Sunday, January 13, 2008
I heard a teaching on the radio last week that has really stuck with me. I don't remember the name of the woman who did the teaching, or the name of the program. I know it was a series she is teaching on Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. The teacher was stressing how we all have longings and unfulfilled desires in our lives. And we question why God hasn't given those things to us, when they are good things that we are sure He would want for us (i.e., as in the biblical story: children).
But she brought out something that I had never thought of. If we are measuring how much (or even if) God loves us by what He gives us, then that is really the wrong perspective. And even more warped is the idea that we will love God more if He gives us what we want! The teacher called that the mindset of a "paid lover." Isn't it true?
If I measured my husband's love by how many flowers he has bought me, or how many other gifts he has given me over the years, that would be unfair and so misconstrued. True, we show others our love by doing things for them. But even if one of us were paralyzed and never able to do anything to show the other our love, we would know that love was still there. Because love is a decision, not a collection of gifts or even acts.
Even more, then, I should know that God loves me, simply by the fact that He says He does! Obviously, He has shown that love in many ways...the ultimate one being the sacrifice of His Son. But even if that were all He ever did for me--and He never did another thing again--I could still rest assured that He indeed loves me. Why? Because He doesn't have to buy my affections. He doesn't have to prove it over and over again by giving me what I want: even if the things I want are great things!
I know God gives me daily blessings (life, shelter, food, provision) which are proofs of His love. Don't get me wrong. But I think it's easy to get into the rut of expectation, where we expect God to prove His love to us by giving us our desires.
Hannah's example is quite real to me, because I experienced something quite similar. When we had been married for over 5 years, and were still childless, I went through quite a spiritual battle. Why would God not answer my prayers to give us this incredible blessing? I was aware of at least three young, unwed women who were expecting babies. One of them chose abortion. And yet, here was little ol' me, married and living a life of faithful devotion to God...and no baby. I did a lot of soul searching, for sure. Had I in some way sinned? Was there something I was keeping back from God that I needed to surrender in order for Him to answer this request? (And when we finally had a child, did that mean that God loved me more? Or that friends who were never able to have natural children were loved less by God? The answer to both questions is a resounding "NO!")
I'm sure Hannah asked all the same questions I did. Especially when her husband's other wife was definitely quite fertile. And not only that, she flaunted it. Threw it in Hannah's face whenever she got the chance.
Hannah found out, though, that both her husband and her God loved her immensely, whether she ever had a child or not. And in God's timing, He did give her a son. A mighty prophet of God that would be the moral voice to the nation Israel, including their first two kings. He anointed both Saul and David as king. Samuel is the same one, who, as a young child, heard the voice of God whispering to him in the night. Yes, Hannah saw her longing fulfilled. But it had to be in God's timing. Later, she had other sons and daughters as well. However, this was not proof that God now loved her more than He did previously, when she was barren.
All of this rambling to get back to the point: God does not have to buy our love. If that is the view we have of Him, then we are literally spiritual prostitutes: give me what I want, and I'll give myself to You.
If we look back to the cross, we will know He has given us more than enough. We have to choose to love Him, whether He ever gives us another thing or not.
The cross was enough. I will return His love daily. Not because I must, or because I expect anything more...just because I want to.