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Romance stories often have the other suitor, who vies with the true love for the heart of the woman.  In God's wooing of me, the other suitor has always been a distorted view of God.  One suitor looks at me, and His eyes are full of love.  The other looks at what I do, and his eyes are full of anger, and I am afraid of him.  Yet the love in the eyes of the One is slowly gaining my trust and my love, and overcoming my fear of the other.

Often, when I would pray, I would sense a stern and angry face looking down at me.  No matter how hard I would try to remind myself of God's love and forgiveness, this image would glare down at me.  I thought God was angry with me.  He saw my deeds, and He saw that my bad deeds outweighed my good deeds.  He wanted to punish me, so I cowered before Him.  When I went to pray, I felt as though I were suffocating.

Again, it wasn't that I hadn't heard the truth of God's love.  I knew about it and tried to believe it.  I would quote Scripture to myself and pray it aloud, but doubt gnawed away at me.  I remember once when I was praying, I cried, "I hate you, God, but I know it's not You I hate.  I know it's this image I can't stop seeing.  I know You are love, but I can't stop feeling that you are angry with me, and I hate you.  Please help me to see You and to love You."  I was desperate.  I knew that God is love, and love gives birth to love, not hate.  Therefore, when I feel hate, something must be wrong with my perspective.

That's hard to confess.  I've spent a ridiculous amount of time staring at the screen, remembering how awful that tangle was.  I was tired of fighting my heart to make it behave properly.  I kept remembering all God's promises regarding a renewed heart.  The prayer "unite my heart to fear your name" resonated deeply with me.  I didn't want to keep fighting my own heart.  I praise God for His love.  He is truly greater than our feelings.  He doesn't flinch away from honesty but meets it with love and healing and freedom.

Sometime after that, I was in my kitchen washing dishes.  Our daughter, Hannah Gail, had dropped her china saucer, and it had broken.  My husband had scoured the floor to find the pieces and then had painstakingly puzzled them back together.  My heart ached to know whether a broken heart could be healed.  Suddenly, while I worked on dishes, I saw very clearly an image of a Father bending over His work, fitting the broken pieces together.  I knew that Father was the true suitor.

I remember something that God said to me between the time I told Him I didn't love Him and the time I told Him I hated Him.  It was shortly before we moved to Nairobi.  I was sitting under the girls' queen-sized loft bed, their only play area.  It was a mess, as always, and I was struggling with anger at always having to clean it up.  I was struggling with anger and guilt at being angry.  I was struggling with the feeling that I didn't love them.  I wanted to be a loving, patient Mom, but I felt that I was failing.  I felt that I was supposed to make them behave properly, and I was failing.  I wasn't disciplining them properly.  I wasn't loving them properly.

All I could see was what they were doing and what they were failing to do.  I felt all God could see was what I was doing, and what I was failing to do.  While I was under the loft, I heard God reprimand me gently but firmly, "My name is I Am, not I do."  This has taken a long time for me to understand.  The distorted god, whose name is I do, looks at our deeds, and he is angry, because he always wants more.  Our God, whose name is I Am, looks at us, and He gazes in love because He sees who we are, and He sees we are very good.

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I remember the first time I saw my husband, Joshua.  It was my freshman year of college.  He was a junior.  Joshua reminded me of a squirrel.  He came into a room where I was visiting someone, talked for a few minutes, then darted off.  I doubt he even saw me.  Indifference at first sight!

Later, as I noticed other things about him, I became more certain I didn't want to be associated with him.  Joshua was a weird missionary type.  He would walk around campus barefoot, wrapped in a woven shawl from India.  He was friends with other weird missionary types.  When several of those weird missionary types decided to go to the seminary across the street for graduate school, it confirmed to me that I did not want to attend that seminary.

My Grandma, the one who married the red-headed boy, always told me not to tell God “never.”  He would laugh, and that “never” would happen.  Well, I did end up getting a master's degree at that seminary.  I did become friends with Joshua.  Though I argued with God on the matter, I even ended up marrying him, but that is a long story.

Well, in the same way, I knew that God was not the God of my dreams.  I was a Christian.  I would say that I loved God, because I was trying hard to do so, but the spark just wasn't there. I didn't have any theological problem with this.  God wasn't supposed to be what I wanted.  I had heard about people who create their own God according to what they want.  I didn't want to do that.

Instead, I tried to make myself love the God about whom I heard.  He is the God who loved us so much in the past that He gave His Son to die for us.  He is the God who will love us so much in the future that we will have a wonderful life with Him in Heaven.  At present, it doesn't feel like love, but that is because of our sinfulness.  “No discipline is pleasant at the time,” but it's good for you.  The problem is that we are “at the time,” so His love doesn't feel pleasant.  So, despite my effort to love God, I felt terrified of God.

But two years ago, God asked me a question.  We had just moved to our new house near Nairobi.  I was busy getting settled in.  As I was working on laundry, I heard God ask, “What does your heart long for in a Father?”

I did not know what to say.  How could I answer this question?  He was asking me, who is the God of your dreams?  How could I tell Him that He's not it?  But He asked me.  I couldn't be rude and ignore Him.  I focused on the laundry to give myself time to think.  Then I gathered my courage and told Him, “I want a Father who will lead me to obey Him because I love Him, not drive me to obey Him because I'm afraid of Him.”

Immediately, I heard, “What makes you think I'm not like that?”  I was flabbergasted.  My initial response was, “Because of how you act.”  Still, He cared enough to ask me what I longed for, maybe I should actually think about His second question.  What does make me think He's not this God of my dreams?  Maybe my dreams are true!

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Last week , I received a facebook message from my friend Daphne, "Ruth, where is your blog?" She and my friend Wendy have been asking me to write down my dialogue with God. For the past three years (or more, depending on when you start counting) I have been having a conversation with God. Actually, it is more of a courtship, which includes both conversation and shared experiences. You see, three years ago, I told God that if I really looked at my heart, I would have to say that I didn't really love Him. I was serving Him and trying to love Him, but really, I was just plain afraid of Him. At that point, He told me I needed to fall in love with Him.

Falling in love with God happens in just the same way as falling in love with a person. I don't think I realized this at first, but God is a person, or three persons in one. So to fall in love with Him, you spend time together, talking or being silent together, sharing hopes and dreams, playing together, working on a project together or on separate projects side by side, sitting quietly together, walking hand in hand, dancing with each other. I have discovered that you can do all of these things with God.

I remember when I was single and becoming friends with a group of guys, a significant part of my falling in love with my future husband is that of them all, he was the one most interested in my hopes and dreams. The same has been true of God. For a long time, I had the mistaken idea that my hopes and dreams were essentially bad because my heart was "deceitfully wicked above all things." So, when I would talk with God, I would try to share a cleaned up version of my heart. To put it humorously, God and I broke up over this issue. I kept talking to God, telling Him my nice clean thoughts and ideas, but He stopped answering. I was very lonely during that time. I didn't hear His voice again until I finally told Him the truth. Then I found out to my surprise that He didn't consider my hopes and dreams to be bad! He was interested in them, loved them, in fact! It did take a few more years to convince me of that. Notice that I am only now writing them down!

Another significant part of dating and falling in love is getting to know the other person. God has encouraged me to ask Him questions, even the dreaded why question. To really get to know someone, you can't just know what they do, you have to understand why. There is, in fact, a difference between a why of complaint and a why of interest. God wants us to know Him. For some reason, this was easier for me to believe than that God wanted to know me. From reading the book of Job, I learned that it was the one who asked God questions who said He knew God better at the end. My questions are there in my heart, if I don't ask them, they seem to fester and turn into bitterness and resentment. Better to ask. God has shared some pretty amazing things in response.

So now, with Daphne and Wendy encouraging me, I am beginning a blog. This blog will be my story of my courtship with God, but it won't be chronological. I don't think in chronology. I think in relationship, in how that connects to this, and what this means in context of that. I love conversations, because conversation is a series of thoughts related to one another which weave together into a beautiful picture. My conversations with God have become a rich tapestry I am welcoming you to view.