a furious love
The sky turned black within seconds. We sat perched by the doorway of a muggy noodle shack, watching the tanned Asian faces stir the big steaming pots that rested on the floor. The storm was coming, my friend, “Small Moon”, told me and we weren’t going to make it home before it hit. So we continued to sip our piping hot tea and slurp our noodles, discussing this new God I spoke often of. She’d just become a Christian three days before.
The storm came, starting with a heavy rain.
Small Moon wanted to see me for what we thought would be the last time, to ask questions of faith and life and understand how to talk to her family about Jesus. I gave her a handful of the booklets explaining the Gospel in Chinese, did my best to advise her in simple English, trying to ignore the two older gentlemen who stood, hands behind their backs, just feet from our table. My white face made me stand out. We ignored the gathering storm.
We left just in time for her to make it a mile or so back to her dorm before curfew. Small Moon and I put on our ponchos, rolled up our jeans, opened our umbrellas; she commented that the storm wasn’t nearly as bad as she expected during the “rainy season”.
We sloshed our way through the streets that flowed with water up to our ankles, our conversation turned to shouting because of the thunder and lightning. A taxi flew by, splashing us with muddy water. I cringed, but my friend just giggled.
The winds picked up and the rain slanted across the sky, drenching us. “Let’s run!” I shouted and we quickly, yet carefully made our way up a steep hill in the dark. The lightning flashes came closer and closer together, enabling us to see the sidewalk and pick up our pace.
Just five more blocks.
You don’t understand the phrase, “the sky opened up”, until you’ve experienced water like we did that night. It was like buckets of water dumped out of the sky and came off the ground and hit you from every angle, like a very angry car wash was trying to cleanse the entire city. I started running, but stopped when her yellow poncho wasn’t in my peripheral. I turned around and Small Moon had dropped her umbrella. She wasn’t running, she just stood there . . . laughing.
Staying dry was futile.
We started jumping and splashing and shouting and chasing each other towards the biggest puddles, visible when the lightning flashed across the ink blue heavens. It was more than just a party in a rainstorm–we rejoiced that we were His; laughed with the absolute beauty, yet absurdity that our good Dad called us daughters.
Stomping water in the streets during a furious storm, taught me so much about God’s love. It was almost as if, at that moment, God showed us the total fury of his love. I was across the world, laughing and playing in a rainstorm with my new friend who was different from me in every way, yet who too had seen the beauty and love of God. She now wanted to tell her whole village about Jesus, which we would do together four years later.
In that storm, I stood in the perfect representation of when Christian rules and even good deeds meet God. It didn’t matter that my sin list was longer than everyone else’s I knew, that I skipped my morning devotion, or that those booklets would be soaked and illegible once Small Moon made it home.
We can follow the rules, force our faith into a tiny box, hide our shortcomings, judge others–but then the furious love of God washes over, leaving us completely undone. Because His love is not a gentle, quiet love that you take in under a poncho. It cannot be contained by our rules, or denominations; understanding, or theology. Neither can it be ruined or diluted by our disgrace.
After one of these experiences, you don’t want to waste your time debating ‘church’ issues, or hating the sin, not the sinner, or worrying about what percentage to tithe–you want to love people. Your heart overflows with gratitude for what Jesus gave and you want to love with everything inside.
You want in on this furious, raging love of God that sweeps away our futile umbrellas and soaks us to the very core.
But often we get busy. We grow numb. We become important. Or maybe, our hearts break. All hearts do at one time or another.
I’m reminded today that God isn’t concerned about our rule-following, our Christian image, our church attendance, or our theology.
He wants our hearts. That’s all He’s ever wanted.
When the furious love of God capsizes your ship, you’ll feel so silly standing there worrying about your image, or comparing your sin list to your friends’. When the storm hits, you’ll see there is nothing you can do but stand still and soak in the intense energy of the waters. God loved us not that we could perfect our lives but that we might live and experience His love.
A furious love, that sweeps us away.
Have you experienced a moment where you felt completely and totally overwhelmed by God’s love? What was that like for you? Is it easy to forget & grow “busy” or “important”?
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- Brennan Manning, Your Words Changed My Life