I have given Him imperfect love and divided attention. I have tried to earn and to prove my own righteousness; I've put my accomplishments on a pedestal and yearned for the glory that can always and only be His. I have failed and I have fallen short, but never once has He turned me away. My Father loves me. He provides for me. He protects me. He sets me free, directs my path, and despite my complete inadequacy and inability to love Him back in the way that He deserves, He calls me His beloved (Song of Solomon 6:3). This is the God I serve and desire to emulate. These are the characteristics I long to embody. I don't serve my God perfectly, but because His perfect Son took my sin on His shoulders, I get to wear Jesus' perfection (John 3:16). I am covered by it; dressed in it; arrayed in a splendor not my own (Isaiah 61:10). The only response to the love I've been shown is to give love in return, first and foremost to my God and Savior, and second, to everyone else He created. "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
Debates and rants and questions of "why" and misunderstandings and hurtful accusations fold together into something that feels a lot like chaos, and nothing like "love winning" anything at all. God is Love, and furthermore, He is Light—"in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5) I pray that His light shines through me, emboldens me, and attracts others to the God I serve rather than turning them away. I cannot speak to the grossly inappropriate presence of hatred in various forms throughout the history of institutionalized Christianity, but I can confidently proclaim that hate has no place in the relationship I've found with Jesus Christ, and will have no place in me as I continue to serve Him through and in and during whatever lies ahead.
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Psalm 40:1-2 "I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."
Song of Solomon 6:3 "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies."
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
Isaiah 61:10 "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
1 John 4:18-19 "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us."
1 John 1:5 "This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."