Valentine’s Day has come and gone again with varying emotions… Does exhaustion count as an emotion? I’ve felt that way about Valentine’s Day at times over the past few years as my kids bring home a class list of all the valentines they need to write out, and Mom gets to help her dear ones put all of these together and make sure they get to the right place at the right time. Romance? Candlelight dinners with hubby? Not so much. Despite this, I will say there is a lot of love going around, and as crazy as school valentines get, I am thankful for a time to focus on the ones I love.
I am also thankful—so thankful—for the One who loves me most, often in spite of me. I had this paraphrase from Proverbs running through my head the other day: “Three things I have loved, four things I have adored…” In the past month, I ran into three popular ideas that are actually kind of skewed, and was reminded of four truths that I love.
The first idea was “God never promised us a rose garden.” When I heard it, something rang wrong. It’s such a common phrase, and there’s a lot of truth in looking at life realistically and knowing it won’t all be fragrant and beautiful. Yet this time I thought, “But God has promised us a rose garden!” He’s promised us His peace, His love, and in the future, perfect happiness with Him. What’s more rosy than that? The thing is, roses have thorns, and we will experience pain, trials, stretching and suffering along with the beauty as we walk through this life. In fact, the roses are all the more beautiful because of the thorns. They are a vital part of that rose garden God has given us. I love Him for that.
Second, how often have you heard the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle”? It’s always bugged me, but I couldn’t put a finger on why.Then a facebook friend shared a note posted by a woman she knew who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 38. “Contrary to popular opinion,” the woman with Parkinson’s wrote, “I think that God quite often lets us face more than we can handle, so that when we do get through the hardship, we can say, 'Not me. I didn't do this; it was God.'” That’s it! I love that it’s not about me. It’s about letting God work so people can see His glory and come to know Him.
The third idea seems to dovetail with the other two: I read a blog post called, “The Myth of God’s Unconditional Love.” It was a catchy title, and the content was engaging, but I realized as I read that the theology was off, the author never clearly defined what God’s love was, and his examples lacked context. But I have known ones who believe that we might take one awful misstep and Christ will say, “Sorry. I said I died for you, but that’s one thing too much. You’re out.” I have a problem with this idea. Yes, God is just and sin must be judged. I would never argue that. But that was the whole purpose of Christ’s death—that we can be forgiven because the sin-price was paid. Yes, there will be consequences for sin, even for those who have accepted Christ, but we are held in His hand, sealed with His Spirit, and have the promise that once we are born into His family, He will bring us to maturity. This I love. This I can live for.
And the final thing I love? That even though I feel like the older I get, the less I seem to know, God knows me completely, and loves me. To quote a friend who blogged about this recently: “Jesus knows me, this I love.”
Happy Valentine’s Day! May the truth of these loves go with you in the year to come.