Embraced by the Infinite Love of God
It was nearly twenty years ago that the Lord miraculously demonstrated His infinite love in a manner I will never forget. I remember it daily and it is a constant reminder of who He is as El Roi,, El Elyon, and El Shaddai. Every Friday morning that Spring began with a six AM meeting for Bible study and prayer with a close friend, followed by a men’s study at 7 AM that we led together. At 8AM I would meet my wife Bev for breakfast at McDonalds and go to the Hospital for rounds and then to the office at 10 AM. My friend did not come that morning, which had never happened before. I went into the church library and “happened” to pick up a book entitled “To Know Him by Name” written by Kay Arthur. I was deeply moved by her description of the Lord through these three names, El Roi,(The God who Sees) El ELyon, (God Most High (Who is in control of each aspect of my life) and El Shaddai, (the All-Sufficient One). 7 AM came and went and the four men who were regular attendees were also absent that day. This also was most unusual! I read and prayed through those pages until time to meet Bev at 8AM. Following hospital rounds I went to my office where I found an envelope on my desk. After opening and reading the letter enclosed, I immediately understood, not only the unusual events of the day but of the entire week. Four days earlier I had a strong impression as I sat down to breakfast that I should not eat, but rather get some lab tests. (It had been two-three years since any routine test had been done.) I dismissed the mental impression I had been given that morning and had my usual McDonald egg and biscuit. The next day, as I was entering McDonalds, the same impression was implanted in my mind but only much stronger than before. As a result, I had water only and ate following the lab test drawn in the office. Until I opened the letter, I had forgotten all about the tests! Enclosed with the normal results was a slightly elevated PSA, indicative of a possibility of prostate cancer. Subsequent biopsies confirmed its presence. At surgery it was found to be plastered against the outer lining of the prostate poised to break through and spread through the body at any moment. El Roi saw all this, El Elyon impressed me strongly to get a test, and prepared me the morning I saw the lab test by canceling my morning activities, leading me to Kay Arthur’s book and revealing Himself to me as El Roi, El Elyon and El Shaddai. The significance of that day in retrospect is largely in the revelation gained of God’s infinite love and secondarily of the healing from prostate cancer. It was a day given to me by His loving hand to reveal who He is, the depth of His knowledge concerning me, and His unlimited ability to pour forth His healing and blessing in my life.
He has also given other days. One of these “other days” was just last week. I awoke at 6 AM, prepared to drive to Eugene, Oregon for a 9 AM flight, drop off my rental car and return to Wichita in the early afternoon. There was a message on my phone saying that the flight was canceled and I was rescheduled to leave at 5 AM the following day! I called United Airlines, hoping to make arrangements to leave that day, rather than to wait another day. I finally reached a person who spoke with a heavy non understandable accent. After multiple pauses, he said that he could get me to Denver. I couldn’t make him understand I wanted to go to Wichita! After a half hour, he finally wished me well and hung up! Being stuck in Oregon another day meant another $97 for car rental. My daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren all had to go back to work. That meant that I had to spend the day with various cats, chickens and the family dog by the name of Curdie. He and I have a similar relationship with one another. We accept that each of us has a right to exist somewhere on the planet. We don’t bite or bark at one another, but we don’t relish any affection either. After only three hours sleep I awakened at 2:30 and drove in the night to the Eugene Airport, praying that perhaps the Airlines would be partially repentant and upgrade my economy plus ticket to first class. When I checked in at the desk I was delighted to see that I was upgraded to seat A3! My prayers were answered! God was so awesome to see I was transferred to first class! I was rejoicing all the way through security and up to the gate assigned to the flight. It was then that I noticed that the A3 referred to the gate number, not my seat assignment! My seat was B38. I didn’t know there were that many aisles on airplanes! As I entered the plane I kept walking until, you guessed it, i reached the last aisle, and, of course, I had the middle seat. An oversized man was already in seat A, lopping over into the B space and leaving little room. That seat, of course, being at the back, would not recline. A similar sized individual then sat down in C38, compressing me even further. At 6 feet 6 inches of height, there was no room for my legs either. There was hardly room to breathe. I began to be a little claustrophobic. I don’t mean to imply that the seat itself was defective. It would have been perfect, say, for a horse jockey weighing 106 pounds, or perhaps someone in the end stages of severe malnutrition. My thoughts turned to the Apostle Paul, who described himself as being in a similar position to mine. (Although in an entirely different context!) In II Corinthians 4:8, he refers to himself as being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.” That was the way I felt! The noise from the rear engine had an unbearable whine broken only by the sound of the toilet flushing behind my seat every few minutes. I had paid extra for economy plus on this flight and ended up with economy minus!
Having safely returned to Wichita, I was reading the Bible and praying the next morning. I began to thank the Lord for various things he had done in the past for me and my family. As I remembered the previous day, I hesitated and asked Him what significance there was in that day for me. Was there a message there for me? I had just been thanking Him for His deliverance from cancer twenty years earlier. As I waited I had the distinct impression that He wanted me to know that He was the same God yesterday that I had experienced twenty years earlier. He is the One who is too loving to be unkind and too wise to ever make a mistake. He was the One who prepared a day for me with the animals and woke me up in the middle of the night. He was in charge of the Airlines and had picked out my seat personally along with my two seat mates. In fact, because of who He is, it is impossible to escape the center of His love. Because He is infinite love, He cannot help but to do the most loving thing continually in my life. He calls me to trust hIm, not to understand Him. Some things I will later understand, and some I will never understand. As I contemplated these recent events I wondered if I had begun to drift toward worshipping and praising God for outcomes rather than for who He is. If I were to do this, then I would begin to doubt His love when things were not what I wished them to be.
I can recall a time when the Lord revealed to me what doubting His love does to Him. A friend and I had agreed on how to manage a certain situation that occurred in their life. The next day, they said to me in a conversation “If you had cared for me at all you would not have agreed to handling the situation that way”! I was deeply hurt. This was a dear friend, whom I cared for deeply. To be accused of not caring about them, and in effect not loving them, was a deep wound to me. I awakened in the middle of the next night and I remember asking the Lord about this in the night. As I waited for Him to supply some comfort or wisdom, He impressed me with the realization that this is what people do to Him continually. They doubt His love. The more you love and care for a person the greater they may wound you by doubting or denying your love for them. The greater the love you have for them, the greater is the pain you may suffer. He who loves us with infinite love suffers immeasurable pain when His love is doubted.
How, then, do we come to a place in our lives where His love in not doubted? David Benner has the following comments in answer to that question. “What we need is a knowing that is deeper than belief. It must be based on experience. Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to cast out fear. Only knowing love is sufficiently strong to resist doubt. It comes from sitting at the feet of Jesus, gazing into his face and listening to his assurances of love for me. It comes from letting God’s love wash over me, not simply trying to believe it. It comes from soaking in the scriptural assurances of such love, not simply reading them and trying to remember or believe them. It comes from spending time with God, observing how he looks at me. It comes from watching his watchfulness over me and listening to his protestations of love for me.”
“Because such knowing is beyond faith it is more immune to doubt. Just as the child who regularly meets her mother’s love in the core of her being knows that love without any effort to believe it to be true, so we may know God’s love in a way that is deeper and more durable than knowing based on belief. Contemplative or existential knowing may be supported by belief, but it is never reducible to it. It is based in experience, the direct personal encounter with divine love. The goal is, as stated by Paul, that we might know the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, and so be filled with the utter fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
“The point of God’s love is to remake us in his image of love. God wants to make his life ours, his heart ours, his love ours. He wants us to be -like him- characterized by love.” Surrender to Love-Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality Intervarsity Press, Expanded Edition 2015, Pages 76-77, 85.
This, then, is the purpose for which we are embraced by the infinite love of our Lord, to be remade in His image of love. He wants to make his life ours, his heart ours, and his love ours. May the Lord progressively fulfill this purpose in your lives as you follow Him.
In Christ, Richard Spann