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.