This past week millions of couples celebrated Valentines Day. According to the Internet, which is always right, candy is still the number one gift given on this lover’s day. Restaurants and greeting card companies follow closely behind also benefiting from this sentimental day for lovers. This day is set aside to celebrate special love of established lovers, heart-stopping crushes as well as the pursuit of young love.
This may seem random, but the word pursuit has been on my mind in a very different context than couples seeking an Eros-type of relationship. Recently I have heard several sermons about how God pursues us. Honestly that concept has been foreign to me. The God of my youth lived up in the sky waiting to see me sin so that I could be punished. I did not want any special attention from that God. Throughout my adult life, I knew God was present and someone to be worshiped on Sunday. Believing in God was normal because “doing,” stuff like reading the Bible, going to church, praying, and teaching was as natural as breathing. I was "doing" everything I was supposed to and yet many times I thought, “Is this it God?” God's Spirit hovered around me but never seemed to land.
Then came seminary, which opened the world of study, writing, learning and asking questions about the God I thought I knew. Through this significant time, I was beginning to know a God of grace and love. The theologian, Martin Luther introduced me to the theology of unearned grace for which I will always be grateful. But I still did not grasp the concept of God’s pursuit of me. It should have been obvious as the Bible is filled with texts like Psalm 139: 7-12: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” According to the writer, there is nowhere that we can hide from God. Again, are you familiar with the lost sheep parable in Matt. 18:12 that explains it like this: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” God is willing to leave the entire flock to pursue just one sheep that is lost. Then we have Jesus in the Gospels calling his disciples to, “Come, follow me…” (Matt. 4:9). God wants to be in a relationship with us. I could write a book with all the examples of how God pursues us. Oh yeah that book has been written and is known as the Bible. I think my struggle to understand God’s pursuit is not because God’s message isn’t clear but because I have not felt worthy of the Almighty’s attention. It has taken me years of self-discovery and meditating on God’s Word to finally know that I am valued and God loves me without condition or my doing! We can celebrate each day of God’s abiding love with flowers called friendships, a sweet giggle of a child, awe in a hoot of an owl, a warm hug of a friend, and eyes that behold the beauty of a sunset. God’s love is an extravagant gift that is free, free, free for all.