"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish."~Jesus
There's been a resounding theme in my ponderings lately: Jesus came to show us the Father.
He was not some caveat. He didn't come saying, "Well, God used to be like that but I'm like this, and whew! You better be glad because WOW was He ever mad!" No. It's been the three of them as One, in perfect Love and Harmony, ever and always. They wanted to share that so they created man in their image, and here we are. They wanted to redeem us, and so the cross and resurrection, sacrificial Love.
I cannot tell you how it changed my faith to realize that God was there with Jesus at the cross. Of course, how could He not be? I mean logically and theologically? They are One, are they not? The feeling of abandonment was utterly human and raw and real but it was not reality (any more than it is when we feel the same way). In the fictional work, The Shack, all three members of the Trinity have scars on their hands. The hair on my arm is literally standing up right now, just typing those words; it impacts me on a visceral level. I recognize that not everyone accepts this, theologically - it's certainly not what I was taught to believe. But I do believe it - I must. And it changes everything.
It. Changes. Everything.
I've always loved Jesus, but I haven't always loved God ... because I haven't always believed God loved me. Or liked me. Or wanted me. Why would I? It didn't breed intimacy and trust to believe that God couldn't stand the sight of me until I was covered in Jesus' blood, and that if it weren't for a robe of imputed righteousness He'd be pleased as punch to drop me into a flame of never-ending literal fire. Our friend Dan reminded me round a campfire last week, that John Lynch of truefaced ministries describes that warped view of God as Him wringing His hands up in Heaven saying, "Please don't pray the prayer, please don't pray the prayer, please don't pray the- ... oh, man!! Now I gotta save YOU?!"
If this isn't your background I'm sure this all sounds silly. But to so many of us, it's anything but, and even considering such things is life altering. What brought the change for me? I blame my kids. No, really; becoming a mother, experiencing a mother's heart, changed everything. It opened the door for me to first of all, officially doubt. Doubt it all. Start afresh. And then, to dare. Dare to believe Our Father is better-bigger-lovelier-truer-realer-holier than I'd dared to even consider before. And finally, to refuse. Refuse to ever .... ever ... see Him as anything less than good.
Well, ... so what? What does that look like? Well, to be relevant for today, I haven't believed in a rapture-to-take-us-away-from-all-the-bad-people-so-God-can-finally-blow-them-to-bits-while-we-party-with-Jesus in years. I'm free to interpret those scriptures differently (along with most Christians around the world and across the grand course of history). And yet, when people like Harold Camping make their predictions, there is still a little bit of that scared brainwashed kid inside me that wonders, "Did I pray it right? Did I mean it? You know, just in case..." I genuinely feel that panic inside for a split second and when I do, I'm sad - so sad - for people who relate to Him from that perspective.
Who haven't tasted and seen that He is good.
That He loves us.
That He'd never, ever leave us behind.
If that had been His heart He'd never have come for us in the first place. But He did come for us and He will always come for us. In The Princess Bride, Wesley says, "Hear this now: I will always come for you"; a beautiful visual of God's relentless pursuit. If skepticism (religious or otherwise) leads you to disregard all this as too good to be true, I simply invite you ... taste and see. He loves us. Jesus said Our Father is like a shepherd who won't give up until He has that last sheep in His arms, so snuggle in close and feel the joy of His heart.
In doing so, you can let others debate whether or not Jesus will rapture us away from here or come to establish His kingdom on Earth or take us for an up-and-down-ride on some elevator in the clouds. It won't much matter to you one way or the other, because, by abiding-breathing-living in Him, you will have entered the Kingdom of God today.