There’s a verse in Andrew Peterson’s ‘The Dark Before the Dawn‘ that gets me every time:
I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn
And I could finally believe
The king had loved me all along
Over the last year I’ve realised that this has been a struggle for me to believe for some time. My heart cry is ‘I do believe – help me in my unbelief!’ I know it is true – the Bible tells me and I believe the Bible to be God’s Word and that God doesn’t lie. The circle brings me around to holding on to it. And yet…
I kept hearing people mention Dane Ortland’s book ‘Gentle and Lowly‘ – and for good reason. It’s a really, really good book. It is as gentle and lowly in its approach as the truths are that it communicates. But I found myself weeping almost at every page. My heart ached with what I was being told. Jesus has that depth of compassion for me?! I’ve blogged about this before, but I think the idea that we are hidden in Christ has almost made me feel like God (the Father) has been duped into accepting me. Jesus has done it all – he’s lived the perfect life that the Father wants, and he died the death I deserve. It’s like the Father has to accept me now, almost reluctantly.
But then to read over and over of the heart of God (Father, Son and Spirit!) for me. That he looks on me, guilty as I am, and is somehow drawn to me in and because of my weakness?
So I put the book down. Intent on returning to it at some point. Some point when I can simply nod my head at what I read instead of balling my eyes out.
And I picked up another book. A safer book. A book that I could read, tick the box of reading a Christian book and move on.
Ironically that book was about Jonah (Tim Keller’s ‘The Prodigal Prophet‘). And what did I find page after page? Compassion. Like Jonah I was perhaps running from the character of God that I couldn’t quite handle. And like Jonah, God in his compassion is still determined to teach me… of his compassion.
‘For God to apply this word [compassion] to himself is radical. This is the language of attachment… the infinite, omnipotent, self-sufficient divine being loves only voluntarily… it means he voluntarily attaches his heart [to us].’ (p.118-120)
Keller goes on to talk about ‘all of God’s goodness’ that God said would pass before Moses, and which is then encapsulated in His statement in Exodus 34:6-7:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
I feel like Moses hiding in the cleft of the rock. Even seeing God’s back is almost too much. ‘All of God’s goodness’ is overwhelming. His glory genuinely ‘heavy’. But then I realise that we’ve been shown more than God’s back – we’ve seen his face (2 Corinthians 4:4). There we see all of God’s goodness, his compassion, moving towards the broken, hanging on a cross, tenderly wiping the tears from Mary’s face.
Jess Ray, in her song ‘Too Good‘ speaks for me when she sings:
It may be too good to be understood
but it’s not too good to be true
Hiding in the cleft, my chest explodes when I read of his compassion for me. My mind buzzes and spins. I sit in my reading chair stunned, unable to piece it all together. I don’t understand it. I can’t wrap my aching heart around it. But I long to finally rest in this truth. Maybe 2021 can bring that for me? Or maybe I’ll need to wait until I stand on the burning edge of dawn to finally, truly, believe that the King loved me all along.