In watching “The most reluctant convert: The untold story of C.S. Lewis” the scenes where Lewis describes his “reluctant conversion” finally brought home to me how Salvation really happens. How God works.
In typical evangelicalism God is shown as calling us to him, but never forcing his way in. The phrase “God is a gentleman and will never force himself on you” is used often to portray this view. The idea that free will is dependent on God standing back and waiting has never really sat right with me. That doesn’t sound like an all-powerful God to me. But I definitely see God as a gentleman.
In Reformed circles God is shown as more in control, and taking control than this. The image of God knocking on the door and waiting for an answer is adjusted and as we pan out on our view, we see there is a growing fire inside the house that drives us to open the door. I find this closer to the truth. However, this (for me at least) perpetuates the wrong kind of fear of God - it’s more the fear of hell and punishment that drives us out to find Christ waiting. This does not sound like the Loving God I know.
In my studies and life - living as a Christian, saved at 7 years of age, I rarely questioned the things my pastors taught. I have been blessed to have every church I have been a part of, whether Southern Baptist or Reformed Presbyterian (or a Southern Baptist with a pastor that fully embraces Election), be Bible believing, solid theology churches. I have never had to deal with church abuse or heresy in the local Body of Christ I attended. This is not to say that does not exist on a huge scale - way bigger than it should ever be. As I am moving into my middle life - mature adult years, having dealt with other abuses and betrayals, I am examining things more closely and reading my Bible on my own as well as alongside others. I am reevaluating the details of what I believe to be true about God, and therefore about myself as well. I know God to be both All-powerful AND loving, so how is this reconciled?
In "The untold story of C.S. Lewis", he describes his turn from atheism and materialism to a belief that God is a real being, though he does not yet know what kind of God he is. In that description the combination of the above two ideas on how God brings people to him materialized clearly for me. It is Love - pursuing love! The feeling you get when you are “falling in love” with a man. Or, more accurately, when you perceive that he is in love with you. He pursues, he woos, he shows how much he cares. It is never forced; he doesn’t demand you love him back - but neither does he stand back and wait for a response to his first attempt to be with you. (I’m talking about real love here, not lust and manipulation.) God is the perfect example of what it is to be truly loved. We, as the wooed, may resist for a time - maybe a long time, because we do not feel the same about him. But as he continues to be a true gentleman, showing how much he cares, coming to our rescue when needed, being there in our hardest moments… we eventually “break down” as C.S. Lewis did. We finally accept that we are loved, we allow the love in and recognize it for what it is. “We love him because he first loved us”. We finally see ourselves through his eyes and release the view we previously had that we didn’t need anyone to love us, or that we were not worthy of such amazing love. While there is nothing we do to make us worthy of His love, He has declared by his bestowal of it that we are. Worth is determined by the “lover” not the “loved”. Unconditional love - it is a choice to love, not based on anything other than His desire to love. (Because he IS love, he can do no less!)
This is why so many of the romance books speak so to our hearts! It is this depiction of a pure, unrelenting, unconditional love that we don’t believe exists outside of our imaginations. And while it is true that no spouse can live up to the expectations in a romance novel, we must remember that God is the one who can love us perfectly and fully. And that he DOES love us that way. It is his perfect, unrelenting love that pulls us in to him - he truly knows what is best for us! A gentleman will not force his way into your heart - true - but he will forcefully drag you out of a burning house! If he didn’t it wouldn’t be love!
It is this same love that goes with us, walks alongside, and empathizes with us in our lives as we struggle in this broken world. God being love is what makes it not only possible, but true, that he will make everything work out for the good of those who love him, and for his glory. All the difficult emotions we go through, all the trials as well as the joys, all the betrayals… he has been there, he understands, and he loves us enough to walk through it all with us.
Everything we experience is wrapped up in his love. We have only to see it and accept it in. This is the focus of the recent podcast series on emotions. To remember, every emotion we feel is part of who we are, was created by God, is a good thing, and is wrapped up in pure, perfect, unrelenting, unconditional love.