I’ve been thinking a lot lately about love, and mysteries.
It’s my thirteenth wedding anniversary this month, so that’s probably the reason. And if you’re in a happy relationship for long enough, you’ll recognize the feeling: the sort of marveling contentment that comes from loving and being loved. Every now and then I think back to my initial meeting with my husband – a chance moment of banter with a spiky atheist during a college course – and I think, “Who could’ve imagined what would come from that? What a miracle!”
There’s a similar delightful mystery in the Christian life, too.
If there is something that I have never understood, it is why God loves us. I know that He does, and the Bible states it clearly over and over, but I’ve never been able to figure out why. I’m not sure I will ever be able to figure out why. One look at the nightmarish scrawl that humanity has left on its history will leave you stunned by the fact that He could love any of us at all.
We are constantly wrecking things. Good things. Beautiful things. Adam and Eve took a perfect and beautiful gift, broke it for the tainted promise of far less, and we’ve been following in their footsteps ever since. We hurt each other. We destroy everything we touch. And when we’re not doing that, we’re growing bloated on our own arrogance and pride and certainty. Deifying ourselves. Our very, very best is a miserable facsimile of perfection that only serves to show how far from holy we are.
And God knows. I mean, He knows. Every single detail. And He is certainly repulsed by it: the Bible outlines, over and over, the depth of God’s disgust and hurt and horror at what His children have become and what they are doing. The entire Bible is the story of humanity’s repeated betrayal of love and of God, their promises to never ever do it again, and the sick inevitability of knowing it will happen again. And again. And again.
Yet God’s answer is not resignation or despair but instead this in Isaiah 43:
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.
Why does God love us? Because He’s God. Because He does. Because He has chosen to. Because He desires to give us good things and to walk with us and to spend time together. Because He prizes intimacy with us. He wanted it so much that He made the sacrifice that made it possible, knowing full well it was beyond our grasp – and deservedly so.
It will never entirely make sense. And that’s what’s so beautiful about it.
Every now and then my husband take a walk through memory lane. And when we do, we can trace the evolution of our relationship: from philosophy-class archrivals to friends to lovers. We can see how we fell in love over time, over moments. But in the end, we recognize that we – two strangers to each other who met through a chance interaction – only met at all, established a connection at all, because of God’s grace. Because God loves love, and because God Himself loves.
Why precisely He could love us as we are – as flawed humans with no hope of holiness beyond God Himself – will always be a mystery to me. But it is one of the absolute best and most moving mysteries of the faith.