April 04, 2013
“Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?”
—Dr. David Benner, Surrender to Love
How do you answer this question? Seriously though. As seminarians, most of us know of God’s love from a theological standpoint. It’s an objective truth to be believed (and rightly so). This question isn’t about that. It’s attacking the heart. Take a minute to pause and think. Now, give me your best, non-Sunday School, non-seminarian, non-intellectualized answer. What’s your gut feeling? What’s your emotional reaction to this question? What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?
As you might’ve guessed, I’m reading this book called Surrender to Love by David Benner. Now look, I realize that such a book title immediately puts my “man card” in question. Surrender to love. It sounds like a Nicholas Sparks novel. While it’s true that this book uses “gooey” words way more than I’d like, it’s also true that Dr. David Benner knows what he’s talking about—and what he’s talking about is directly aimed at people like me. You see, deep down I assume that God’s initial response to me is mostly disappointment. Sure he loves me, but man he does that in spite of his disappointment over my sin. His love barely peaks through the cracks of the blanket of my mess-ups. I am encouraged to accept God’s love and I think, “Well if I can just stop hurting God, stop disappointing him so much, I’ll be able to feel is love more. So, I better get my life together because I know this love of God thing is a big deal.”
Benner challenges his readers that God’s primary response is one of love. This perfect love is the only motivation that will result in lasting obedience. It is the only motivation that will invite surrender and devotion. It’s all too easy to be obedient by a subtle works—righteousness, wrapping it in spiritual language to continue the deception. For those of us in the latter camp, it’s very difficult to change our perception of the Lord. How do I trust perfect love? Better yet, how do I experience it? Because, really, we can intellectually know something all we want, but it won’t affect change until we experience it.
What if we were absolutely convinced of God’s love, not just theologically, not just experientially, but both? What if our identity was rooted on being the object of God’s ruthless affection? Yes, God’s justice and wrath and holiness cannot be neglected. But it is the just, holy YHWH that sends his son as the biggest gesture of love in all of human history. And none of us did a dang thing to earn it. Nothing. Period. I find it’s easier to accept that in reference to salvation and much harder to accept it in terms of living out that salvation. But it’s true. I still haven’t done anything to earn God’s love.
Benner’s suggestion? Meditate on God’s love as presented in the Scriptures. This isn’t earth-shattering news. And so I offer to you what I’ve been doing for the past several days. Read these Psalms, take special note of the imagery of God’s relation to us and then daydream about it. Let your mind turn it over and over. After all, the mind isn’t renewed in an instant. It takes dedicated time of meditation on the Word of God.
Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.