Saturday, November 30, 2013

GOD'S LOVE SURPRISE

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My hope is that this story will confirm that God loves you and is working in your life even though you may be unaware of it at the time.

This is a true story. However, anyone trying to convey on paper the inner impressions, feelings and revelations of the love of God experienced through such a numinous experience will always find it difficult to put into words.

(To view last month's article, "Signs of the End Times: Is Jesus Really Coming Back? Go to the dashboard and click on "Archived Articles" or scroll down below this article.)


GOD’S LOVE-SURPRISE©
by
Janis Hutchinson

            I shall never forget that cold gray winter evening when God suddenly emerged from his mysterious hiding place to make himself known to me. It was an unexpected experience¾one that shocked me to the very core. 
            Widowed, my three small children and I lived in a small town situated on the bleak outskirts of the Utah desert. After putting the children to bed and stoking up the fire, I settled back in my Lazy Boy and reached for Saint Augustine’s Confessions, a book I had picked up earlier at a garage sale. Flipping through the pages, a chapter heading caught my eye¾Looking for God in the fields of memory.
Intrigued, I read the whole section of his analytical search for God and found myself enjoying his thought-provoking questions¾one in particular. How is it that after finding God we recognize him, when we never knew him beforehand?  His answer, however, disturbed me.
His assertion was that since the ability to recognize can only come from our memories, then that is the place where God is to be found. By re-examining them, no matter how horrendous, we will find Him in the midst of our story.
I bristled with indignation. There is no way God can be found by doing that!   If there was any truth to Augustine’s claim at all, it was that by recalling life’s experiences one could ascertain if God was there at all. I could remember every crucial event that took place in my life and God was definitely not there!
I could, however, understand His reluctance¾there was certainly nothing loveable about me. My earlier years had been filled with hurt and ugliness. If I could have perceived any incident in my life that made sense, then maybe I could say God was there. But there was no rhyme or reason to any of it.
            Grabbing a pencil, I began formulating a response to prove Augustine wrong. But the long day suddenly began to take its toll and I found myself wearily leaning back in the chair.
            Resting in the half-light, half-darkness behind closed eyelids, something unexpected happened¾certainly nothing I planned. All the events of my life, the unexplainable setbacks and tragedies of the past with their defeats, failures and disappointments, surprisingly erupted¾even those dramas I thought I had hidden so deeply that I would never have to look upon them again.
           I pushed the unwelcome scenes aside but they kept reappearing as if pleading for some explanation to reveal their purpose in the scheme of things. This time there was no cramming them back into the dark recesses of my mind. I could do nothing but helplessly succumb as all the tangled, chaotic events of my life rushed forward in all their unintelligible disorder. To make any sense of their purpose was like trying to read a story composed of incoherent sentences and paragraphs out of sequence. All they did was re-confirm what I already knew¾God was never there for me.
I watched a full rehearsal of all the unhappy events of my childhood and teenage years play out before me—the good, the bitter, the perplexing and distressing. At the same time I could hear background music¾sometimes harmonious, other times dissonant and tuneless¾as each life’s event, like a musical note, moved forward and connected to the next in a cause-and-effect manner.
Similar to viewing a movie, I watched myself act out the old, pitiable scenes, one after the other. The entire cast was there—estranged relatives, friends, acquaintances¾down to the last participating, oftentimes unwelcome, actor. I re-experienced childhood fears, a broken home, boarding at unpleasant places, suffered through surgeries, tuberculosis, chronic health problems, near-death situations, and relived the time as a teenager when I tried to end it all. All of it revealed one indisputable truth. My life was worthless. No one cared¾not even God.
Then, like in a delusive dream, I found myself at a strange and unusual vantage point—I became both player and viewer. As actor, I was aware of my interaction with others, but as viewer I had the unique position of standing afar off and watching the panorama. I could see players concealed offstage waiting for their cue to enter and my attention riveted on one personality in particular.
Who was this person, undetected by me as actor but now observed by me as viewer? Then, recognition sank in . . .
It was God!
There he stood in the middle of my horrible story completely absorbed in the music, measuring the tempo, calling the cues, skillfully directing and orchestrating all the scattered pieces of my life.
Under his  commanding gestures, the chaotic and fugue-like events of my life whirled together in a spinning maelstrom of soul-awakening harmonies. Rhythms, patterns, order and disorders—all the counterpoints of my life—moved in all their crescendos and dynamics, collaborating in a strange synthesis of unity and diversity.
I soon noticed, in the midst of all that swelling cacophony, something surprising taking place. All the disordered array of tuneless dissonance began to fuse into a single, euphonious composition. Every event and episode of my life became a musical note, where the value of each depended upon the preceding one, the one following setting the quality for those to come, and the arrangement blending into soul-stirring, cathedral-like chords.
Flowing from one to the other in a cause and effect manner, the melodious, even the ill-sounding, notes mingled and merged into a connective continuity. They melded into a dynamic whole until the fragmented events were no longer discontinuous incidences but riding upon a divine continuum. God was taking up all the jumbled scraps of my chaotic life and arranging them into a definitive pattern—and the unique process was structuring the harmony and melody of me!
I watched in amazement, delighting in the effusive experience. But as with all compositions that must come to a close, the notes of my life’s events gradually began to dissolve into the silence of the past, leaving only their combined effect to linger in the last reverberating tone. And in the flow of quiet that followed¾like the interpretive hush following a period at the end of a sentence¾the final, impassioned note punctuated the full meaning of my schizophrenic existence, revealing purpose, design and significance.
I now had to acknowledge a divine structure where I thought none existed, a stability I thought was missing, a Reality I had assumed was not there. God had always been there, guiding and watching over me. He did love me after all!
I have no idea how long the experience lasted but as I opened my eyes my first impulse was to figuratively leap to my feet, applaud and shout, Bravo!¾not for myself, but for God who had been wielding the baton and orchestrating my life all along!
Moved to tears, I experienced a brokenness that surpasses description. My zero-level image of myself changed and I saw the real me as desirable to God. I saw him as the ever-faithful Lover and myself as the Beloved. He cherished me just as I was, in the midst of all the unfortunate situations, the messiness, fears and mistakes. In return, I loved him back with a love that was indescribable.
I immediately fell to my knees to express my gratitude—to call upon his name and try in some way to say, “Thank you.”
            But the instant those two words formed on my lips, they fell short of their mark. They were not enough!  I panicked—they did not express what I was feeling!
           I groped for some way to possibly rephrase it with more meaning. I groaned in frustration, but try as I could there were no words in my vocabulary to express what I was feeling.
What was I to do?  How could I let Him know?
            In a final moment of utter helplessness—in an outburst intended only as rhetorical—I cried out: “Lord, how can I say thank you?”
            To my surprise, distinct words flooded into my mind. A scripture. It came powerfully and compelling, yet gently, peacefully and reassuring.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

            I was dumbfounded. That’s how I’m supposed to say, thank you?
            In joyous relief I responded . . . “Oh yes!”

* * *
          In the gratifying days and years that followed, I have continued to bask in the wondrous afterglow of the experience—also in the assurance that whatever scenes lay ahead, even if seemingly discordant, chaotic and tuneless, God will faithfully be there in the sidelines guiding and orchestrating the whole wondrous composition of my life.
          Augustine  was right. It is at the point of deep introspection and the strangeness of remembered experiences that God’s presence can be found.

The End

The following hymn confirms the difficulties in trying to describe the love of God.

The Love of God

      Could we with ink the ocean fill
      And were the skies of parchment made
      Were every stalk on earth a quill
      And every man a scribe by trade
      To write the love of God above
      Would drain the ocean dry
      Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
      Though stretched from sky to sky.
      (F.M. Lehman)

The above story won Honorable Mention in a five-continent, worldwide literary competition.

                                   THANK YOU FOR VISITING!   

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The next post will be approximately January 1-10th. 

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