I Wanna Know What Love Is

3:36 PMHeather

Pardon the dust here, folks.  I'm going through a remodel.  Of myself.  And my faith.  And basically lots of things I've always taken as fact that I'm finding are more myth. For about a year now, I've been journeying through a season of deconstruction.  It's been shocking, to say the least.  

Here's the thing.  God has been deconstructing my warped and doubt-filled perspective on His love for me.  Not to mention my perspective on a "good Christian life."  My very self-serving framework in which I place my faith and views on church and Jesus and life purpose and the unchurched.  This has been a little shocking for a church girl since pre-birth.  At times, I can be harsh on myself and think, "How can I have gotten it so wrong?"  But, God, in his infinite grace and tenderness is painting first in gentle and broad strokes toward this new perspective.  I believe the details will come later.  When He knows I am ready to dive deeper, get to the nitty gritty of it.

I think my understanding of my faith (until recently) was painted in black and white.  Shall and shall nots.  Us and them.  Do and don't do.  Legalism and rules.  Logic and traditions.  Let me be perfectly transparent--brutally so.  Judge away if you want.  I have nothing to lose but my pride.  Which apparently is something I need to do anyway.  

I lived my good little Christian life.  I was a rule follower.  Good Christians are clean cut and don't cuss and don't have tattoos or piercings.  We go to church and sit in our pews and hope we have a good sermon.  Something that moves us.  We hope we can enjoy our worship there, too--you know, the style and songs are ones we approve of and ones that speak to us.  Like worship should.  Because it's all about us, right?  We live in our holy huddle and serve others by giving to Lottie Moon and adopting a Compassion child.  We don't dare question God.  Because--you know--of His gold star chart.  And I thought--I want to earn all the crowns in heaven that I can!  

I grew up with a faith that was neatly compartmentalized.  You go to church, go off to college, get married to someone else who goes to church, have children and live a long happy life.  Black and white. 

But, in December 1998, the very beginning of my deconstruction was taking root, although I would not realize that fact until recently.  When my happy little blessed life turned upside down because my preacher father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

And so, the unraveling began.  My college years, I can now see, were when I first saw that my tidy compartments didn't fit everyone.  Hmm.  Shades of gray.  But, still--that fits within my black and white color scheme--doesn't it?  Tattoos?  Okay.  Those are kinda cool.  Especially all those good Christian Baylor kids who got a Christian fish on their ankle or their Greek letters.  They lived on the fringe with their wild ink, but yes, they loved Jesus.  SO, that's all good and fine.

But, in the past few years, God has begun dipping a brush into some bold and wild colors.  I think I shifted uncomfortably in my seat initially because I realized the direction He might be headed. He began to use wide brush strokes to paint over my black and white.  In wild reds and oranges and purples.  Strokes of grace and love and freedom that covered over legalism and rule following and anything remotely resembling neat and tidy. Black and wide be gone!  Awaken and mature into a whole kaleidoscope of colors.

photo credit to http://weheartit.com/entry/11226334, added by Jords

So, here I sit.  My black and white ideals of faith and life and Christianity completely being covered over.  The curtain is closing on my stained glass masquerade--just like the Casting Crown song describes.  I've discovered I don't want to be "happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples with walls around my weakness and smiles to hide my pain."  Because there's a big hurting world out there and underneath any differences in lifestyle, we are so very alike in our brokenness. I'm no longer content to turn my head and live in my Christian bubble.  Black and white used to give me comfort and security in my naivety and to be honest--in my criticism. Now, it bores me.  And I see how it disillusioned me.  And I want none of it.  I want the bright colors of in between.  

Because I'm realizing that Jesus walked this earth spending his days in bold living color.  And every hue and every shade of gray or black or white were covered with the bright red blood.  

Color is where its at.  God made a promise of His presence through a rainbow.  Jesus brings the dead to life through the brilliant shade of crimson red.  He came to sit with the colorful characters who were the rejected and downtrodden and lepers and sinners and adulterers and tax collectors.  He didn't come to sit in a pew in a pretty little church, biding his time in a safe holy huddle.  Not at all.  He served the least and the poor and dared to question the black and white legalism of the Pharisees and Saducees.  

And, in this season of trying to unravel my misconceptions about His love for me and see all the colors of it, I've discovered a sobering fact.

I don't know what His love is.  

While I was running yesterday, I prayed through this once again.  "God," I begged, "help me truly GET your love!  Rip out the unbelief and doubt!" So, He hit me with a zinger.  He'd primed the pump and set the stage.  And at last, it was time for Him to let the truth be known.

I've felt a barrier or obstacle to His love because I've felt I have to earn it and perform for it.  

No news flash there.  I'm quite aware of the lingering shadows of a performance legalistic love.

But, here is what He whispered.

I've discarded and disregarded His love and grace because I've used a scale of His performance and results in my life as proof of His love.  I've missed it completely.  I've sat back, balancing answered prayers and dreams come true and blessings as the standard for whether or not He loves me. The mark.  The measure.  Weighed with shifting sand of circumstance.    

When all along, the rainbow package of His constant care and grace and compassion and love and faithfulness and sufficiency are placed on a shelf.  Those are the real proof of His love.

As I've begun this growing desperate plea to understand His love for me, He has begun to whisper that it was there all along.  But, I was looking for the wrong thing.  I was looking to the results and placing my legalistic bent on Him as measure.  Things going poorly?  He must not love me.  Prayers going unanswered?  Either I'm doing something wrong or He is.  But none of these gray scale standards can define His love.  Where I've seen in black and white, God wants to rip out my misgivings and open my eyes as I come alive to the glorious colors of His love.  True love.  Constant love.  Love that brought me the grace I don't deserve.  Yet, I've somehow convinced myself I'm entitled to--along with a wonderful, easy life.  As though He's some magic genie at my beck and call.

Our interim pastor, JR Vasser, said on Sunday that we spend our Christian life wanting to move beyond the gospel.  We want to check it off and grow and move forward.  But, truly we grow in our faith when we dig deeper into the gospel.  

The basics.  The nuts and bolts.  The simple message that we were given what we don't deserve and denied what we do deserve.  Because God loved us each so very much.  And, in response, He asks us to follow His color scheme and paint our lives with the colors of grace and love and service and caring for the least. When we step outside the black and white and dare to live in color.  In the wide spectrum of God's unconditional love.    

Yes indeed.  Deconstruction zone.  Learning that living for Christ is not meant to be monochromatic.  It's learning to live within all shades of color, amongst all types of people, in all kinds of places.  And I'm trusting that as God continually paints over my life with broad strokes, He will soon begin filling in the details.  Leading me to new endeavors.  New ways of thinking.  New challenges to pour out His love.  Deeper.  Wider.  Fuller.  And I can't wait for the beautiful, colorful future with Him to unfold.

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