Last month I returned to Spain. I had not traveled for a few months and I was getting restless. I mistook these feelings of restlessness as a superficial need to satiate the little bug inside that feeds on travel and adventure. This human weakness might have contributed to this building desire, but I now believe there were more powerful forces at work.
God needed to talk to me. He needed me to truly stop and listen. And He, being my creator and God, knows my heart better than anyone else. He knew that during this particular journey my heart would be most readily available and my ears would be more receptive to His message. This is often the case when I travel and perhaps why I pursue it so fervently. I am not usually the type to be silent or still. My life is always in a constant state of movement and I am very rarely alone. I flutter from one social gathering to the next. As a true extrovert, I gain energy from being in the presence of others and have several different groups of friends that appease my need for social interaction. However, when I travel, I find myself alone for hours on end; at airports, around cities, parks, beaches, forests, ect. Don’t get me wrong, I have become quite an expert at finding “stranger friends” to talk to along the way. These friends are always blessings sent by God to teach me and quench my need for human interaction, but on the whole my travel experiences force me into a mindset of introspection. When I travel, I truly slow down. I truly listen; to myself, to my heart and to my God. I am silent and still and my heart is in a state of constant gratitude and worship. This provides the perfect platform for God to teach and mold me.
This particular trip my soul was in perfect communion with God. I finally began to understand something He has been trying to teach me my whole life. The completeness of His perfect love. I have always had a hard time understanding unconditional love. When people meet me it doesn’t take them long to recognize that I am habitually apologetic…..I’m sorry. This stems from my unconscious fear of doing something wrong to loose peoples love. Now multiply that fear by a million and you can understand my inability to understand why a perfect God could love someone as imperfect as me. I have never truly believed that I was acceptable in His sight. I believed in the forgiveness I earned from the death of Jesus but I never truly understood the completeness of that forgiveness. If I am being honest I have always seen God as someone who merely tolerated me. I could not picture God’s love for me as it is described in the Bible….the kind of love a groom feels for his bride or a father feels for his child. However on this trip God opened my heart and showed me the power of his amazing grace and redeeming love.
God used several mediums to explain this love to me during this trip to Spain and proved his love through several blessings. One powerful tool was the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. I very rarely take books with me when I travel as I don’t often have time for them. This time I made an exception and I started reading this book on the 5 hour buss ride from Madrid to Granada. This fictional book is an allegory of the Biblical story of Gomer and Hosea which is in and of itself an allegory of God and His people. The novel tells the story of a righteous and Godly man who rescues and marries a prostitute. The prostitute cannot understand his forgiving love and kindness and runs away from him to rejoin a life of prostitution….THREE TIMES!! Throughout the book it is so evident the love the man has for his wife and how deeply her desertion hurts him. The reader feels so confused…why would she run away from such perfect and complete love? Doesn’t she see that He really does love her and that she is the only one who won’t forgive her past and move on? Why is she wasting her life listening to lies of her worthlessness while the Author of Truth is screaming promises of love, forgiveness and redemption? This truly is a powerful novel and I highly recommend it to any woman who sometimes struggles with understanding God’s love.
This book started an amazing dialog between God and myself during my stay in Spain early this April. I, like the woman in the novel, never felt fully accepted by God. I never believed I deserved God’s love. However this book helped me understand the foundational and most liberating truth. I was right. I don’t deserve God’s love. I am a sinner and what I deserve is death. But God loves me anyway! This is the life changing earth shaking Truth with a capital T! It is the one that Satan tries so hard to conceal! He makes us feel inadequate and like we have to earn God’s love….which is impossible and therefore fuels our feelings of inadequacy. The truth is there is NOTHING we can do to earn it. It is given freely and completely. That is the beauty of the gospel. It has the power to turn a hopeless story of sin and its consequences into a story of perfect and merciful redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
This trip to Spain was truly a love story between me and God. The entire week I remained in His love and my joy was made complete just as Jesus promises us in John 15: 9. There were times I thought my heart would explode for the joy and love I felt. There were times when I could not contain the worship in my soul and I wept. I wept in Retiro Park when I realized all of the amazing ways God had taken the hopeless situations of this past year and turned them into demonstrations of His glory and love. I wept when God used a painting at the Thyssen-bornemisza Art Museum to speak directly and clearly the promises of my future. I learned how to abide in His Love and God poured His blessings like rain on my life and my soul. With joy, rather than condemnation, I began to understand what only a truly redeemed sinner can. In a spirit of continual worship my heart happily sang “I don’t deserve this love or these blessings” and God’s quiet, constant and graceful response was the same “I know, but I love you anyway.”