Jesus comes to the abandoned, the forgotten, the ugliest places. The times that are so very painful to live through, and even hurt to look back upon in remembrance.
Jesus brings acceptance where there is shame, a joyous welcome to those who have been abandoned, and is ever present to those who have been left alone.
In a Bible study I am doing called Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown, the second book in the Sensible Shoes series (which I would highly recommend), there is a segment for discussion on what it means for love to descend.
As a prompting time for prayer and discussion on this topic the study asks us to read through these verses from Philippians.
“In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death –
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
Several of the questions in the segment of the study call us to revisit times in our past. The uglier times, the more painful times, the dark and fearful moments. We are challenged to see the presence and the hand of Jesus in those moments as we look back to reframe past experiences. To see where love descended to be among us, Emmanuel God with us.
The ugly and awful can be very powerful in our personal growth, especially when we glimpse the glory of God’s love hemming us in, even in the worst of times.
Before Love can bring us up to make us more in its image, Love descends downward to our level. However low, however messy, to meet us where we are at. Accepting us in, welcoming us in the state that we are in.
Then Love lifts us upward from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5), and allows us to be a light to allow the goodness of the Lord to be seen (Matthew 5:14-16) until we are called home to heaven (John 3:16).
Love’s willingness to descend, as Sharon Garlough Brown says in her book, “invites hope when circumstances scream despair.”
The ugly, the awful, the dark, the fearful times in our lives are awfully prickly to embrace. For me revisiting these things makes me realize that I have been keeping a record of wrongs that I need to release.
It has also humbly brought me to a new place of awe and reverence for the love the Lord has for me. The hardest wrongs that I have to release to the Lord, the record I hold tightest to, are the wrongs that I have personally committed.
The times I have spoken rashly in hurt, causing only pain. The things I have done selfishly, taking away from others to add to myself. The things I have left undone, unsaid, because I valued personal comfort more than serving others. Relationships wounded and broken. Shame on me.
I keep this list, this record of wrongs, to remind me what I have to amend for. The debts I owe. The things I need to make right. But, the things is, I can’t ever pay it all in full. I can never make up for all of these things. In fact, every single day, I continue to add to this list of wrongs. And so find myself entrapped in a knotted mess of my own doing. Chained by shame.
Love has descended to not only meet me in my mess, but to break the chains of shame. It is so hard to look back and see those times I spoke and acted so hurtfully towards others, others who I was trying so hard to love, when I messed it up with my sin and my selfishness.
How could love even look at me in those moments? Let alone be bent in compassion towards me? Love had to descend pretty deeply to meet me. The sacrifice required for my record of shame is higher than I could even begin to imagine, a pure and holy sacrifice on a cross.
Invited in, welcomed, accepted, and never left alone. All by the majesty of the Lord’s heart and hand, not by the record of my life.
“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and
to present you before his glorious presence
without fault and with great joy –
to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty,
power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”
Jude 24-25 (NIV)
Live it Out
I don’t know if you have a record of personal wrongs that you are holding on to or trying to make up for. I don’t know if the circumstances of your life are screaming out in despair. I don’t know if darkness is upon you and left you searching for any sort of light.
What I do know is this, that love is willing and able to descend to meet you where ever you are at. No matter how deep the darkness is, love can find you. No matter what a state of mess surrounds you, love brings the fullness of its acceptance where ever it goes.
Love doesn’t just come to pass by or visit, love comes to dwell. Ever present in fullness. A love so great that it will patiently wait, until we make the choice to receive it into our lives.
Many times in my life, I have wished that Jesus would come in and carry me off into the sunset of happy ever afters away from all of the despair and troubles and circumstances. I wonder if he shakes his head and chuckles when I asks if we can just get rid of what is broken. Can’t it just be made new, like right now? A snap of the holy fingers kind of thing?
It’s usually about then I hear, “I make all things new, which is very different than making all new things.”
You see when love descends, it brings with it the power of restoration. The master carpenter with calloused, scared hands, comes with a willingness to work, and an invitation to hope. Jesus reveals potential even in piles of debris.
Love comes with a willingness to teach, to reveal, to reframe, to mold, and to sculpt. To take raw materials and transform them, even meeting resistance with a steadfast patience. Carefully cleaning and crafting in a process that brings us to a place where we can be presented to God “without fault and with great joy” Jude 24-25 (NIV).
The uncomfortable truth is that I am still going to break stuff, still going to hurt others and be hurt, still live among the mess here on earth, until the day that Jesus calls me home to heaven. I am so grateful that love would descend to my mess, my failings, and my darkness to welcome me. Even if that means I have to get up every day and work on my transformation.
God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and savior Jesus, are all ever present to oversee the process of transformation and restoration. As a child of God, I find that I am like any other kid…I really need help cleaning up my messes.
The messes that you find in your life, the piles of debris that feel unmovable, the darkness that just feels like it is too much, none of it is outside of God’s love, strength, and presence. Love descends, love comes, even to those places. Because you are worth searching for. You are worth the cost of the sacrifice that was required.
You are the beloved, the cherished, the precious child, and God will descend to the deepest depths to offer you the perfection of His love, the opportunity for restoration, and a chance to be transformed.
Pray Through It
Beloved Lord, how amazing and incredible it is that love would descend into the darkest and messiest places to meet us. Thank You so much for not just coming for a visit, but for wanting to dwell among us.
Thank You for all of the sacrifice that You pour out to restore, to clean, and to transform. Thank You for Your patience with the process, especially when we don’t understand and are so frantically impatient.
Lord, I pray blessings over all who read these words today. I ask that they would feel and see and hear the in-pouring of Your love for them into the circumstances of their lives. Lord, help us to release anything that we are hanging on to so that we may fully embrace Your presence and love in our lives.
May we follow Your example, Lord Jesus, and in love be willing ourselves to descend into the messes around us. Letting our lights shine for the glory of the Lord to be known. In the joyful name of Jesus, amen.
Hello, Julie! I just received the note you sent to IVP last year. So sorry the pandemic delayed it by a year! I’m deeply honored to read your beautiful post. May the Lord continue to show you the depths of his love and the joy of his presence. ~Sharon Garlough Brown
Thank you so much for the message!!! I’m so glad you received my note and deeply appreciate the response! Isn’t God’s timing amazing and His faithfulness so incredible. He cares for the tiniest things. I am so deeply thankful and moved by your writing. You truly have a gift and your characters are just beloved. May God continue to bless the work of your hands and heart, and may He shower you with the sweetest revelations. With joy and gratitude, Julie