I just don't even know.
Sometimes the love of God does not make sense to me.
These are lyrics from an old hymn:
"Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill and ev'ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,
nor could the scroll contain the whole tho stretched from sky to sky."
They are stunning to me because, when I think about a love like this, it makes me want to cry from its wideness and beauty.
But they are confusing.
For one, you would think a love like this would be as easy to recognize as a smack in the face is to feel. Where is there a couch with big enough seat cushions under which to stuff a love like this?
There isn't one.
So why do I have such a hard time seeing God's love? Why does it, indeed, so often seem hidden in this crazy, messed up world we live in?
Here's the answer I've come up with: because we are doing a terrible job at writing it. We stink at being scribes.
There is so much I just don't even know about God. About His love. About why He does (or doesn't) do certain things. I've gone through seasons of severe doubt and sturdy trust, but I've believed in God's love for a long time, and one thing that seems pretty clear to me is that for a reason completely beyond my understanding, God often uses human beings to be ambassadors of His love to each other.
But we fail, I fail, at noticing and spreading and acknowledging and learning His love. And these failings pile on top of love like stacks of clutter until we can't even find what we were looking for in the first place.
His love gets lost when I get lost in the mundane and the selfish and the fearful and the worrisome. I lose sight of His love when I take for granted the blessing that I get to be home with my daughter, and instead I dwell in the boring, tedious moments and become ungrateful.
I have a hard time seeing God's love, and then loving others well, when I let my own insecurities make me judgmental and critical. When I can't rejoice in someone else's accomplishments because I think they will somehow threaten my own.
The world seems empty of His love when I let self-righteousness get the better of me. When I get fired up about certain controversial topics and end up thinking hateful things toward people who don't agree with me.
And it's hard to believe God actually loves someone like me when I focus so much on what I'm lacking that I can't see any of the good qualities He's given me.
"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power...to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge..."- Ephesians 3:17-19
Maybe this grasping and this knowing are two different things, and I am doing a lot of grasping for love but not a lot of knowing it.
The knowing, I think, comes with taking the time to read these words of love that are etched out everywhere in our lives. At our unorganized, food-encrusted dining room tables. At park benches. In the quiet spaces. In the kind words of a friend. During spontaneous trips to the popsicle shop. Even in tears and heartache and pain. There is always a trail of ink to be found if we only stop to notice it. To give it even a little bit of attention.
And maybe the reason why His love would take so long to write, and why the sky could be filled with ink and parchment, is because it is for every single one. Every single quirky one of us out there. And that would be a long, long list because, really, we're all pretty quirky.
And I imagine if we were all scribes writing our own stories on this huge scroll of love, we would be shocked by what we were all scribbling down.
Shocked because it would be filled with beauty we almost never saw, grace that we didn't deserve and mercy we weren't ever expecting to need.
And when we get a little better at this reading and writing, I think we will be amazed to find that His love is actually so much bigger and so much more confusing than we even imagined.
But would we really want it any other way?
*Hymn lyrics from "The Love of God" by Frederick M. Lehman and art print in photo by Walk in Love (they make really cool t-shirts, too. You should check them out!).