“When I’ve experienced God loving me so deeply and gently and often, why do I still struggle to live free in His love?” I was worried that something was terribly wrong with me.
Tears of relief ran down my cheeks as I received her reassurance that, in her experience as a spiritual director, almost everyone struggles to live consistently in God’s love. It seems to be part of being human.
As our conversation continued, I began to realize that I was placing my expectations on myself rather than on Jesus. I wanted to trust my ability to live a particular way. Jesus invited me to trust His unfailing love.
I saw a picture of Jesus lifting a backpack from my back and putting it on his own. It’s the kind of thing Dad does when he meets me at the airport—because he loves me and delights to make my burden lighter. Usually I let Dad take it because I’m tired and sometimes the weight of the backpack pulling on my neck has given me a headache. But I usually hesitate before handing it over. I don’t want him to have to carry my stuff. I’m afraid it will be too heavy for him.
Since I love to walk without anything on my back, it’s funny that I carry a backpack—a heavy one—so much of the time. I can create it out of almost nothing and stuff it full of just about anything, even expectations about how I should be able to receive God’s love.
All of a sudden I see: Jesus never asked me to carry that backpack. All the way we’ve been walking together, He has been offering to take it from me. I’ve let Him carry some things, but I’ve held onto others, not wanting him to have to carry my stuff.
But I’m hearing Him say that He doesn’t have to. He wants to. And He doesn’t want just the few things I hand him as I root through the backpack and pass him the things I think He can handle. He wants to carry the whole pack with all the expectations I stuff in it. Even my ability to live loved. He knows I’m human. Sometimes I’ll feel His love, sometimes I won’t. Sometimes I’ll be able to receive it and live free in it, sometimes I’ll still doubt. And nothing about my struggle will ever change His love.
He knows that when my hope is firmly pinned on His love that never stops drawing me back rather than on my ability never to waver, then I’m truly abiding in His love.
I hand over the backpack. I’m lighter. I stand taller, accept his hand, smile up at him. He doesn’t look like the weight is bothering him. He doesn’t seem to notice the backpack at all. After a while, I don’t either. I just see His eyes smiling back at me.