I have a dear friend that was orphaned in Romania as a child. He was 5 years old when he was adopted by a loving family and brought to the U.S. He had to learn how to speak English when he arrived here and now he doesn't remember any Romanian at all.
This past Saturday night some friends and I were out and met a young woman who they struck up a conversation with, she reiterated things not only have I heard more times than I can remember, but once spoke myself very adamantly and quite angrily. "If your God is so loving, then why is the world so evil, why do innocent people get hurt, why do children suffer, WHY!!!!!!..." Her truth is that He does not exist, that He could not, that life is meaningless and hopeless. A mindset I once shared fully. I used to say I was an atheist, however, really I was a hater. A hater of the image of God I had somehow developed. I honestly still hate that image.
I wished I could have her take a journey back in time and go inside my heart to the girl I used to be that spoke these same things she spoke, (however original she fancied her thinking to be be, sadly it is FAR from original to her) to the heart that hurt so bad it felt as if it could never be repaired, to the angry and hopeless heart that was dead inside and without meaning and purpose. It was like looking into my own face at her age... angry, hopeless and hurting, but packaged up nicely as a humanitarian out to make a real difference, to fight for humanity with love and dignity. Problem is you can't fight a battle with no ammunition. You have to HAVE love to give it.
I wished she could have come inside my heart to feel the difference, the transformation that took place from broken to healing all those years ago, when I was around her age... It began one day long ago and has continued ever since. First, the hopelessness vanished. That happened pretty instantly for me. Then I began to feel more loved that I had ever imagined possible. Then the fear of that love being removed was eased and taken from my heart, a security in love came, a reality that nothing could EVER take that love from me. That reality started to change everything else, like water it starting seeping into every area and changing it for the better. Fear started slipping away because when we really understand that we are loved, there really is nothing to fear. Love brings peace and meaning to life so hopelessness disintegrates.
The transformation began when I began to understand a foreign language. Actually, just as my friend understood Romanian as a child and as he had to learn English to function in the U.S.. and forgot what he had known. I think I had a good understanding of the language of Love as a child and as I grew and adjusted to this world, I forgot my native tongue for one taught me as survival.
My son has been taking German in school for the past two years and is quite good at it. As he has studied, we have found that there are many German words similar to English, and it is easy to rush in and think you understand what something may be saying. However similar, there are also many differences in the languages, in sentence structure and tenses and if you are quick to think you understand you are liable to misinterpret the complete meaning. As a child, my sister and I used to pretend sometimes that we were speaking Spanish. We would utter a long line of gibberish words that we imagined to sound correct and we would each pretend we understood what the other was saying.
Far too often I think we approach the Bible as English speakers thinking we fully understand German, and as children speaking gibberish, speaking it out as if we have an understanding. I still hate the image that I used to have of God because it was a wrong one! It was an image I created by perceptions of others speaking gibberish and of my own thinking that I understood a language that I had absolutely no knowledge of! In my arrogance (I was quite the intellectual you see), I read a book in a foreign language before taking the time to discover WHICH language it is written, because I was so wise in my own eyes, I predetermined the outcome and therefore had a warped image of who the book is about.
For me, the Bible is like a diary with a lock. I had peeked in but couldn't see the complete page. A simple prayer opened the lock and the Author began to explain that it is a mystery until you begin to learn it's language. It is not written in English, or German or Hebrew or any other earthly language. It is written in LOVE. It is written from the One who loves us more that we can fathom, to us, for us to understand just how much we are loved. If we will put aside gibberish and self evaluating and ask the Author to teach us the language so we can truly understand it.
If we approach the Bible with the understanding that it is about LOVE, when we come to things that don't look like love we can ask the Author to explain. Our tendency is usually to just view God as the "God with a big stick ready to smite thee" instead of getting to understand it and just move on in misunderstanding. This hurts my heart, it's like when I hear someone who I know well, and I know has good character being trash talked by someone who has made rash judgements of them. Let me give an example...
In Exodus 13, we find the story of the Israelites in the wilderness as 12 spies are sent out to check out the land. This is land that had been promised to them, yet 10 of the spies reported that they were "like grasshoppers in their own sight" to the people in the land. Only Joshua and Caleb believed the promise. The other ten saw themselves as incapable, even though God had promised the land to them. Doubt and unbelief kept them out, yes, but there is more to the story that is so often missed. When Love translates the story, we see a people that missed out on some amazing promises, yes, because they could not see themselves as God saw them..."like grasshoppers in their own sight", they saw themselves as insignificant and unable! LOVE did not see them so! Love wanted to bless them, but they could not see themselves blessed! Even when they lost out on the best they could have had, Love did not stop loving. It was common practice at the time that the army that lost a battle would be taken into captivity or killed. The woman and children taken captive as slaves or killed. What would have happened if the Israelites, already believing they could NOT take on the people in the land had gone in anyway? How many trying things have you faced with a defeated attitude going in have you won? Uh, yeah, probably none, because if we don't believe we can do something, it is most often a self fulfilling prophecy! So instead of allowing them to go in and fight a battle that they believed they couldn't win, and the outcome of a battle lost, captivity or death to the women and children and the possibility of the end of the Jews, Love kept them in the wilderness until those that could go in faith where raised up. Was it the best plan? No, His plan is always better, but the Israelites allowed their own translation of the spies report to steer them instead of Love's language... "You are able! You are loved!" They believed their own wrong perceptions of His character and let them rule their hearts and bring fear instead. They did not understand His love for them even after they had seen miracle after miracle, they were still unthankful and complaining. Thankfulness is such a part of Love's language! (more on that to come!)
His Love will never lead us where His grace cannot provide for us or His power cannot protect us. Open your heart and ask Him to show you love in the least expected places, the stories you have come to think you understand... if your understanding does not point to love and grace, it has not yet been properly translated.