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As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
– John 15:9
Sometimes, I find the irony in my own words.
I was speaking to a friend about God’s faithfulness and grace that He can take even the smallest of our ego, or know the most petty thoughts and lies we believe in and address them. We both agreed that as a Father, God’s love is so overwhelming that He bothers even with those little details.
Not a minute after that, a thought passed through my mind. In that case, why do I bother keeping the smallest, most pathetic disobedience to myself; or withholding the confession of a bothersome sin?
Shame, I breathed out to myself.
Yet God never uses His voice to shame, I countered.
With an inward sigh, I shut the voice in my head with the next thought: With some things, I would always feel shame; even if God never once shamed me.
Knowing the Other Party
Earlier in the weekend I did something that I knew wasn’t particularly pleasing to God; and yet I found myself clinging on to excuses and avoiding the issue entirely with Him. It was a personal thing, a heart thing; and I did what every cowardly human being did when confronted with sin:
I ran and hid.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
– Genesis 3:8-11
I put noise in my time with God. I distanced myself a little bit. We walked, or stood, together day by day, but I refused to listen or speak. My eyes passed over the verses quickly. And off to the day I go.
And yet I knew I had to stop avoiding the quiet conversation with God. And as my friend and I sat in our respective seats in the service, I knew I had to face Him and give up that small, broken piece.
I don’t have power over this. See, it’s a small piece. It’s a shard of glass. Yet we both know, this tiny shard can end up wounding me if I hold on to it for long, and tight.
Notice that in Genesis, when Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God, God didn’t immediately say, “I knew what happened. You can either tell me, or go away without explanation.” or, “You did exactly what I expressly told you NOT to do.” It would have been understandable. He DID know what happened, did know that it WOULD happen; it was no mystery to God what they had been doing the very minute they disobeyed Him. But God walked into the Garden and asked a really peculiar question, especially in reference to the fact that He knew everything.
“Where are you?”
It wasn’t the benefit of the doubt. God knew they were guilty. But God asked them a very important question. Are you still there? Where are you, where are we?
It was like how I positioned my distance against God even though I was standing with Him. Because of that one tiny thing, I walked away from God. Not literally, but figuratively.
For a moment, I put up a wall that I can’t scale to see God’s face and confront my shame. I didn’t want His punishment, yet His discipline is still better than the repercussions of sin. And yet all I had to do was open up my palm and show him the small thing I had been hiding.
Why do you even want this thing? It’s small and insignificant. In the scheme of things, this doesn’t have global impact.
It’s only a tiny wound. It’s only a tiny scar.
It’s just me who would suffer, or be injured.
Why do you want this so much?
Because a branch with a tiny incision would not be able to anchor onto the Vine.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
– John 15:4
When you leave someone in one spot and say something like, “Stay here until I get back,” you wouldn’t need to figure out where the person could have gone whilst you were. If the person remained in place, obeyed as instructed, then you’d have no trouble finding him again.
In the same way, we are branches called to abide (remain) in the Vine.
God wouldn’t need to ask where we are. We are there.
But sin mars this relationship so well that we fall off the Vine. It starts out small, allowing temptation to lure us in; until we completely give out in sin.
So as this verse popped again and again in my mind, it felt like a call to hand over that thing I disobeyed God with before it wounds me, before it completely slices me off my relationship with Him. Before I even think about ignoring it like it never existed, to the point where I am running away.
It was like letting out a joyful laugh when I did, because I knew the hours of torture I dealt on myself in shame was gone the moment I asked God for forgiveness and for Him to take it away. I felt loved, not shamed. I was disciplined, but not hated. No.
Because I knew if God didn’t love me, He wouldn’t have bothered with the smallest piece and allowed it to fester and grow to a giant wreck.
But He did love me, and He did love us; so much so that He cares even with the smallest bits that cause us to not abide in Him.
His perfect love lifted me out of my shame and fear.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
– 1 John 4:18a