...whether I fight this lie because of my personality, my past wounds, or just my human nature, I am not certain. Likely, it is a mixture of these three things, at the least. But, to be sure, this ugly lie can infiltrate my thinking and influence my relationship with God.
God has spoken in His word. He has spoken through the whispers of His Spirit directly to my mind about this lie. He has spoken Truth over this lie time-and-time again. "Stephanie, you don't have to be perfect to be loved." And, yet, this lie of perfection and doing-good can penetrate and linger within.
I am learning. It is a journey.
Watching and relating to the Israelite's sin in the Old Testament these past few weeks has pushed on this lie. They are certainly not good and far from perfect. Are they loved? It sounds a bit crass to even say that out loud! Of course they are, we say theologically. But, I read and feel God's anger and His frustration (which I "get" as well!!) and somewhere inside I wonder... Are they loved? I feel they must have certainly lost His love, right? They certainly don't deserve it.
How does God see the Israelite's as they wander and grumble and rebel? I guess, more poignantly, my heart really asks, "How does God see me as I wander, grumble and rebel?" Hmmm... Do you ever wonder this?
Interestingly, as if He could hear my wonderings... He answered my question. Right smack dab in the midst of their rebellion, is the beautiful story of God using Balaam to speak His heart and thoughts about His people. (Exodus 22-24)
Right before this passage, the people have angered God with their grumbling and He is disciplining them. Moses has angered God with His pride and He is disciplining him. And, Miriam has angered God with her judgment and slander. She, too, is disciplined. God says, "I rebuke those I love, like a good Father", and we see this in these stories.
But what does God think of Israel? of Moses? of Miriam? What are His thoughts about His people? What is His stance toward her? We are told through a prophet, Balaam, exactly what He thinks of Israel.(As a side note, the fact that Balaam is not from Israel is a wonderful foreshadowing of God's heart for all nations!)
Balaam is called upon by an enemy king to prophesy and curse Israel. Balaam reluctantly agrees to prophesy for this king. But, Balaam clearly states that all he will do is say only that which the Lord Almighty tells him to say...
And, these are some of the things that God speaks as Truth about His people through Balaam, "How can I curse what God has not cursed?...God has blessed and will not revoke it. ...The Lord is with them. ...They are like a strong lion and will devour their prey. ...How lovely are their tents... they are beautiful like gardens beside a river. ...I will protect them."
Blessed. Strong. Lovely. Well-watered. Protected. I am with them!
These are God's thoughts about His people, even as they sin. My God, our God, ...He sees beyond! He sees beyond their sin and their rebellion. He sees what they actually ARE: His. Loved. Strong.
It reminds me of the early chapters of Ephesians where God tells the church in Ephesus who they are... blessed, chosen, forgiven, set free, victorious, and loved. His letter to the Ephesians tells us His stance toward His people, "Grace and peace to you." (Ephesians 1:2)
You see... I have realized, am realizing, need to realize.... that I am loved because He loves me. Plain and simple. Not for what I have done, what I will do, or who I am. Just because.
And, because of the beautiful gift of grace and the blood sacrifice of His Son, He sees beyond my sin, my wandering, and my rebellion. He says I am beautiful. And, He says I am free. These are His thoughts about you, too, my friends.
As I read Balaam's prophecy, another verse danced around in the back of my head, "If God is for us, who can be against us? ...it is God who justifies. ...what can separate us from His love?" (Romans 8:31-35)
To be loved, you need do nothing. You mustn't be or do anything. That is the crazy, eternal Love that is our God! I need only choose to live in the love of an ever-Loving Father. This is what is True.
"God's love for us is everlasting. That means that God's love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. It is an eternal love in which we are embraced. Living a spiritual life calls us to claim that eternal love for ourselves so that we can live our temporal loves - for parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, friends, spouses, and all people who become part of our lives - as reflections or refractions of God's eternal love." ~Henri Nouwen