Life has been distinctly crazy in the last week, and before that I was away having a concentrated week of study, so there has been little time for “extras” like blogging. However, I have been trying to read a bit while waiting for son no. 1 to go to sleep – and in this time period I’ve sought to read something for my own spiritual refreshment (rather than yet another iteration of the, according to one recent study, 40 different types of suggestion for the interpretation of Exodus 4:24-26), and my current choice is this book:
The quote that sets the scene for the one I want to post is this:
“Jesus’ good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live. To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God’s knowledge and control – though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes it. It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it. It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices.” (p71)
“Central to the understanding and proclamation of the Christian gospel today, as in Jesus’ day, is a re-visioning of what God’s own life is like and how the physical cosmos fits into it. It is a great an important task to come to terms with what we really think when we think of God. Most hindrances to the faith of Christ actually lie, I believe, in this part of our mind and souls. If he cannot help us at all with understanding God’s life, he cannot help us at all to that salvation/life that is by faith. But of course he can and he does.
We should first of all think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtably he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseperable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilerating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breath and depth and richness.” (p72)
He continues along similar lines for a page or so, emphasising his point. He adds these words:
“Now, Jesus himself was and is a joyous, creative person. He does not allow us to continue thinking of our Father who fills and overflows space as a morose and miserable monarch, a frustrated and petty parent, or a policeman on the prowl.” (p73)
And then he adds the words that blew me away on first reading the book, and which still reach down into my soul. Words that I need to dwell on and let sink into, and penetrate the core of my being. Words that have the capacity to heal and restore. Words that we need to speak to those who need them:
“So we must understand that God does not ‘love’ us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as ‘Christian’ love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each individual human being on it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural overflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word love.” (p74 – emphasis original)
I read those words as I pondered my sleeping and about to be sleeping children, and in my love for them I see a feeble reflection of our Father’s love for us. The way I love the curiosity and freshness of the world through my 5 year old’s eyes as he sees a shiny red tractor outside a supermarket and just wants to climb on it, walk round it, examine each detail and wonder what it is doing there. The way I love the cheeky grin as my 2.5 year old wants to be turned upside down and tickled again (and again) with ever new hysterical laughter… The way I love the smile on my daughters face as she follows those brothers of hers.
That love I have for each child in their individual particularity is a pale reflection of the love our Father has for each one of us. That is something indeed to rejoice in, and indeed something to motivate our love for those around us – other people who God feels this way for. So perhaps today is a day to come back to God in imitation of son no. 2 in our house – with arms outstretched and the word “hug”. Or may be it’s a day for asking those questions, for coming to our Father who is love and is a safe place for those questions. Or perhaps we just need to smile in the assurance that we are indeed truly, totally and utterly loved by the creator of the universe with a never giving up, never stopping, always and forever love (to quote from the Jesus Story Book Bible). Maybe Paul’s prayer is a good place to end:
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.