At 8-years-old, I sat on the edge of my father’s hospital bed, doing my best to wrap my mind around the finality of death, as it brutally introduced itself to me. My dad was dying, after spending the past 5 years of his life struggling against the dark specter many of us know as cancer. He was my hero—my safe place. I thought he was invincible; but there he was, severely emaciated and gasping for his final breaths—a shell of the man he once was. My best friend was dying, and he was leaving behind a fragile wife, a 2-year-old daughter, and me; a confused, heartbroken little boy. That night, January 2nd, 1996, started me down a path of brokenness and pain that would last for the next ten years.
For years after my father died, my pain worked itself out in anger and rage. I was quick to violence—both physical and emotional-- if things didn’t work out the way I hoped, and I hurt many people around me—classmates, friends, or family members. I remember one night in particular, something set me off and I took it out on my mom. I screamed at the top of my lungs, and threw or hit anything I could get my hands on. My mother, in what I think was mostly desperation, grabbed on to me and wrapped me up in her arms. She didn’t know it at the time, but she tapped into the heart of God that night. I was furious. I screamed at her to let me go—cursing and threatening her at the top of my lungs. She refused. She held me even tighter; eventually sitting down into a chair in our living room, pulling me close, and holding me tightly on her lap.
I did everything I could think of to make her let go—I tried to bite or kick her, I screamed profanities at her, telling that I hated her, and even threatening to take her life. She never wavered. She hugged me even tighter, whispering, “Son, I love you,” over and over again. She never argued or bargained with me. She simply held me in her arms, refusing to let me go, and showing me that, no matter what I did, I was loved, whether I liked it or not. Eventually I fell asleep in her arms, and she carried me to my bedroom and tucked me in to bed for the night.
I don’t know that my mom even really remembers this night, and I certainly couldn’t have said this to her at the time, but that was the first time in my life I ever really felt loved. My mother was willing to endure my violence and bear my scorn just to make sure I KNEW that she loved me. She showed me that, no matter how badly I messed up, she wasn’t going to go anywhere. I’ve found that, this is what God’s love is like. He is not intimidated by our rage or our insecurity. He will not be scared off by any of our feeble tactics. His love is fierce and forceful; relentless and patient—it is willing to endure the fire of our fallenness just to show us the glory of His goodness. His love conquers all.
How strange that we Christians treat God's love like it's very fragile. Have you forgotten just how big our God really is? Maybe you never had the same violence or anger that I did, but I'll bet that if you're honest, you can remember having a rebellious heart just like mine--with your little fists balled as you cursed God with your lifestyle, demanding in all your feeble fury that He leave you alone. If you're anything like me, it must have been so irritating to see that none of your protests ever worked. Nothing you ever did ever discouraged His pursuit of your heart. With each great rebellion you mounted against Him, He simply drew you nearer and loved you deeper, in spite of your self.
God is a lot like my mom, I think. He is not intimidated by your sin or your selfishness. Your rebellion was no surprise to Him, and your weakness doesn't discourage Him. He knows the depth of your depravity and He loves you wildly anyway, and there's nothing you can do to stop Him! So today, why don't you take a page out of my book, and just give up. Let the Father wrap His arms around you and pull you down into His lap. Allow the bitterness of your past without Him to fade away and make room for the sweetness of your future with Him. Close your eyes, open your hands, and see if your heart can maybe hear him whispering to you with strength and sweetness, the words that will set you free if you can learn to believe them: "Son, I love you."