Sometimes the ones that mean the most are the ones I don't have.
Driving home tonight, I turned on the radio, and heard "Isn't she lovely..." As I listened to the words of a father celebrating his delight in his baby daughter, I recalled the image of a snapshot I saw a couple of years ago. It was a blurry image, taken on a sunny day, of a young dad and his toddler daughter. The sun made his hair red-gold and made her look like a cherub.
It was many years ago.
Not my memory.
The little girl is a married woman now. Her dad loves her so much.
The man is not my husband. Other women have known him in that way; not I. His daughter has no clue who I am.
But she is lovely, and dearly loved.
As difficult as this is - not having certain memories of people I love - it has been the best thing ever for my understanding of God.
So many of us met him when we were young, and fell in love with him. We were tempted, distracted, or lured from his side. People lied to us, saying that he was no good for us, that he wanted just to make us unhappy. Entranced, we agreed. Our love did not fight back nor argue. We had the information; we made our choice. We left him behind and went with our seductive new friends who denied us nothing, except closeness, intimacy, self-respect, and affection.
God never forgot us. He never hated us for leaving him. He missed us terribly and wanted what was best for us. Because he loves us, He lets us decide what that is. It would not be love if He forced it on us.
It is the liars who force things on us. They say they love us, but they call us demeaning names, reject our advances, or turn away when we need emotional shelter, responding with exasperated annoyance every time we ask for something which is appropriate given our role in their lives. And yet we believe them when they say that this is love.
When we are ready to see through the lies, Love will still be there. If we are never ready, we are still Loved. God does not stop loving us because we're frightened, make stupid decisions, or cling to people who shame and demean us.
I have learned this, not because I am good like God, but because I love, and can do no more than write about it. I understand why God must wait and not intervene. I know why it takes so long for us to give up on trying to make people give us love.
Lord, have mercy on those who feel compelled to spend their lives trying to keep someone from getting angry with them. Help us comprehend that, just because someone wants to shame us, that doesn't mean what they say is true. Give us the grace to discern true love, and to choose it. Support us and forgive us when we're too scared to break free. Never give up on us, dear Lord. Do not abandon us to our captors. Inoculate us against their lies by showing us the truth about love. Send us encouragers and people we can trust. Help us to grasp that people who treat us lovingly and respectfully are not lying, and people who say they love us while shaming and demeaning us are not telling the truth.