We met in a basement. Like most little girls attending Sunday school in the 90's, I wore frilly dresses with lace collars and puffed sleeves patterned with flowers. My teacher, Miss Mary Cooley, was impossibly old and wise, a fact I surmised because of the million laugh lines around her eyes and the tight curls of snowy white hair piled on top of her head. I never knew her life story, but as far as I was concerned she had always been a very old, very wise Sunday school teacher. I distinctly remember carrying the strong conviction that she knew literally everything there was to know about God. So when she told us week after week that God loved us, I believed her. She would know. She had spent a lifetime wearing dresses and teaching first grade Sunday school in the basement. So God must love me.
I'm glad she said it every week, because she knew most of all that we wouldn't always be first graders. I did not stay a little girl in frilly dresses. But in spite of her dedicated reminders, the assurance of her words faded as I grew up. I became a creative sinner, a better hypocrite, a suspicious suspect. Until I reached a point where I no longer believed it at all. If she had been able to speak from her grave, Miss Mary Cooley would have wept.
God loves you!
No, I could not believe it. I had sunk too low. God was against me.
For what is love if not to be radically for the other?
I had no assurance that this Holy God could be for this exhausted pharisee.
And even if He did love me, how could I know for sure?
My friend was engaged when she told me how she reveled in the words, "He loves me." She broke down the sentence to see each part as special and spent energy thinking about how her fiancee beautified each petal of the linguistic flower. I follow her pattern for the words of Paul in Romans 8, which inspired this message, which inspired this post. :)
"If God is for us, who can be against us?"
God- The Trinity living in loving relationship and desiring to be reconciled to the Image Bearers. The Creator of the ends of the earth. The never-weary One. The Burden Bearer. The Covenant Keeper who walked between the carcasses while Abraham slept. The Sinless Savior who alone could be the replacement for Isaac (and for me) on the altar. The worship worthy Lamb whose act in death and resurrection embodies Love.
God is- He exists. He lives. So real I cannot always perceive Him with my finitude. So alive that my eyes cannot yet see Him for preservation of their vision. So complex that my lists of attributes dissolve in the Presence.
God is for- This God is not against me. He is dedicated to working in my favor. He has worked in my favor already through Christ. He went to great lengths to resolve the distance between us. He always does for me what is best.
God is for us- Me. A sinner. Weak. Weary. Unwise. Burdened. And Beloved!
Yes! God is for me.
By grace in Christ...for me!
Maybe the impact would be increased to reorder it and realize my identity without Him before being floored by His grace. But then, it starts as it must always start (and as the Spirit rightly wrote through Paul) with God as the subject and not with me. Believers here find themselves in the proper place as the object of eternal, inescapable affection with the focus on the One who loves.
God is for us.
What proof does Paul offer for such a bold declaration?
Not a perfect record of service offered, nor a life of blessings and sunshine.
But an unchanging reality: He did not spare even His own Son.