I was thinking about relationships the other day, and remembered something that was said back in my YWAM days. During a “relationship night” where several married couples were talking about relationships and marriage, one of the husbands had something along the lines of, “God must have done some work there, because I don’t ever think she would have chosen me if she’d realized how many other options she had.” And his wife said something in response that has (obviously) stuck with me to this day. She said, “No. I knew I had other options. I chose my husband. I was very aware that it was a choice. That’s what makes marriage so special.” It really is, isn’t it? Choice makes it special. Each partner is aware that the other, of all the people in the world, selected them. Choice also makes it strong. Because each partner is aware that they chose the other. They picked them out. They knew what they were doing, they chose that person, they made a promise, and they ought to stick to it. And I was walking up the street thinking about how our relationship with God is like that, how it’s strong and special in that same way, because we are chosen.
And then I had the very important and very stark realization that I have forgotten that I chose Him too. The Bible uses marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with God frequently and for good reason. It is just as strong, just as beautiful, just as permanent a covenant. Actually, that’s false. It is way stronger, way more beautiful, WAY more permanent. But I realized that I’ve been treating my relationship with God like, I don’t know…maybe casual dating. Like, “Oh, we’re just taking it slow, seeing how it goes, you know?” Every time I don’t understand something or am having a rough time or a prayer isn’t answered right away I start to start going, “I’m not really sure about all this…are You even there? I don’t know if this is gonna work for me.” And I start kind of looking around at non-Christian friends’ lives and thinking that they have it pretty good…and I probably could too if I’d just dump God. I’ve even threatened Him before. “If you don’t start showing me some love, then why am I even in this?! I don’t have to be, You know!”
All of this hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks the other day. And I was quite shocked, actually. I would hope that I would never, ever, EVER act this way in a marriage. Threaten my husband with divorce if he doesn’t do enough for me? Start letting my mind fantasize about this, that, or the other guy? Get jealous of someone else’s relationship? God forbid. Life is life, and they may all happen some time or another, but I don’t want to be the kind of person who’s ok with that. Yet here I am treating GOD this way. I think somewhere along the line I forgot that this was already a done deal. He already chose me and I already chose Him back. This isn’t an ongoing decision that I need to make at some point. I’m not dating Him trying to decide if I want the forever thing or not. I made that decision a long time ago, and all that’s left is to honor it now. It actually took a lot of pressure off. I hate making decisions, so this phantom, very life-altering decision has been hanging over me for years, taking up a LOT of my time, energy, and processing power. I feel a lot lighter now. And fortunately for me, God has never ever wavered throughout all this.
2 Timothy 2:13
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
I think I lost sight of something, too, that I’ve believed for a very long time: that love is more a decision than anything else. It’s a decision to be faithful. A decision to keep loving Him. Just like a in marriage. John says:
1 John 5:3
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
A while ago I was at a community group and somehow we got on the topic of our motivation. Everyone was talking about how our actions should always always be love-motivated, and we should never do anything from a sense of duty or obligation. And I agreed with what they were saying but there was this twinge in the back of my mind that something was very slightly misaligned. And I think it was this. Saying that we should NEVER be acting out of duty or obedience is…well I think it’s wrong. I have been trying to find or manufacture deep feelings of love and affection and compassion for years now, trying to have the correct motivation for my decisions and actions. But obedience for obedience’s sake is not only valid, it is the definition of love in this verse. And it is beautiful. And powerful. In his book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis wrote the following (bear in mind that this is from the perspective of one demon writing to another, and “The Enemy” is therefore God). “Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
That just makes me think of Jesus. His choice to die was not a joyful one. He did not, awash in a glorious and passionate love, go to the cross with a rapturous smile on his lips. He, in an agony of literal blood, sweat, and tears, willed himself to do it. He did not want to. But he chose to. And that decision, that act of pure obedience, was the greatest act of love the world has ever known. I’m in this covenant, this relationship with God. And there will be times when it’s blissful and full of all the happy feelings and la de da. And there will be times that it really sucks and feels bland and dry and possibly horrible. But I don’t need to be afraid of those times. They don’t mean I’ve lost my motivation and I need to struggle to get my feelings correctly aligned again. They just mean it’s obedience time. That’s when my choice becomes important, that’s when love becomes a decision. And it’s at that point, in that moment, that the enemy (the real one) has definitively lost. Because if we will obey when we don’t feel like it, when God doesn’t even seem real to us, when we feel broken and lost and yes, even forsaken by Him, then there’s nothing more the adversary can throw at us. That’s pretty much the extent of his bag of tricks. I can rest that much easier tonight knowing that, even if I don’t feel like my life is a fairy-tale rom-com musical, it’s ok. As long as I’m being true to that promise I made to Him, as long as I remain obedient, we’re good. That’s one of the truest and purest expressions of love I can give Him.