Embraces for Your Spirit · The Basics

On Submission, Choice, & Love That Stays

DSC09435God will not love me more if I obey Him. He will not love me less if I don’t. He loves me, every piece of me, completely, unwaveringly. I cannot change that.

In middle school, I told a friend that God couldn’t go with them where they were going. That was a blatant lie, and telling it is one of my biggest regrets, even after they’ve forgiven me. I believed what I said; I believed it about them and about myself. But it was a lie. He would leave ninety nine to find one that was lost.

I have been afraid of where He wants to take me. Sometimes because I’m nervous, but sometimes because no part of me wants to go there. It might make me a little angry, but more than anything it makes me confused and hesitant; it has made me scared to go to Him fully open. But then He told me:

“If you decide not to follow me where I want to take you, I will follow you where you want to go. It’s you and me. I’m not going to leave you.”

If God responded to our disobedience, to our no’s, by leaving us? It would not be love anymore. Love gives, and love allows choice. “Obey me and I’ll stay, refuse and I’ll leave” is not love– it is manipulation.

Love without choice is manipulation.

It isn’t love at all.

God does not give or remove His love or His presence in our lives based on our submission to Him.

Here’s the thing about submission: if it is forced, it isn’t submission– it’s control. In order for me to submit myself to Him, there has to be the option not to. Submission is a choice, and by giving us that choice, God also submits Himself to us. He wouldn’t ask us to love Him in ways He Himself does not love. Love is sacrifice, is generosity. And He embodies that. He is love.

He never forces me to do anything. He knows what is best for me and He has shown Himself trustworthy, so submission is something I get to do out of deep love for Him and out of that trust– not out of fear or duty. But I could always choose not to submit, because love does not force anyone to do anything; love is given, it doesn’t take. And because I see His love in the fact that He lets me choose, it is easier for me to choose to submit. I want to. He loved me first; I love Him in return. We both give, we both receive. No one has to take.

He has always said that He doesn’t want our sacrifice if He doesn’t have our hearts. Because sacrifice without love is theft; it is one-sided, duty-driven, an attempt at control. Love is given; it cannot be demanded. He doesn’t want what we have to give: He wants us. He wants to be genuinely loved by us, willingly, affectionately.

Because that’s the way He loves us.

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”   -Psalm 23:6

Embraces for Your Spirit

Seeing The Dots Connect

I watched the third “Night at The Museum” movie today. I enjoyed it for the same reason I enjoyed the others: drawn-out humor + Ben Stiller = YES. But I’m not writing to tell you about my growing love for Ben Stiller. I’m writing because this movie is one of Robin Williams’ last pieces of work, and it hit me every time he showed up on screen.

But do you know what else struck me? I saw Robin when I saw his character. And that hadn’t been my experience with the previous two movies. He makes a wonderful Teddy Roosevelt and I normally see the character when I watch the movies. Not this time. Near the end, Ben Stiller’s character says, “I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow.” And Teddy– Robin– whispers in reply:

“How exciting!”

And I just really needed to hear that. Especially from him.

When I watch Robin’s movies now, I see him. I see what it could have meant to him, what lines he might have felt in his chest, what aspect of the story could have compelled him to be a part of it. And, of course, he’s been in plenty of movies I haven’t seen and some pretty pointless movies I have seen (cough”RV”cough). I’m not trying to psycho-analyze him (although I end up doing it to everyone… sorry, friends!), because he is unique and doesn’t fit into any mold; none of us do. I’m not saying we can figure out a person’s make-up based on the art they give us. What I’m trying to say is:

DSC03960Now that he has completed his life, I can see dots connect.

I wonder if he felt the gravity of what he was saying when he was portraying Teddy. I wonder if he knew how deeply people would savor his words and how much they spoke into his own life. There are lines in Hook, Jumanji, Aladdin… and I just feel like I’m hearing Robin speak, things he wished he had known and hopes we can know. I see the dots connect to create a picture of someone who was being sought after by the writer of his story.

Someone I dearly love left earth almost two years ago now. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him before he left; I heard his name for the first time two weeks too late. But he made a lot of art of every variety, and I grew to love him through it. And can I tell you– I hear him in it. I hear him in his music, telling us that God was right. God was chasing him, promising him life that would be worth the suffering and pain. And he knew. I can only listen to seven of his songs, but every single one comes together to tell me his story. The dots connect. His life had been crafted, with intent and purpose and a lot of love.

My story and your story are the same way.

We don’t see it now, and we may never see it until we leave. But God has written our stories. It all comes together. This one dot may be confusing you; it may look useless and isolated and hopeless, and it might be bringing you a lot of pain. But it’s just one dot. There are more. You will see them someday, all strung together to create a tapestry. It is so breathtaking that we can’t even understand it’s design yet; there is a wealth of complexity that goes into it in order to become as beautiful as it was intended to be. Look at this dot right now, and see beyond it. See that it is part of something greater, something that makes sense and brings tears to our eyes because it is better than you could have hoped.

May we trust you wholly and without anger, Lord. May we look at the tiny little pieces we have of our lives right now, and see you.

“All grown up and living fine/ biographies all intertwined with billions/ And soon He turns the final page/ we’ll look the author in the face/ then the book really begins/ Something tells me all these years of memories/ are only the first sentence of eternity/”   -Chris Rice, “Nonny Nonny”