagery that God, as a Father uses to describe our relationship to these types of traits. Job, a writer from Mesopotamia, refers to the fact that he puts on good healthy actions towards others as clothing and throws on justice like a robe and a turban. We can just see the image of a man dressing himself to go out in the world!
This imagery of dressing ourselves with actions that are good continues on throughout the Bible. It frequently refers to putting on things like compassion, gentleness, love and other wonderful human traits. When the Bible paints a picture far into the future of the human race, it describes a beautiful bride dressed up in a gorgeous white wedding dress, representing all these acts of human virtue accomplished by humanity.
The point is that the Creator of humanity does care about our clothing and has given us the ability to be clothed in beauty! We can and should delight in this gift of hope.
Now, there is a question I must ask you. Please set aside the wounded realities of your own history and dwell on the world as it should be.
When you love someone truly, do you love them for their clothes, or for who you have come to know them to be? It is a shallow, self absorbed man who only loves a beauty for the clothes she wears. Everyone yearns to be seen. To be treasured, apart from the expensive silk. We truly want to know, Do they see me? Is the clothing an accessory or is it at core what is really capturing the attention? If it were someone else in the silk, would the same sparkle be in the eye? We know that if it were, we would have lost everything. We would have nothing! Love in relationship, says, Who I am is ever so much more than anything that drapes around me as an accessory.
I want you to reflect back on the things that the Christian community so highly values. To what extent do you identify characteristics such as righteousness, gentleness, humility, and love with the person? Do you love others for these traits? Are you aware of clothing yourselves in these things, knowing the value and esteem that they are held in by your brothers and sisters? Is it easy to love others for their clothes of beauty? Have you been caught being attracted primarily by these garments of salvation, of righteousness, and humility and missing the person under the clothes?
Moving a little deeper into your own heart, is it possible that you also attribute Jesus’s love for you as tied up with these traits? Do you feel the need of your clothes of beauty, to cover the shame of who you are?
Do you run and hide when missing these clothes of beauty? Does shame fill your being, and disgust toward yourself, fill your heart when you have once again fallen short? Perhaps, you have gone past that and have just given up inside, knowing you just can’t make it?
I want to call you back to consider what our great God has said:
John says “ 16We know love by this, that (A)He laid down His life for us” (I John 3:16). We started our thoughts out by reminding ourselves that our gentle lover has loved us with an everlasting love.( Jer 31:3)
When did he love you? It was before you were cleaned up. It was while you were deeply wounded and angry. It was when you spouted hatred at him and slapped His face. It was then he looked in your eyes and said “ I pick you”( I Thes 1:4).
Oh, dear beautiful one. Loved, of your gentle, yet powerful hero and friend. Settle in and rest a while. Allow the immensity of the tender heart of Jesus wrap you in His mantle of grace. Contemplate it:
He loves me.
He loves me in my filth.
He loves me. Crazily and impossibly He loves me.
He loves me in the midst of my weakness and shame.
He delights and laughs with joy in catching my eye.
He sees me first and always.
His eye is on my eye.
My briefest glance causes His heart to beat with hope and joy.
I look to him and he mouths, ”I picked you!”
Don’t believe the whispered lies of your past. He did not choose you for your clothes of beauty. When he saw you, you were dressed in filthy, rotting rags ( Is 64:6). Yet, he saw your eyes, and looked into your soul. Knowing all that you are, in you, he saw the beauty, he saw the courageous gallant warrior. He is hopelessly, overwhelmingly, delightfully in a love relationship with you forever.
The writer of Hebrews invites us into this relationship of rest. He calls us to cease from our striving and working(Heb 4:10) Rest comes from knowing I am His beloved. I stand naked and unashamed. Accepted, delightfully blessed by the twinkle in the eye of God. Take time to be still and bask in his love. He invites me into His heart of love. His warm whisper is to leave the lies of shame behind and lift my eyes to His face. To look into His eyes and know that I have made His heart beat faster! He yearns with expectation that I will be with Him. He waits for the look in my eye that says,” I want to be with you!” He eagerly waits the passionate cry of my heart that says” I pick you, forever and always I pick you! Above all else in this world, you have captured me with your love. You are my yearning. You are my hope.”
The Spirit of the Living God is always moving peering in the nooks a cranny’s of hearts for the faintest glimmer of desire. He passionately seeks for a response to the mighty Lion, the Lamb that died for you. Take time to breathe the Spirit’s empowering presence.
He calls to you now.
Take time to risk stepping out into the faith of love. Open up your heart and soar in the exultant call of heaven’s joy.
It is time to enter into the joy of being who I am while being held in the arms of God. His person keeps me safe, protected and gently lifted up into destiny and calling. Give yourself permission to cry out with the voice of the Bride “ Draw me after you and let us run together” (S of S 1:4). Hear his voice of laughter as He captures your hand and leaps on the mountains with exhilarating joy.
Author – Bill Tidsbury