It was an innocent enough conversation and certainly out of the ordinary. I was heading down the road with a friend of mine with whom I don't spend nearly enough time on the way to the mall for some much needed retail therapy and to check on some job applications. And we were talking about the most prominant issue in our lives.
We were discussing one in particular. A guy with whom my friend has had a long stream of issues circling around, to simplify and summarize, the fact that he essentially strings her along, refuses to commit, and consistently breaks his promises in a vicious circle that drives her insane. The most recent rotation of this circle prompted me to ask her, "So, how are things with Fred*?" This question resulted in angry eyes and a sigh that quite obviously meant that something was definitely going on. "What happened now?" I asked her.
What followed was a story similar to the one I had heard over and over again, but with a different ending.
"I finally just told him I was done. I was sick of him playing games, and in the end it just came down to one thing."
"What was that?"
"I just didn't mean as much to him as he did to me."
This statement hit me like a ton of bricks. It just summed up so much in so few words. But not in the way you might think. Not to worry. There has been no guy action that I haven't filled you in on. Trust me. You have no idea how little.
Yesterday, while sitting in class at my home church, admittedly only half listening due to the distraction of the presence of the world's cutest baby (my niece, of course) on my lap, the question was raised about God's plan B. Which, after much discussion, we came to the conclusion means us. We are, in all technicality, in some way, shape, or form, God's plan B. God created the angels, beings meant to worship Him without free will or choice. This, as we know, didn't work out 100% as planned, considering that a third of them rebelled with Satan and were kicked out of Heaven. And besides this, we can presume that the angels didn't fulfill the type of relationship that God really desired. They worshiped Him, but by no choice of their own. They were created to do so and didn't have any say in the matter.
Love isn't really fulfilling if the opposite party is forced into it.
So, God created us. Human beings. A little lower than the angels, as the Scripture puts it, and with a free gift with purchase as it were.
We have choice. Hooray!
But, yet again, something happens. Man fails. Man is given the choice to do good, and instead chooses evil, and we have what is known as the fall. Or, in the words of my Old Testament Survey professor, "the big jump off the freaking cliff". Sin enters the picture, and once again, the relationship with God is flawed. But something interesting happens here. God issues punishment, which is the reason for death, original sin, pain, etc., but then He forgives His creation. Restitution is made and Man goes along on his merry way until he falls again, only to once again be covered by God's mercy, makes restitution, and continues the relationship with God.
We can see the pattern of this scenario once again in the relationship between the Israelites and YHWH in the Old Testament. If you look at all that God does for them and then look at the grief Israel gives God in return, it looks strikingly like an abusive, dysfunctional relationship. The template for said scenario goes something like as follows:
God: Hey, Israel. You're my kids and I love you. Have some blessings and favor!
Israel: Woot! Thanks, Yahweh! You're the best!
God: No problem, kids. Glad to do it! Now, I have some things I'd like for you to do for me. Nothing huge. Just follow these commandments that are going to enrich your life and make the world a better place.
Israel: Ummm...yeah. About that. We're good with the blessings, but we're kinda good without the laws. Kthanxbai.
[insert rebellion here]
[insert God's wrath here]
Israel: Okay, okay! We're sorry! Forgive us!
God: Of course! All is forgiven! Now, let's get you out of this mess.
Israel: Phew! Thanks, God! You're the best!
God: No problem. You're my kids and I love you. Have some blessings and favor!
Israel: Yay! Thanks, God!
God: So, about those laws...
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. All through the Old Testament.
There are times when I'm reading the Bible and I'm especially glad that I'm not God, and I'm pretty sure the rest of humanity is as well. About the first time I bailed Israel out and they rebelled again, I would have blown a gasket, and said, "Nope! You're so flippin' smart. Figure it out yourselves!" and left.
And that's why I'm not God.
He's known from the start that we're imperfect and created us with the capacity to be such. Does He want us to sin? No, of course not! But he's given us that choice and knows that, unfortunately, frequently we're going to make the wrong one. Isaiah 40:6 puts it this way-
"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field."
I came across this verse today while doing my reading for Major Prophets. According to the high, holy textbook, the word "glory" in this verse comes from the Greek khesed, meaning "faithfulness, devotion, loyalty, commitment". As you continue to read this passage in Isaiah, it goes on to say that the grass and flowers are short-lived and wither. Man's faithfulness starts out beautiful and ends up withering away into something ugly in short order. Strive as we may to reach perfection, we just won't. Things will always get in the way. And the simple fact is that our love for God, no matter how strong and sturdy we think it is, will never, ever match the love He has for us.
Our comparatively bipolar, wishy-washy relationship with the Almighty will always fall short. And in human terms, this is more than enough cause for a breakup. It's like my friend said. He just doesn't mean as much to us as we do to Him. We simply don't have that capacity.
But the glorious part of all of this is, if you think about it, that even though we are, in a way, plan B, we mean so much more. The angels rebelled once and that was it. They were done and condemned for eternity. We, as humans, should be condemned for eternity. We deserve death. But God in His unfailing mercy permits a plan of restoration and allows us to come back time and time again after our rebellions. And He keeps pouring out the blessings despite it all.
God chose to make us capable of imperfection.
And despite that, He decided to love us in our imperfection.
If that doesn't blow your mind, nothing will.