“How can you use me, God, me of such little faith, such little energy to get out and give and do things?” It’s a frequent struggle, this tension between how I see myself and how God tells me He sees me.
Again I hear God’s challenge: “You’re not who you think you are!”
His words first spoken to Peter now speak to me too: “What God has cleansed, don’t you call unclean” (Acts 11:9, World English Bible). I hear echoes of the equally strong prohibition, “What God has joined, don’t you separate.” And the two commands are one, for our cleansing is a joining of our lives to His.
Acts 10 shows it. Three times the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Once on insiders, once on outsiders. Both made clean, both given the Holy Spirit. Marked as chosen. Just like Jesus. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 10:38). Our cleansing does not merely make us acceptable, but accepted. Welcomed right into the family. Inseparably joined to the One who freely invites us, uniting us by placing His Spirit into us, the same Spirit which marked Him as chosen.
The extent of our welcome echoes through the book of Hebrews as well:
“Since the One who saves and those who are saved have a common origin, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them as family, saying,
I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you; I’ll join them in worship and praise to you.
Again, he puts himself in the same family circle when he says,
Even I live by placing my trust in God.
And yet again,
I’m here with the children God gave me. . .”
(Heb 2:11-13, The Message)
Once more I hear the warning. “What God has healed and made acceptable, don’t you call unacceptable to God.” Whom God has made a queen, don’t you call a beggar.
And I realize that one of the reasons I struggle with feeling inadequate is that I have it all backwards. I think I should be the giver. But God is always the Giver. I am always the receiver. Yes, I receive not only for myself but for His love to flow on through me to others. But He is always the Giver.
“Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:35)
Even faith is “not something we give to God. In that case, faith would be a work, and a silly kind of work because it would be work we do even though it doesn’t benefit anyone. But exactly the opposite is true. To have faith in God is to be ‘without works’ before God (Romans 4:5). Faith is the way we as receivers relate appropriately to God as the giver. It is empty hands held open for God to fill.” (Volf, Free of Charge, p. 43, italics mine)
And I think I see another reason why God so often describes himself as our husband, we as his bride. For in one sense, the man always gives and the woman always receives. It is simply how life works. Yet in her gracious welcoming, the woman gives too. In her very receiving she gives herself. Gives love. Gives space for life to grow.
I remember again the line from the quote on my bathroom mirror:
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.
It is. . . the opening of the heart to His love. . .”
(Archbishop William Temple, 1881-1944)
And I open my empty hands and my heart that struggles to trust and I love Him by welcoming His love.