Monday, December 30, 2013

Broken Branches

Morning light had only recently filled the sky when I walked out into the frozen world. I needed to think, but I also wanted to explore after the ice storm of the night before. Half an inch of ice covered everything. The trees groaned and strained under the weight of the ice. Some of their noble branches had even broken under the stress. Still, in spite of the sometimes serious damage to the trees, there is great beauty in ice.

I stood alone; pondering, gazing at the crystalline world around me. What does it truly mean to love?

Love is a principle, not a feeling. Love comes back after being pushed away, just as a tree’s branches will spring back after the ice melts. Love hopes and endures all things. All things. Even those things which seem impossible. (Even broken branches.) But how?

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Beautiful words, spoken to one of God’s most faithful messengers… But it wasn’t written just for him. It was written for me, too.

How often I hold onto this promise in times of trial. God’s grace is sufficient for me - there are no qualifiers or conditions in that statement. If I am losing my battles, falling behind, unable to cope with what I must face… It is not because of a shortage of Grace. It’s because I’m trying to win battles on my own. God does not promise to take away our battles. But He promises to give us strength to overcome. Failure is not caused by an increasing intensity of battle. Failure happens if (and only if) we look for strength anywhere other than His grace and power.

But the second part of the verse is less welcome, less comfortable. Perhaps it would even be easier to gloss over this point altogether. For it seems that if God’s strength is to be made perfect in a strong man, he must become weak. And in our experience, to be weak is to be vulnerable.

You mean all these walls I’ve built to protect myself must come down? 

Yes. And more. Much more. Some branches will bend and strain. Some may even break. It’s going to hurt. Nobody likes being vulnerable.

But it will be worth it in the long run. I know whom I have believed. He promised that His grace is sufficient for me. And I’m willing to risk everything on His word. That’s what loving Him means to me right now: surrendering everything to His greater love, trusting that He will work all things out for good in His own time, and (this one is the hardest, sometimes) genuinely thanking Him for leading me even during times when I don’t understand the paths by which He leads. 

"God has a purpose in sending trial to His children. He never leads them otherwise than they would choose to be led if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose that they are fulfilling. All that He brings upon them in test and trial comes that they may be strong to do and to suffer for Him." (PK 578)

So let me learn to only love Him more, through trials and tests. For I have an incredibly patient, loving Father who does for me what I cannot do for myself, who cares about every detail of my life, and who rejoices and sorrows with me through every experience. This is what makes even the darkest days of life worth living, and the happiest days the most joyful. And though I'm only beginning to discover the extent of this truth, serving God is not only worth it in the long run.

It is worth it every single day, rain or shine. That's what it means to love.