You know how you hit those snags throughout your day that you’ve come to accept as a part of life after Eden? Like forgetting to bring in your reusable bags into the store? Or misplacing your phone or keys when you’re in a hurry? How about failing to hit “send” when replying to a text? I’m not talking about issues as serious as the thorn in the apostle Paul’s side (2 Cor 12:7). Just some of the smaller things, like the thorns and thistles that God promises Adam he’ll have to contend with when he works the soil after sinning (Gen 3:18).
I take supplements each morning with my breakfast, including probiotic pills for lactose intolerance. Two a day allow me to eat dairy, and the large box I order online supplies an even number. Once a month I pull out a giant pill keeper and stock each day’s compartment with what I need, recognizing that I’m not what you would call a “morning person.” Despite not being a drinker, I feel quite hung over when I awake first thing—mostly because it takes copious amounts of energy to maintain high levels of neurotic thinking over a 24-hour period and I don’t get enough sleep to compensate.
It shames me to admit how disturbed I was after losing a probiotic pill a few months ago. Since then, whenever I load up my pill keeper, I’m always either short one capsule or have one left over, depending on the levels of my mail-order stash. I only realized how deep this imbecility went when I dropped another pill while I was restocking my keeper last week and couldn’t find it. Rather than feeling sorry—the probiotics aren’t cheap—I actually did a mini-jig inside because now I had an even number again. I wouldn’t end up with that pathetic, single pill anymore, the one that somehow calls to mind the sad little nerd hanging out at the punch bowl, partnerless at the middle-school dance. (Yes, my brain actually makes these kinds of associations.)
Of course I located the missing pill on the kitchen floor a few hours later, probably because there’s only so much idiocy the cosmos can take before a “reset” button gets pushed on a galactic panel somewhere. I know that some kind of button in me got pushed, anyway, when I spied the capsule on the floor and realized that I was disappointed rather than pleased by my discovery. Was I really going to let my compulsive need for order steal value from something that allows me to avoid stomachaches and eat more freely?
Apply that principle on a larger scale and stupid suddenly becomes scary. Becomes, “No thanks, I’ll pass on that relationship because it’s rather messy.” Becomes, “I’m not going to pursue healing because it involves too many components I can’t control.” Becomes, “No one would ever love me if they really knew me. Saw how screwed up I am inside. It’s better to stay quiet—passive, even. Never the odd nerd out.”
As is so often the case with me, God brought to mind a memory to hold next to my pill dilemma so that I could view it from a different perspective. I was in the fourth grade and our class was preparing a musical performance for a special school event. Our teachers had chosen “Happiness” (from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”) for us to sing, accompanied by a slide-show of students acting out the lyrics to the song. Being only nine or ten at the time, I was more interested in horses, gymnastics, and books than in boys. They could be fine as friends, and I certainly had favorites (those were the ones I signed class Valentine cards with, “Love, Becky” rather than “From, Becky”). But on the whole, I gave my emotional energy to my circle of female friends, navigating my way through the usual joys and dramas characteristic of girls that age in the 1970’s.
And therein lay the rub. We all knew that “Happiness” contained a line about “walking hand in hand.” Which two students would be chosen to pose for that loaded lyric? The question pulsed through our pre-teen population like a submarine beacon, searching for just the right target. The boy was selected first, a smart, quiet, and well-behaved kid whose Spanish last name literally meant “I sing.” And he did end up singing, like a jailbird offered a lesser sentence, when asked whom he’d like as his partner in the photo.
As I recollect what happened next, my mind sorts through the story as if playing its own slide show. I see our class, gathered on the playground for outside shots of the song. Me, dressed in an orange shirt and skirt, with rainbow suspenders. Me, quietly creeping to the outer perimeter of the group as feelings of dread and inevitability seized me. Me, the goody-two-shoes of the class, actually turning around and trying to walk in the opposite direction from where the danger lay: the boy with the choice and the teacher with the camera. Me, hearing my name spoken clearly and immediately, as if the speaker had no doubt. Me, burning with embarrassment as a swell of laughter and taunting crested and crashed over the class. My Chinese last name meant “king,” but I certainly wielded no power to prevent the picture from happening. And, apparently, I was the girl most liked by the boy than any other, a fact that left me both stunned and squeamish.
Soon enough my classmate and I positioned ourselves on a walkway leading indoors, joined our hands and held still as we were photographed from behind. It was literally over in a flash. I survived. There were no tears. Just more embarrassment when the teachers previewed the slideshow for the class and more laughter broke out when that blasted photo came up.
The memory’s message? Real love will find you, whether you want it to or not.
Just as the boy named “I sing” chose me for an intimate partner, so the one named “I AM” chooses you to be his own. You cannot control his affections for you, which run more than a little on the wild side. (The Bible is definitely signed “Love, God” not “From.”)
But here’s the vital difference: I AM is never going to force you to take his hand and frog-march you where he wants you to go. With him, the whole point of reaching out to you is to win your love, not force it from you. As our creator, he knows that is not possible anyway. His name might as well be I WAIT, as he sits on the kitchen floor, waiting for us to discover his presence and decide to take him in. Take in all the good he wants to do for us so that we can avoid harm and experience greater freedom in our lives.
You know, I wish that I had that photograph of me and the boy who “liked” me before I even knew what that kind of “liking” was all about. It would be a fine reminder to take the risk that real love is offering, be it the pursuit of a relationship, healing, or greater authenticity. And it would underscore the truth that God not only loves me in an obligatory way, but actually likes me. Says my name, clearly and immediately, when asked whom he wants.
Perhaps during this season of giving we could all consider what we might say back to God as our gift to him for continually seeking and finding us. I, for one, am going to try more often to stop, lift my face to heaven, and smile. He’ll relish that sight, I’m sure. Even first thing in the morning. 🙂