Borrow love.

I’m still trying to figure out if I really love God. I do so little that demonstrates love for God. I mean to talk to Him in prayer, but I do the dishes instead. I mean to read His Word, but I check email instead. I mean to get more involved at church, but haven’t gotten around to it. I barely make it to church on Sundays.

It is possible that I only love (and I use this word very loosely) God because He loves me. It’s an obligatory, reciprocal love, the kind of love celebrities have for their fans. It’s fickle at best, fake at worst.

I always thought that if I searched deep within my heart— deep, deep, deep within—I would unearth true love for God. I could hold it up to God like a nugget of gold and smile, declaring, “See? I knew it was there. I do love you.” Instead, what I find in the depths of my heart is fear of God and need for Him, not exactly love for Him.

Yet I continue to convince myself that I love God. I surround myself with people who love God. I act as if I love God. Philip Yancey says, “For me, the life of faith sometimes consists of acting as if the whole thing is true. It’s much easier to act your way into feelings than to feel your way into actions…” (Reaching for the Invisible God)

The problem is, it’s all an act. I fear that the act will never actualize. But I operate on the assumption that true love for God will be cultivated in me—eventually.

Until then, God continues to love me. He loved me before I ever loved Him, and He loves me when I don’t love Him. The foolishness of the gospel is that it has to be this way. If God’s love was conditional like human love, it wouldn’t compel a life of discipleship. It wouldn’t inspire worship. It would rip out the very heart of Christianity–the scandalous nature of God’s love.

God gives me the love He wants from me. What he demands, He also provides. All my love for God is borrowed from God. If He did not provide me with love for Him, I would have no love of my own to offer Him. That God accepts His own love as mine is sheer grace.

In his book Putting Amazing Back into Grace, Michael Horton says, “[God] loves us because of his own disposition, not because of ours. He can love the unlovely because he is God and he does not need a worthy object; unlike us, he can simply choose to love as he pleases. And if there is anything standing in the way of his love, he is powerful enough to remove the obstacle. The cross, of course, demonstrates the lengths he was willing to go for those he loved.”

I wish I could love God with the same kind of love with which He loves me. Love that is independent of its object. Love that is given and given and given, even if it is never received. Love that does not stand outside of bars, bedrooms, and brothels, but follows you in. Love that isn’t quantified, calculated, or strategized.

Because of the curse of the Fall, I think my love for God will always be somewhat selfish and shallow, motivated partly by fear, partly by guilt, and partly by a sense of duty. My love for God will always be broken.

God is love. Perfect love. I cannot improve on that or add to it. That God himself is love frees Him to save me without having to first be loved by me.

The good news is: Love for God is not what ultimately saves us; the love of God is.

What a relief.

Published by Brenda Jung

This is 40. Yesterday I turned 40. Turning 40 is like having to exit the theater of a live show I didn’t want to end. I step out onto the street humbled with grateful wonder. I know my soul was changed. I want to go back in to re-live the story, ponder the themes, understand the characters in greater depth, and most of all, hear all the music again. But I cannot. It was a live performance. I must exit the theater and move on. What makes aging tough is the inability to hold on to moments. When a significant moment is happening, I want to preserve it. Sometimes I get to snap a picture or record a video. Then, it’s over. I have to let it go. So many beautiful moments go uncaptured, unprocessed, unpublished. Life is a series of these moments, these ever-passing days, these premature goodbyes. And then you turn 40. “When I grow up” is no longer future. This is it. This is 40. 1. 40 feels like a mid-term evaluation. How much have you done? What do you have to show for yourself? I find myself trying to validate myself, which I don’t remember doing at 30. And why do I feel a need to apologize for leading an ordinary, average life? 2. The accusing voice in your head that tells you you should be doing more, you should be doing better, is often your own greed and ego. “More” and “better” are vague and meaningless standards. Just do your best with all your heart. 3. Regarding my body, it’s like I tell kids when passing out lollipops: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” A good diet and regular exercise can help, though maybe not as much after 40. 4. Create something. We are happier when we are creating--a cake, a scarf, a sonata, a sermon, a drawing, a painting, a poem, a presentation, a lesson plan. This is because we are made like God, who is Creator. 5. A lot of prayer requests can be discovered by finishing the sentence, “I am afraid of...” --such as, I am afraid of insignificance. Or, I am afraid that godly contentment will always be only theoretical. Or, I am afraid I will ruin my children. Then, pray hard. 6. Regarding stuff: You almost always get what you pay for. There are some things you shouldn’t skimp on by buying generic, such as potato chips and rice krispies cereal and ice cream. Brand names are better. 7. Regarding money: Tricky. Very tricky. Perhaps Satan’s best disguise, second to serpent. Be careful with this one. 8. Jesus is still very busy dying for me. Until I stop filling my water cup with lemonade and telling people I am fine when I am really crying inside, He will need to keep His blood flowing into little plastic cups for me at least once a month. 9. Everything is interesting. If a thing isn’t interesting, type it into the Google search box and spend one minute reading about it and looking at pictures of it. I promise you, everything--a tool, a disease, a plant, a planet, an insect, a war--is interesting. 10. Guilt is suicide. Clear your conscience, at all costs. Pray. Confess. Admit fault. Say sorry. Forgive and beg forgiveness. Try to take back the words. No amount of money, no good deed, no extravagant vacation can substitute for peace with God. This is the hill to die on. 11. Rebellion against God is the simple explanation for so many of our problems. Sin is the single most helpful concept for understanding our temper tantrums, sagging skin, cellulite, credit card debt, communal loneliness, and dying fruit trees. 12. Idols will age and grow with you, if you don’t kill them while they’re young. After decades of care and coddling, my gods of performance, productivity, and pleasing others are well-fed, healthy, and strong. I have done a fantastic job of raising my idols into adults. Now what? 13. Grown-up sins require grown-up grace. Every birthday, Jesus gives me all the love and blood I need to atone for all the sins I will commit over the next year. Forgiveness for the same sins I’ve been committing for decades is no ordinary birthday present. Brenda Jung

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