Surrendering To Love
Finding Salvation Without the Fear of Hell
I was exploring a new (to me) park in the middle of the city. It was remarkable how serene and full of actual nature it was, just a stone’s throw away from all the hustle and bustle you could ever imagine.
This is one of things the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul do exceedingly well—they place high value on nature parks and trails. You may have heard Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, well, I imagine there are at least that many parks. Right outside my doorstep is the Mississippi River and miles and miles of trails and interconnected parks. Nature is always nearby. Hallelujah.
I feel like I can experience God out in nature more than in a man-made church building. This city makes it super easy to do that. I used to hear people talk that way about nature and thought it was blasphemous. Of course, I’m not worshiping nature!
Instead, being out amongst the remarkable handiwork of the Great Creator helps me to say, “Wow and Thank You”—my preferred form of worship.
I was rounding the corner from the sculpture garden and the gorgeous flowers (the ones that attract the bees), and there he was sitting in a wooden chair tucked into a small, rocky alcove. Unpretentious and approachable, I greeted him with small talk about the weather. Before I knew it, I was sitting next to him talking about life and God for about an hour and a half.
Bill is a retired pastor, yet, I could tell that while he might have left the profession, he didn’t leave the calling. I wondered if he took his place in that same chair each morning and just waited to see who God would bring by. I’m grateful it was me that day.
I asked Pastor Bill when he felt that he became a Christian. He told me a story about being out in nature and suddenly being overwhelmed with the sense that he was being loved by a benevolent force—he called it God. “That was when I surrendered to the fact that I am loved.”
I was so moved by his description. It was a full-on surrender into love. But unlike my church upbringing, the horrific fear of a fiery hell and the damning sin coursing through our veins didn’t play any part in it.
I can see now why I love walking the trails along the river each day. I’m reminded of my belovedness.
Pastor Bill’s description of his salvation experience reminded me of how people “fall in love.” It’s a gloriously helpless feeling when you connect with someone in such a powerful way. It feels like falling because you realize you don’t seem to have any control over what’s happening to you. You simply surrender to it. And hopefully, really enjoy it!
I want to grow old falling more and more into the love of God. And spend all my days declaring that same love to every person I encounter, and when necessary, use practical, need-meeting actions instead of pithy words.
If we believe that God is love and that we are children of God, our religion should equip us to love better—God, self, and others. At our core truest self, created in the image of God (Imago Dei), we are love. But through life we become distant to that deepest part of ourselves. To return to that part is the goal of Christian spirituality—to literally be love. To be the hands and feet of God. To be Jesus to the world.
When we love, we experience a connectedness with the Other. We see our enemy as our friend, and we see the world as our home. As we grow in our understanding of how loved we are, we desire to let others know how loved they are, as well.
Some people might see loving others as “making sure they know the truth about their sin and how it separates them from God” or “not wanting anyone to go to hell, so we must get them saved.” I lived most of my life “loving” this way, and I’ve decided I’m done.
Jesus wasted no time showing the people who thought they had all the answers that they actually didn’t. That they were missing the point—it’s not about keeping score of anyone’s correct behavior and buttoned-down beliefs. That the only answer is love. And there’s nothing you can do about it—you and everyone else are simply covered and smothered and filled with love (grace). Building the Kingdom means helping people to understand the concept of being loved (salvation), equipping them to share that with others (making disciples), and continually helping them to shed (repentance) all the falsities of life (sin) that distract from knowing the amazing truth of their Belovedness.
I can’t help but wonder if the reason so many Christians have a difficult time communicating unconditional love is that we’ve been raised with a powerful and unattainable set of expectations for our own behavior. How can we truly love someone unconditionally if they’re not obsessed with their good or bad behavior like we are? Unconditional love can feel too willy-nilly for those living with a paradigm that still keeps score of right and wrong. I can’t live that way any longer. This score-keeping has to end, and should’ve ended when Jesus said “It is finished.” I’m thankful that God’s love for me is unconditional, not wavering based on how I act.
That’s the kind of love I want to shout from the rooftops.
You can read more stuff like this in my book Losing Control: Finding Freedom By Letting Go, on sale now for only $9.99.