Here is one of my favorite examples of how God knows the deepest and silliest desires of our hearts and will grant them just because He loves us! It is also among my most personal experiences that convinces me of the reality that God sees me, knows everything about me, is with me always and still loves me the same anyways.
For the first few years after I moved back to California from Portland, I helped with the Jr. High youth group at Hessel. One of our regular activities was to visit a local convalescent home after church on the first Sunday of the month. On one occasion, as we were driving back to the church, the leaders decided to stop at Foster’s Freeze to buy the kids soft-serve ice cream. To keep things quick and simple, the youth pastor told the students they would stay on the bus while some of the leaders went to buy everyone a vanilla soft-serve. This way we wouldn’t have kids changing their minds or getting a flavor they didn’t order. “Get what you get and be happy with it!” was a phrase we regularly told the students and was used by more than one leader that particular afternoon. As I was getting off the bus with a few other leaders, I was thinking to myself:
“I really don’t want vanilla. I’d much rather have chocolate if I am going to have soft-serve. Soft-serve isn’t even worth the calories, especially vanilla soft serve! Stop complaining and be grateful! How can I expect the kids to not complain when I myself am doing just that?! …I really don’t want vanilla though! …but maybe vanilla is just what I need… It’s just soft-serve for crying out loud! …Yes, I need to eat the vanilla and be grateful for it!…”
I knew I needed to be a good example to the kids and be happy and thankful for the treat but I was having a hard time putting on a genuinely happy face when all I could think of is how I really wanted chocolate! Like good leaders should, those of us who had gone to get the cones waited until all the kids had theirs first before we took one for ourselves. With just a few leaders left, myself included, the employee who was serving us poked her head out the window and apologetically said,
“I’m so sorry but we just ran out of vanilla! Would you mind if the last few cones are chocolate?”
NO WAY!!! Really?! REALLY????!!!!!
Here I am recognizing my need to learn contentment and to not complain when I suddenly find myself feeling incredibly small and overwhelmed by the extent of God’s love for me. You really saw my heart’s silly desire for a chocolate soft-serve? I matter enough you would see fit to grant me a desire I did not even ask you directly for? It was something so trivial, so insignificant. It really is in the small things God’s greatness often shines brightest. He is so big, so powerful, so loving. So much so, He is able and willing to meet us in the most minute times and places. He sees, hears and understands the deepest longings of our hearts, even ones we don’t understand or may not be aware of ourselves. Christ truly does love the church as a husband loves his bride. I have often heard people say in jest how they do not want to bother God with their personal problems, especially small ones. My life experiences disagree and more importantly, God’s Word does too. He wants us to go to Him for everything, to involve Him in every part of our lives. He is ready and willing to enter in if only we would receive His invitation. I confess I often forget to go to Him with small things in my day-to-day life but never fear, there are many more stories to come to remind us both to turn to God in all things for He is “over all, and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6).
An Afterward (written July 2014)
Over the past few years, I have continually come back to this experience with awe and gratitude. The utter shock and profound revelation that came upon me in the moments following still continue to have lingering affects upon the deepest recesses of my heart and mind. I had known for most of my life that God knows my every thought but mostly as a matter of fact. It was an intellectual understanding, an answer to a Bible study question or Sunday school lesson. This experience transformed this basic truth from a detached fact to a life-changing and very personal reality. God sees me. He sees the depths of my heart and mind and knows my every thought. Every. Last. One. And, despite the selfish, ungrateful, arrogant ugliness that permeates this frail and broken soul, He loves me. He sees everything about me and still He loves.
Is this not the true love we all long for?
The love we spend our whole lives seeking?
To be fully known and fully loved?
We are not capable of loving in this way. We don’t fully understand our constantly changing selves nevertheless boldly bare all for someone else to see. For a variety of reasons there will always be things we will hold back and hide from even our closest soul mate. Yet this is not the case with Jesus. He already knows everything about us, past, present and future. And yet with him, we are completely accepted and dearly loved, just as we are. He loves us so much and longs to lavish His love on us, his most sacred and valued creation. And why are we so highly valued by him? Because we alone are made in his image and it was to restore his relationship with us, his image-bearers, that he laid down his life on the cross.
How do I know this to be true? Because he gave me chocolate instead of vanilla. You might write this off easily enough but you aren’t the one whose mind and heart He stepped out of the shadows in, exposing me to the fearful truth He has been present with me from the day I was conceived. The experience really isn’t too unlike a stranger who unexpectedly walks in on you while you are completely naked, only to realize the stranger is no stranger at all but the one before your entire being is forever laid bare.
Last summer I picked up the first book of Stephen King’s popular Dark Tower series. I have been mulling over book 2 ever since I read it earlier this year (2014). If you have read The Drawing of the Three, part two of this epic tale, then maybe you’ll have an idea what I felt in that moment when God’s presence within me went from being a mere fact to an earth-shattering reality. A reality I can’t ignore or deny. It is a reality that truly changes everything and in the best of ways. The characters Eddie Dean, Susannah and “The Pusher,” from King’s story, just might be able to relate.
God delights in giving His children good gifts. The ultimate gift being himself. A personal relationship with the true lover of our souls. Being loved by the One whose very being defines love is what we were made for: to be loved and to both love God in return and to share His love with others. His fierce and perfect love moves us to love Him and one another with the same reckless abandon with which He loves us.
For me, His amazing love manifested itself that Sunday afternoon in the form of a chocolate soft-serve cone. Who knew stopping for soft-serve could be so incredibly life-changing?!