A Friend for all Seasons……

Think about your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, best friend. I bet many, if not all them, know you better than anyone else in the world. Our relationship with God should be like that. And why not? He is our Creator, the One who knew us while we were still hidden in our mother’s womb; before even she knew we were there. Yet, many wait until they need to have God in their corner before a sideways glance is thrown His way.

In my mind, whatever it takes to get us started on our journey with God is cool. It would be great if we all came into this world seeking “the journey”, but we don’t. Some of us are raised in the church and that is where our journey begins, others of us find Him along the way, still others when we are squeezed, so to speak, and “need” Him.

But, for a moment, think about relationships. Aren’t the best relationships, those with people who know us inside and out and love us anyway, flaws, faults, warts and all, the most satisfying? The ones where we don’t need to explain ourselves, how we think, how we will react in any given situation. And neither do we need to fear being rejected, we know that we can trust that person to have our back no matter what.

Some people, many people, don’t think about God much until they need Him. Maybe someone we love gets cancer, or is in a horrible accident and not expected to live, or we are in the middle of a divorce or other traumatizing situation. We might go to a church looking for God, or to confession if we were raised Catholic but hadn’t been back in years, or maybe to a Jesus-professing friend, to reach out to God. If we don’t already have a relationship with God, and get “squeezed” by life, we don’t know who He is, we certainly aren’t sure of how He feels about us, nor are we even confident we can trust Him with the situation that brought us to the throne room. That’s a tough place to be in.

As Creator of all, God cares about and for His Creation. He wants relationship with us. For too many of us we have the image of a white bearded man sitting on His throne waiting for us to screw up so that He can punish, condemn us. And that image is so very far from the truth. He is our Father, our confidant, our friend, our protector, our provider, our healer.

The Bible paints beautiful and comforting word pictures of God; the Shepherd, the Father. In Genesis it talks about God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. I have always loved that word picture; to imagine walking and talking with God as He shares the wisdom of the universe while the animals lay peacefully beneath the trees, a gentle breeze tickling the leaves in a world that has not known fear, hunger, want, hatred, or death.

Close on the heels of that word picture, another emerges. God, the Father, willing to discipline His children and do what it takes to make provision for them. Genesis 3 is about the fall of man. God has told Adam and Eve to avoid the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and He told them why; because they would die. Simple and plain enough, right? Well like I have said before, at the end of the day we are woefully human and this is where it began.

We all know the story; the serpent deceived Eve, who then handed the fruit to Adam (he was standing right there and witnessed the whole thing!), he ate of the fruit, and then they both realized they were naked. In other words, they immediately knew they had screwed up. Along comes God for their evening walk thru the garden, but Adam and Eve are nowhere to be found. God calls for them; they answer that they cannot come out because they are naked. God asks why they are naked, knowing full well the answer! They had actually thrown together a fig leaf outfit to cover their nakedness, but the point being they hadn’t known nakedness before. So now the discipline is handed out, and most know that story. In a nutshell, Adam will toil in the dirt all the days of his life, and Eve’s pain in childbirth would be greatly increased. In the end, man will return to the dust from which he was formed. For many this is the extent of what they know about that story, and part of the reason many see God waiting to condemn. But wait, there’s more!

Once God the Father had handed out the discipline, He clothed them in animal skins. In the fig leaf togs, Adam and Eve were eternally separated from their Father because now they were no longer innocent; they had done exactly what God had asked them not to do having had the explanation of why they shouldn’t have eaten the fruit in the first place!

But God is a loving Father and does not want to be separated from His Creation, no matter how badly we screw up. There is nothing we can do, except for blaspheming the Holy Spirit, that He will not forgive. So God sets about rectifying the mess Adam and Eve got themselves into.

Unfortunately, the solution required an animal sacrifice; a blood sacrifice specifically. Sorry, I didn’t make the rules, I just report them, and I don’t like it any better than you do, but thankfully there was a way out of eternal separation. In the Garden that knew no death, death was now the price paid to restore relationship with God. Innocent blood would be shed to cover their nakedness before God, and I believe that this was, in part, because Adam needed to suffer a bit to really understand the severity of his screw up. Adam had named these animals, they were his companions, and now he would watch one give up it’s life for him and for Eve. I believe it also pained God to kill one of His Creation. The takeaway for us in this story, too, is the sacrifice of the animal and the shedding of it’s innocent blood was the foretelling of the blood sacrifice Yeshua would make many years in the future for each of us.

God then made animal skin coverings for Adam and Eve, He covered their nakedness, He lovingly cared and provided for His children despite their blatant disregard for His warning. And, He put them outside the Garden He had created for them so that they would not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. Another loving gesture, although it may not seem so at first glance. Adam and Eve now had a defined life span.  At the end of their lives they would return to the dust of the earth rather than toil by the sweat of their brows for eternity.

God and man had relationship; man separated himself from that relationship by willful disobedience, and then God did what it took to restore that relationship. Life was no longer perfect for His Creation, but He loved them so very much and did not want to be separated from them.

And so it is with us. The story continues to repeat itself with each one of us. We screw up and find ourselves separated from Him. But God already made provision to restore close relationship with Him thru the sacrifice of His son, Yeshua. Innocent blood was shed yet again; Yeshua’s blood shed once and for all for all of mankind for the sole purpose of restoring relationship with our Creator. He knows we are dirty and bedraggled, still loves us, still extends His arms to all who would accept His love, His mercy, His forgiveness.

We can trust Him. He has our backs. No matter what we have done, where we have been, no matter how far we have fallen, His hand is there to lift us up, to bring us alongside, to walk in relationship with Him. That, in my mind, is a true friend; someone I want to be in my corner when the chips are down.

That is where the journey begins for each of us. A journey with a friend, a friend who knows us inside and out and loves us with a love that knows no bounds, willing to do whatever it takes to have relationship with us, a friend who won’t abandon us when the chips are down, a friend who is there in our darkest moment and thru the storms…….

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