This is an amazing story. The way this woman let real pain tenderize her heart over the decades instead of allowing it to turn into bitterness is stunning.
Oh for a heart that turns toward the Lord in every situation!
Phrases in scripture like “…Your loving-kindness is better than life” strike hard—striking that ache deep within the heart that is screaming for satisfaction. It’s words like these that make me want to scream from the rooftops EITHER THIS IS TRUE OR IT’S NOT!
There is no middle ground—no room for grey here. Because God’s entirely-satisfying-love cannot be partial. It. Is. Impossible. Either these words are completely true—and His love is better than life—or they are completely false—and it is simply good poetry.
How do we know? Really know?
We can know intellectually because these words are God-breathed. We can meditate on the greatness of His love and receive revelation of His Holy Heart from this inspired text. By reading and through meditation we really can know His love. But there has to be more than intellectual knowing. I believe His love has to be experienced to be fully known.
So how do we know? Really know?
This is the question I am wrestling with because I feel the great distance between what I believe is true and what I actually know.
And yet, the Word says it is not too mysterious or far off. God has made Himself accessible to anyone who desires Him. The way to know love is to simply position our weak hearts before Love Himself. Crying out to Him with our great need, “Lord, I want to know Love—to experientially know this all-satisfying-better-than-life Love.”
The Psalmist prays in chapter 42, “Tears have been my food day and night saying, “Where is your God?” These words resound within me. I share the same cry as this ancient hymnist. Yes, these words haunt me. I am no longer satisfied with the casual reading of the text or the courtesy nod of the head in agreement.
I often find myself with a tear stained face saying, “O God, if not me, then who? If I cannot attain this knowing, who is it reserved for? Did You not say, You would give to those who ask? Did You not say the one who seeks finds YOU?”
I live seeking. And I know that I do not seek in vain because I believe these words are true.
I believe and I wait.
And while I wait I will not allow my emotions to accuse God. I will not let barrenness steal joy. I refuse to stare at these circumstances and blame Him. I refuse to agree with the voice of yet another disappointment that whispers, “draw back; protect yourself”.
Instead, I reach.
With violent force I position myself again today and tomorrow and again the next day to reach. Here in the night, messy with all these tears, I am still reaching because I believe truth, “His loving-kindness is better than life!”
Friday night I was at service listening to the sermon the words were familiar—truths I’ve heard before. (Isn’t that the way it can sometimes feel for those of us who’ve been in the church for a while? Words become so familiar, that it’s almost hard to hear them. Familiarity can become our enemy if we aren’t careful.) I was feeling the familiar, until something the Preacher said struck me—not at all like a lighting bolt, more like a tiny spark that was almost unnoticeable. Nevertheless I heard it. The Preacher said…
“We need to receive more understanding of God’s love and our value to Him. Jesus’ value for His people is seen in His going to the cross—all to have relationship with them. The most worshipful saints think much on the cross.”
How many times have we heard these truths? How many times has the phrase “Jesus loves me” come across our ears? If you grew up in the church, I venture to say countless times. It’s so familiar it becomes nearly imperceptible. We have to fight to hear.
I pray often, “God I want to know You!” I feel like I have this ever-growing-longing inside of me to know His heart. But somehow through the familiarity I’ve failed to realize that part of knowing Him is knowing what He values—and what He values is His people. “Jesus loves me” is more than a child’s song; it is a profound truth exposing the heart of our God.
The next morning I woke up early to go to the Prayer Room. Taking the invitation from the night before—that ever-so-small-almost-unnoticeable-spark—and I turned it into conversation. I said one simple phrase to the Lord:
“I am so valuable to You.”
I spoke the phrase. Then paused. And then I simply said it again to Him.
“I am so valuable to You.”
Unbelief. Dullness. Familiarity. All wanting to stop the conversation but I continued believing that there was something more in knowing this part of His heart, so I labored to believed how He felt about me. I kept saying it again and again and again, over and over, “I am so valuable to You.”
Each time I said it I could feel truth going deeper. I was starting to believe—to hear. That small spark was turning into a flame on the inside of me. More than language, more than rhetoric, the words were becoming real. “Jesus loves ME”—it wasn’t the first time I heard this, but rather another time.
We need the “another time” to happen repeatedly. We need to continually remind ourselves of His deep love for us. Asking the question: Do I really know how valuable I am to Him? Oh this question is a place we need linger. It’s a meditation that we need to ponder deeply—and often. We can see a picture of this in the Gospel of John when John said of himself, “I am the one that Jesus loves.” John believed it and made it personal by speaking it over and over again. And this is our invitation too.
There is a famous story about the theologian Karl Barth. It goes like this: near the end of Barth’s life, having written the most monumental theological work of the 20th Century, having read virtually every other theological work ever penned, a journalist asks him, “What is the greatest truth you’ve ever heard?” To which Barth replies, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible the Bible tells me so.”
I think John the disciple and Karl Barth were on to something—something that I want to be a part of.
“God doesn’t see, He doesn’t care.” —this age-old-accusation is continually trying to work its way into our hearts. This lie that is ever present to speak when our circumstances are not what we desire and our hearts are weary with the cares of this life.
Just like in the garden the lie comes subtly to accuse God of being silent. Distant.
But God has spoken. He has come.
With undesirable circumstances and cares weighing heavy, I’m being undone once again by the Incarnation—the Word who is speaking God’s deep desire for nearness.
Through the Son, God’s heart is made known. The incarnation—this fragrance poured out for us to experience— causes us to know Him, to hear His heart. Before He came, before taking on our frame and walking with us, all we could do is wonder at the Mystery.
It’s like a sealed bottle of perfume with the fragrance hidden. Staring at the bottle speculations could be made about the fragrance contained within but it’s not known until the pouring forth. By breaking the bottle open and pouring out the perfume the fragrance can then be experienced. The room fills with the aroma—it is known. So too is the incarnation. Through the pouring forth of the Son, the fragrance of God was made known. This cracking open of His heart, this pouring out of Himself, has caused the fragrance of His name to fill all the ages. The Mystery has been revealed—now we can know what God is like.
He gave us revelation of Himself. Why? Because He wanted His heart to be known. He wanted us to experience Him. The fragrance of who He is can never be taken away, the truth has been spoken—God is near.
Just as it is impossible to take perfume and put it back in a bottle, it is impossible for the fragrance of the incarnation to stop speaking of the deep desire in the heart of God. He has opened His heart to us, now we know Him. His desire for nearness was proclaimed clearly through the Word-made-flesh. The incarnation is forever declaring the truth of His heart—“I am near. With you.”
Listen. Hear Him. Experience the fragrance of His name. Everything Jesus said and all that He did is declaring, “This is what God is like!”
Even consider how He came as a baby. What does this say about Him?
There is fragrance here.
God in a manger—this a beautiful fragrance given for us to draw nearer. Just as you would draw near and hold a newborn baby, the fragrance of His humble coming is drawing us close and speaking to us, “I am close. Here, with you. Embrace me.” The Word is speaking.
No matter the circumstance, no matter the accusations that pull at the heart. We have been given truth. The Word has spoken and the Word is speaking, making known the desires in the heart of God. Through the pages of the Gospels we can hear Him, saying, “I am here. Near. Present.”
“There is just a small widow of time
where love can be chosen through the fire”