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Lovingkindness
By Corinne Smelker

I had heard so many good things about the movie, "Bruce Almighty," that my husband and I decided to rent it a while back. Now, it has very little theological value to it, but one thing that I found both funny and profound was the scene where Bruce tries to answer all the prayers that he hears.

He canít handle all the voices in his head, so he decides to download the requests to his email account. One million prayers later and he is overwhelmed! At first, he tries to read each one and give a heartfelt response, but eventually, he hits the "Reply All" button and types in "YES"!

His thinking is this: "Iíll just give people what they want, then theyíll be happy and stay off my back!" The only hassle ó people werenít! Rioting started, fights broke out and mayhem was the order of the day.

When Bruce sees God again he said, "I thought I was doing the right thing, giving them what they wanted."

God replies, "But thatís the problem, people really donít know what they want!"

C.S. Lewis says something similar in his book "The Problem of Pain." He claims many people, when they think of love, think of a person who says, "as long as everyone is content and has had a good time, then I am happy." They are in effect looking for a kindly grandfather.

But is love and kindness truly the concept that our happiness is all that matters and is at stake? Remember the common line, "If you loved me you wouldÖ" Is that truly love? If not, then what is it?

In Scripture, God makes it clear that it is the son, the one who is to carry on the family traditions, who is disciplined. "If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons." (Hebrews 12:8 NIV)

It is for those that we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends our loved ones, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them go through trials than be happy in shameful circumstances.

If God is love, than He is by definition, something more than mere kindness. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently puts it, "though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense."

As a child of God I can expect to be disciplined; that is all part of the love of God, indeed of any loving parent. My children know that I love them, but they also know there are consequences to wrong actions. It doesnít in any way lessen my love for them, although at the time they may perceive it that way.

If you bring a puppy into the home as a pet, you have certain expectations from it, right? Now, I am in no way suggesting that God sees us as nothing more than puppies who have to be disciplined with a rolled-up newspaper! But puppies, cute as they are, are a handful when they first come into the home! They chew on anything and everything (table legs being a favorite), they urinate on the carpet, seldom on a floor, always the carpet. They steal the catís food and jump all over everybody.

As a good owner, you train the pup. You do it so that you may more fully love and enjoy your dog when it is grown. "Cute" is a 15lb puppy jumping on you. "Annoying" is the same pup, now 90lb jumping up! If the dog is obedient, the relationship is better.

I am sure the puppy is not too happy sometimes. He may even doubt the "goodness" of his trainer. But once full grown, he reaps the benefits of those early training days with affections, loyalties, interests and comforts that are offered him.

A dog owner does not have the same expectations of the bugs that crawl into his house. He is not going to bathe an earwig, or house-train a centipede. They are of no account to him. But he has higher expectations of his puppy.

Sometimes, I think we wished we mattered a little less to God! Sometimes, I think there is a longing to have God allow us to follow our natural impulses, but then we are asking God to love us less, not more. Our concept of His love is not His.

Love doesnít always give sway to what we want, or what we think we want. Which is why it is so important to stay in His word, and find out what He wants. Only then can we know we walk in perfect love.

Job, the man sorely tested and tried, learnt this. That is why he was able to write probably one of the most remarkable statements to be found in the word of God: "You have granted me life and lovingkindness; And Your care has preserved my spirit." (Job 10:12 NAS)

My happiness and contentment are not Godís ultimate goal for me; becoming more like Him is. In order for that to happen, I may not always get the things I want, and that I think will contribute to my happiness. But I want to be the son and heir, and not an illegitimate child.
Corinne Smelker is the mom to five kids and wife of one husband. She is a self-employed writer and also the administrator for Prophetic Life Ministry, a Christian Ministry located in San Antonio. Cori also writes and posts daily devotionals to that site. You can contact Cori via the Letters page of this Magazine.
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