Nostalgia has a funny way of hijacking my sanity at the most inopportune times. I could be folding the laundry, buying a box of cereal, or making dinner. A song comes on the radio and suddenly I am stuck in the land of smelly locker rooms, homecoming dances, and detention. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, as big and adorable as ever. It is in these times when I have to remind myself that everything happens for a reason and that I would not trade the life I have today for anything in the world. It is also in these times when I cannot help but wonder what might have happened if I had stuck around just a little bit longer.
He had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen, but I would have never admitted to having a crush on him. My sheer unworthiness was more than I could take when my life at home was less than enviable. Times were hard and I had no desire to make them harder. I did not exist to him outside of Mr. Harding’s history class and I was OK with this. I knew my place and was quite content with my obscurity. The irony of the cliché was not lost on me. Why would the popular jock have any interest in the shy introvert? It is a story that has played out a thousand times before and we all know how it ends. Nerdy bookworms rarely get the guy. I left home the summer before senior year and began a new life in a new town. I never saw him again.
I found Dan in all his goofy glory on Facebook a few months ago. When he “friended” me, I took that as my opportunity to come clean. I thought we could have a good laugh at my expense and then talk about high school as friends and equals. Over a handful of private messages and online chats, we did finally get to talk. I was stunned to find out that my high school crush could have been my high school sweetheart. Apparently all he needed was a little encouragement, some kind of indication that he would not be rejected.
What I find fascinating about this whole thing is how much it reminds me of Jesus’ infatuation with us. He stands silently in the background of our lives, waiting for some small sign that he is good enough to be welcome in our world. He wants so badly to be loved by us but he is too much of a gentleman to force his way in. He would rather be told straight out that he is the object of our desire and that he will not be rejected if he asks us to dance. He wants us to believe that we are worthy of his attention but he will not risk being turned away. So he hopes and waits for the day when we come to him with confidence, believing that we too will be accepted.
What if we really are good enough to be noticed? What if we took just a half second and offered Jesus more than just a passing glance in the hall? How might our lives be different if we step outside our comfort zone and dare to be heard? The course of our lives can be drastically altered if we only stop and believe that we are, in fact worthy enough to be adored by someone so much greater than ourselves. He stands at the door and knocks. Must we be silent any longer?
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Analogies are always tricky when it comes to comparisons with God. God is like and unlike us in ways that are complex. Take the metaphor’s for God’s church … for example: human body, temple, family, bride, flock of sheep. Any one metaphor can be taken too far at the expense of another metaphor or at the expense of the whole picture as the Bible paints it. We may be loved by a human mate at least in part because we are like a pure bride–that is here, worthy of being loved. But God commends His love for us in this, that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (There’s a “how much more” kind of argument from Rom. 5:8.) That may not imply that there is nothing worthy of love in the beloved. We are, afterall, made in God’s image and likeness. Yet it was not because of anything we have done that God loved us, but because of His mercy (Titus 3:5), a mercy contrary by its very definition to any merit in the object of mercy. Admittedly that is humbling rather than flattering. Yet it is also a more secure love. God loves us because God is love rather than because we are worthy of love. And as the poor in spirit know, our worth faced with the moral demands of Jesus must shrink from “I thank thee, God that I am not like other men, I fast twice a week …” and so on to beating our breast and pleading to God to be propitious toward us lest we perish under His righteous wrath against us. If we are to be a pure bride, it will be because God reckons us as in Christ rather than because we are worthy of adoration in ourselves.