Today I was thumbing through some books on my shelf … restless in reading. I haven’t listed books I’m reading in July … because I haven’t settled on books to read. Brennan Manning’s books are some of my favorites. I picked up Lion and Lamb: The relentless tenderness of Jesus to review the chapter titles … to remember the thesis. As I read chapter 1 … these words jumped off the page …
To believe means to realize not just with the head but also with the heart that God loves me in a creative, intimate, unique, reliable, and tender way. Creative: out of His love I came forth; through His love I am who I am. Intimate: His love reaches out to the deepest in me. Unique: His love embraces me as I am, not as I am considered to be by other people or supposed to be in my own self-image. Reliable: His love will never let me down. Tender … Tenderness is what happens to you when you know you are deeply and sincerely liked by someone.
The most important thing that ever happens in prayer is letting ourselves be loved by God. … Prayer is like sunbathing. When you spend a lot of time in the sun, people notice it. … You look like you have been out in the sun because you’ve got a tan. Prayer … makes you look different. … Through prayer you not only know God’s love, you realize it, you are in conscious communion with it. ~Brennan Manning
I was struck by the descriptive phrases he connected to the love of God … and then totally captured by the analogy of prayer and sun-bathing. Maybe because it’s summer, it’s hot, or maybe because I sat beside the pool soaking up the sun yesterday, but the analogy resonated with me. I know God loves me … but I had not really thought about God liking me. I know he longs for me to pray … but rarely do I think of prayer as a time to allow God to love on me … that he wants to be with me because he likes me. It’s so easy to think of prayer as my giving God something … my duty, my responsibility, my devotion.
Today … I hear him say … Beth, I love you … I really like you … come sit with me … dine with me … let’s talk.
Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
“A guest,” I answered “worthy to be here”;
Love said “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat. ~ George Herbert