1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
4 I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.
Now read it again. and again. and again.
Last night I picked up a little book called Surrender to Love by David Benner on a recommendation from a friend, and wow it is like a well aimed arrow straight into my heart. I've already read half of it, though I must admit, it's only about 110 pages long. Just take this passage:
It is surrender to love that I really resist. I am willing to accept measured doses of love as long as it doesn't upset the basic framework of my world. That framework is built on the assumption that people get what they deserve. That's what I really want. I want to earn what I get. And for the most part I am content to get what I earn. Nothing grates me more than a handout. If you doubt this, just ask someone who lives off charity. What humans want is to earn the love we seek.
The Christian God comes to us as wholly other - so different from the gods of my imagination, so far beyond my control. Encountering such a God is terrifying because encountering perfect love is an invitation to abandon ego. A god of our own making would be much less terrifying. But such a God cannot offer me what I most deeply need - release from my fears and healing of my brokenness.I was meditating on some recommended passages of scripture from this book when Hosea 11 caught my attention, and I was overwhelmed with the tenderness of the Lord. Tenderness is not a word frequently used to describe our Lord, yet the images in scripture overflow with tenderness. He teaches us to walk, takes us by the arm, bends down to feed us, leads us with cords of kindness, and all that in this passage alone. The whole rest of the Bible overflows with the tenderness the Lord feels towards his children.
Tenderness is taboo because it makes us vulnerable. In our culture, the concepts of surrender, love, and fear are avoided and despised because we mistake them for weakness and loss of self. But what if in surrender, we find our real selves and the power of God? What if we've been avoiding that which will bring us the greatest peace? What if the pain is just a temporary trial that we pass through to find joy?
Dwelling richly in the word is revealing the incomprehensible extent of how sin and self have blinded me to the truth that would set me free. How often can I speak the truth that I cannot see at work in my own life? Yet I am encouraged to throw myself on the grace of God more every day, knowing that his tenderness, not my merit, will be there to catch me.