So I was kind of overwhelmed by the response to my post from last Friday. It was way huger than I imagined and kind of knocked me out for a bit. I mean, when your words even get shared on Google +, you know you’ve said something.
Here’s the deal.
I don’t want to “say something.” I mean, I do, but I think far too often what I really want to say gets lost in the details.
I’m blessed to have a number of loving relationships in my life. I have a lot of people who I can turn to whether I’m hurt or disappointed or excited or weepy or happy or whatever. I know that there are some who have to go through life feeling pretty lonely, and I am really lucky that I don’t have to do that.
But to me, they’re just Jason, Rich, and Tina. They’re the people who know me. They hear all of my unprocessed, unedited thoughts. They listen to my rants. They encourage me when I’m feeling down and kick my ass when I’m being stupid. They don’t let me get away with stuff, but they treat me with so much grace that I don’t want to get away with stuff around them. They all know my loud laugh intimately. They get my very best hugs.
They love me. With absolutely no strings attached, I know to my core that they love me.
And that radical, no-holds-barred love changes and challenges me every day.
So I write about issues. I write about assumptions made about atheists and how they challenge my long-held views regarding faith and goodness. I write about cross-gender friendships and how rules about friendship can inhibit true intimacy. I write about gay rights and marriage equality. Because these are things that are important to my relationships with these three people. They are how we work out our lives together.
But in every one of those posts, what I want to convey is just how much these relationships – these earthly, broken, sometimes messed-up, but mostly incredibly relationships – have taught me about how enormous God’s love is.
I see it when Jason tells me how beautiful I am, even when I roll in after a late gig and am covered in dirt and sweat and am decidedly not beautiful. I see it on a Sunday morning when Rich and I plug in our instruments and create wordless prayers together. I see it when “Thank You For Being a Friend” rings on my phone and I know that it’s Tina calling to talk about anything from Designing Women to political opinions (often combining the two).
In texts and calls. In conversations and comfortable silences. In laughter and embraces.
I know that I’m loved.
I’m loved when I’m faithful and good and do all the right things. I’m loved when I’m generous and humble. I’m loved when I take care of myself and use my time wisely.
But moreover, I’m loved when I’m tired and bitchy and whiny. I’m loved when I’m selfish and arrogant. I’m loved when I eat too much and drink too much and tweet too much.
I am loved.
And when I write about how these three relationships have impacted me, I’m writing the story of how God has impacted me.
Because for me, it’s all interconnected.
God calls me beautiful, even when I’m clearly not. God is in the midst of every creative spark that I have. God cares about the things that I care about, no matter how important they may seem to others.
I am loved.
By God, by my family, by my friends. It doesn’t matter because it’s all love. And the love that I receive allows me to love.
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. (1 John 4:17-21, The Message)
Please know that no matter what I’m saying, love is what I’m really saying.