“Don’t take it personal,” Jermaine Jackson.
“Due to the subject matter, I recommend that parents read the book first and make themselves available for any comments or questions that could be forthcoming. It is well worth the conversation.” Amazon reviewer, Pale Rider.
One thing I struggled with early during my Christian journey had to do with accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for me. For God so loved the world and all that. Yes, the entire world and all of humankind. He loved us enough to wrap himself in flesh so that he could be like us, live like us, die like us but with a great difference. His death wasn’t just a cause for mourning. It was a cause for celebration. Jesus’ triumph over the grave meant freedom for all. One day, we who believe would rise again and be clothed in our glorified body, too. It’s the foundation of our faith. And I thought I believed in his love for me.
But then I faced a personal crisis so deep that it left me mute. Sure, I was still walking around and interacting with others but inside I was numb. Like an apparition I ghosted through my home, going through the daily motions. The pain was so agonizing I felt like I couldn’t breathe at times. I shut down and couldn’t, wouldn’t even talk to Him. My situation was unbearable. How could He let THIS horrible thing happen to me?
“I love you.”
His voice came to me. I brushed it aside, not wanting to hear such empty declarations. You don’t love me, I would’ve said, had I been talking to Him. If He had, this never could have happened. The days went by and I’m sure I ate and drank and did all the normal things. But that time was a void. An unfillable chasm. A deep maw of pain so great, it would surely swallow me, and I would be no more. It would destroy me, I was convinced, and I would fall into the abyss of nothingness. I welcomed the inevitable end.
“I love you.”
This time, I answered, though still dismissively. Yes, I did. Me. I blew Him off. The God of the universe. I don’t say this with pride. I was in so much pain that I wasn’t trying to hear anything He said. But He persisted.
“I love you.”
“Yeah. I know. You love EVERYBODY,” I emphasized that last word, heavy with sarcasm. “For God so loved the world, blah, blah, blah.” My inner voice sounded like I felt – flat and devoid of emotion. But then He responded with something that leaked through my pain and gave me pause.
“I love YOU. I died for you.” It didn’t surprise me that I was holding a conversation with the Lord, himself (though part of me suspected I was talking to myself, hence my easy dismissal). But I was a little perturbed at his emphasis on the last word. Me. He died for me, personally? I quickly brushed aside the thought and went back to my painful ruminations. I felt like I would die. I think I wanted to. But the conversation lingered in the back of my mind and interjected a question: How could such a big God love little, insignificant me?
I had a car accident soon after that – like a week later, as I recall. As I looked at the smoldering wreckage and then to the precious cargo I held in my arms, His words came back to me. I heard them clearly over the sounds of a multitude of cars whizzing by as kind strangers stopped to help me and my children on the expressway.
I love you. I died for you.
I never forgot that lesson, that experience. His love for us is wide and encompassing but also deeply personal. And so that is one of the lessons I share in this latest work, Pale Rider, as Ari learns about His personal love. A love so great and vast that it can embrace all of creation yet still care about you and me individually. For God, it is personal.
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And check out a short film by my buddy Aretha Tatum, Seasoned! It’s never too late to follow your dream!