26th December 2023
“You could more easily catch a hurricane in a shrimp net than you can understand the wild, relentless, passionate, uncompromising, pursuing love of God made present in the manger.” Brennan Manning
Transition. It’s part of life. As someone who is easily unsettled (more so than I would like to admit) by change, transition often feels more like a necessary evil than a natural occurrence that (most often) serves our greater good.
2023 has been filled with change and transition and 2024 promises to very much be a new year – a year of newness. There is goodness in that but it also brings a wide range of varying emotions. And for me, when it comes to change and transition, the most common, overarching emotion is fear. However, 1 John 4:18 tells us that fear is conquered and replaced by perfect love.
God in his goodness and commitment to my growth, has used the changes and transitions of this past year to teach me much about him, about myself, about fear – about love.
“Love,” you think, “that’s nice.” Or you might say “sweet, lovely“, associating it with warm, cosy feelings. But the love I am talking about is the love referred to in the quote above by the late Brennan Manning. It is anything but nice and cosy. The love that the lessons of transition have been teaching me is frightening in its strength, its wildness, its unyieldingness – and most of all, because both to receive it and to give it, requires a risky vulnerability that counters every natural instinct that is instilled within us for our survival.
I have watched this year, in both my own life and in the lives of those I hold dear, this wild, pursuing, unrelenting, uncompromising, steadfast, passionate, dare I say utterly reckless, love of God scaling walls, knocking walls down, renewing minds and transforming hearts. It has entered into the darkest of places and its light has not been overcome but has instead exposed and overturned lies, breaking the power of fear and shame, re-establishing true identities as children of God.
Yet the mystery is this – for all its power, this love of God is unable to accomplish this kind of transformation until we choose to open our hearts to him and trust that we are loved, even when every feeling and emotion tells us differently. In other words, we have to make ourselves vulnerable to him, we have to risk vulnerability. And the other side of this mystery is that, more often than not, to see this kind of transformation in others, we must risk the vulnerability of loving like Jesus loves. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, God chooses to channel this wild, passionate, pursuing, relentless, uncompromising love through us humans if we are willing, if like Mary we say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Have you ever considered the risky vulnerability that Jesus willingly stepped into out of love for you and I by choosing to come into this world the same way all of us have – as a wee bairn – to dwell with us in the midst of our mess, our chaos, our pain, our suffering, our brokenness? There is nothing more physically vulnerable than an infant. And the One who has no beginning and no end, who knows all, sees all, who created all, who is all-powerful chose to become a helpless infant who is physically unable to care for itself, to think or process, to identify emotions, to communicate its needs and wants but is utterly dependant in every way. What sort of love would willingly, uncompromisingly choose that level of vulnerability? A love that bewilders and undoes human understanding and defies human logic and wisdom.
This is the love he invites us to risk the vulnerability of trust and open hearts for, that we might receive it and be transformed by it. And this is the love he invites us to risk the vulnerability of hope and open hearts for, that we might give it to others and partner with him in their transformation. He invites us to be like Mary, to carry and nurture and give birth to the Love that displaces fear, comes right into people’s darkness and brokenness, overturns lies and brings them into the fullness of his light.
What most frightens us as receivers of this love, I think, is the relinquishment of control. It requires that we become like a baby who can do nothing to acquire love but by its simple existence it is adored and deemed precious. Yet receiving this love promises freedom from that fear that seeks to control and oppress us.
And what most frightens us givers of this love, I think, is that instinctively, we know it can mean sharing in his suffering as we risk disappointment and rejection. Yet it also promises great joy – the same “joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).
So if you find yourself in a season of change or transition and the fear is loud and real, dare to open your heart to love, to risk vulnerability, whether he is inviting you to receive his love or become a carrier and birther of his love. Follow the examples of Jesus and of his mother Mary (who knew change and transition in a much deeper way than most of us ever will) and choose vulnerability. You just might end up bearing witness to the transforming power of love that is wild, relentless, passionate, uncompromising, pursuing and dare I say, utterly reckless.