On one night not long ago, I woke up from a dream at around 1am. I don't remember everything about it, but I do remember the ending. Peter and I were flying in a car (à la Harry Potter), and we had an enemy who was trying to crash us. The enemy had grabbed onto the car, and now that we were flying, was trying to pull off the car door and pull us out so that we would fall to our deaths. Our enemy was finally able to get the passenger door (my side) off, and when I stared into her face, it was that of my beloved sister, Julia. I woke up.
God said to me, "Your enemies are precious to Me. Just as precious as your sister is to you."
I immediately thought of a former friend who once upon a time betrayed and rejected me. Sometimes I still mourn her friendship, and a question rose from some unknown place to my lips. "Why didn't she love me the way I loved her?"
A spear of pain shot through my chest and into my heart. Its shaft was so mighty that it seemed to reach on and on, all the way to heaven.
I lay there for awhile, with this spear in my chest, feeling the pain. Then I asked God, "What am I supposed to do with this?"
"A spear pierced my body, too," He replied.
At those words, the hole in my heart disappeared, because my heart had crumbled, and all that was left was a pile of rubble.
I knew that with those words, Jesus had told me that He'd felt the exact same pain as He died on the cross.
"Why don't they love Me the way I love them?"
"Oh Jesus. I want to love You in that way. I'm so sorry that I don't," I said. "I'm so sinful, I'm so broken. I don't even know how. I can't wait until the day when I'm perfect, and I can love You better."
I thought of Jesus coming to earth, dying on the cross, suffering.
"How come they don't love Me the way I love them?"
...and I realized that too often I shrink His suffering on that day down to one dimension: the pain of becoming our sin; the pain of mockery and shame; or the pain of rejection. But the truth is that He felt all of it. All pain that could exist, He felt. Physical. Emotional. Spiritual. Sometimes I shrink down His pain to one dimension, not because He couldn't handle it (He did, after all), but because I can't.
But He did go through all those things, for me. When I opened up my heart to see this truth, it crumbled at the weight of it all, and the only thing left remaining was a profound sense of gratitude, and love.
I thought of Jesus again, on the cross. I thought of Him hanging there, watching the people who didn't love Him the way He loved them. The Pharisees, mocking. The criminals, being obscene. The disciples and women, staring transfixed at the Man they loved. The soldiers, playing dice at the foot of His cross.
How could anyone have turned away from staring at the magnificence of such love? I wondered.
But then I realized that people will always turn away from God's love, as the soldiers and Pharisees did. Because it's not what we expect.
We expect love to be clean, and attractive, and fairytale-like.
But God's love isn't like that. It's pure, but not clean. It gets dirty, sweaty, smelly, gross. It gets bloody, beaten, bruised, and ugly. It pushes the limits, and will not settle for anything less than its object.
The truth is that God's love is scary, because it's untamed, passionate, and willing to rip itself apart, limb-from-limb. It is ferocious, unresting, and unyielding. And it is perfect.