Guest contributor, Ellen Conserva. Ellen ministers to at risk women and children at a ministry center in Thailand.
There is a new baby at Agape. He is 9 months old and really sick. He is barely able to hold his head up. And oh so thin. It's amazing, really, how huge the human skull is on a baby, when there is no fat on the face or hair on the head. It was obvious that he was not thriving and whoever was taking care of him before his arrival, was not coping with parenting, or even realizing that this baby has HIV.
Recently, I made it a point to go in and hold him, as I wasn't sure how long he would be for this life. He was sleeping on his side, propped up all around. So I started whispering to him and stroking his arm, his skin leathery and moving like it isn't attached to anything, as if it is just draped over the bone. His eyes flickered and I picked him up. He was so awkward to hold, spindle-like limbs jutting out all over. He opened his eyes and looked at me with no expression and then started to cry. I kept talking quietly, telling him he was going to be okay now, he would get better, and how I was sorry he was so ill. He cried harder and I pulled him into my chest, trying to make the most bodily contact with him that I could. I whispered, "I love you, little darling." He cried louder. I rocked and swayed and he writhed and wailed. He seemed to have this expressionless sort of look on his face, even as he cried. So, I put him down again, on his side, propped him up the way he was, and he stopped crying. He let out a little sigh and fell back into a contented sleep. He was much happier in his sterile crib than in my warm and loving arms.
This didn't surprise me much, just confirmed to me what he is lacking in his life. Human touch. Gentle words. Real love. It was as if he was crying out to me, saying, "Are you kidding me? Don't hold me. Don't talk to me so sweetly. Don't love me. I have learned from birth how to make myself content and to live without this gentle touching and lovely whispering. Don't throw off my groove. Don't start making me believe in something or someone who will love me like that because it's just setting me up for disappointment. You are really irritating me here. Put me down and return me to the world I know, the place where I have adapted. It isn't the best, but it is the safest. Leave me alone." I will not, of course, leave him alone. I will go back again and again and try and pull him out of that place where he thinks it is so much better.
We can be like that with God, can't we? We become so enmeshed in our own world. In our own place of darkness or sin or bad habits or wrong thinking. We believe things about ourselves that are not true. We push away things in our lives that would be good for us, but we prefer the bad familiar. We see what could be a blessing in our lives, but it seems like too much hard work to reach out and take it. We hear the voice of God, telling us where we are going wrong, but we have this amazing ability to rationalize our sin, make it seem like it isn’t that bad.
And God whispers...and we swat at our ears and tell Him to leave us alone. He pulls us closer into Himself, but we resist and kick out with our pathetic self-will. We cry out that WE know best, that it's easier to cope with the little bit of what we have than to readjust and surrender to His love. He pulls and He pulls. And we push and we push.
This reminds me of when Moses asked to see God's glory. And God said that He would cause all of His goodness to pass in front of Moses and that He would say His name out loud. But before God passed by, Moses had to be shoved down into a crack in a rock. And God had to cover Moses' head with His Hand. And God said, "After I have passed by, I will take My hand away and you can look at My back. But not My face. No one looks at My face and lives." So God passed by and as He did, He spoke words to Moses. He talked about who He is and how He feels about Moses. And He mentions His love several times, how it is abounding and how He maintains it. Moses had to hide because God is so overpowering. So bright. So fierce. So shocking. God doesn’t dumb Himself down or use a dimmer switch with His love and glory. It just come at us with all barrels blazing. His love is long and tight and His words of endearment keep flowing from His lips and He never runs out of words to express how much He loves us. And He never lacks ways to show us, either. And He longs for us to know this and to see Him, even if it is only His back.
Just like the sick baby. I know what he needs. I know what is best for him. I know I can help him. But he thinks he knows best. He thinks he has what he needs to survive. But the truth is, he will die unless he allows us to help him bond with human love. When he comes to realize what true love is, his face will change from being dead and cold to having a radiance about it, like most children have. I long for that day. I want to be a part of that love process.
And just like me. I think I know what is best for me. I know what I need. But I don't know what I need like God knows what I need. God told Moses the things he needed to hear. He showed Moses just a flash of His glory. And it was enough. When Moses went back down the mountain, his face was radiant. He had been in the presence of God and he knew how much God loved him.
As I continue to grow and learn in the crack of my rock, I want to feel comfort from the pressure of God's Hand on my head as He passes by and whispers truth about me and about Who He is, and about how much He loves me. Kicking against God only makes Him hold me tighter. But it doesn’t stop Him from wanting to show me His glory. He wants to be seen. And I am the vehicle He chooses to use. When see God, I radiate God. And His Glory is made known. Even when I am in the crack of a rock.