Category Archives: Love

A Beautiful Ache

In continuing my theme on God’s love, I asked myself, “What situation most profoundly impacted me with a deeper understanding of God’s love?” The event that comes to mind was an unusual and memorable experience. It happened during a private time of silent reflection. In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus standing before me. He brought his hands up to his chest and opened his rib cage as one would open a hinged clamshell. Inside, I saw his beating heart. As I gazed upon his heart with astonishment, I was transported into its interior and found myself in a stormy ocean. With each forceful beat of his heart, the turbulent waves surged and crashed against me. I understood that these waves were God’s love for me. But this love was wild, powerful and unrelenting, not the tender, maternal love we normally ascribe to God.

In my book, “Four in the Garden,” I wrote a scene based on this experience. Here is an excerpt:

“As each fierce wave engulfed me, I sensed an intensity of love, untamed, driving, even painful. I felt Creator’s raw desire for me, a perpetual ache of intense yearning for union. Beyond imagining, and yet so real, I discovered Creator’s love to be powerful, passionate, and relentless, coursing through His being like a mighty river that carves canyons in pursuit of its destination. In this vision, I was the target of Creator’s ardent pursual, of His anguished longing to be united with Him.”

What strikes me the most is the intensity of God’s longing. It surpasses strong desire. It’s an agonized yearning that seems unquenchable. It’s the longing of a lover for their beloved. It had never occurred to me that God aches for me, aches to be united with me as if the entire universe suffers until this love is consummated.

The Bridegroom’s Longing

The Bible refers to God’s people and church as Christ’s bride. Paul writes, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:31-32. Paul infers that Christ and his church shall become one in the way that a husband and wife become one. He is using the example of marriage to describe our relationship to God. I believe that the sacrament of marriage is given to us to foreshadow our eventual union with God. The Bible mentions a wedding feast to celebrate this future holy union. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) has come…” – Revelation 19:7.

We see an example of Jesus’ longing in Matthew 23:37. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Jesus longed to gather God’s people to himself. God, the Father, shares this same longing.

God longs for this union with the intense yearning of a bridegroom who looks forward to his wedding night. God aches for intimacy with us, for a space where both are vulnerable and see each other’s naked selves, stripped of concealments. Our destiny is for intimate union with God. This future mutual “knowing” is expressed in Corinthians 13:12. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face (with God). Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I believe that God desires to be fully known by us, but only to those who seek to know him.

Being Desired

For a long time, I believed that God loves me, but this experience impacted me because I came to understand that God also desires me. Not only desires me, but passionately yearns for me. I didn’t know that God could feel such intensity of longing or ache with anguished desire. Sometimes, I forget that God can feel any passion at all. This experience removed any doubts I had about God’s feelings for me. I now know how much he wants me, more than any person could ever want me. And I understand how Jesus could be so willing to die in my behalf. His longing to gather us to God was a driving force for him. He still longs to gather us to God, to join us into holy union with himself. The people of Jerusalem were not willing. If we are willing, we will know God and be fully known and loved.

###

Rick Hocker is a game programmer, artist and author. In 2004, he sustained a back injury that left him bed-ridden in excruciating pain for six months, followed by a long recovery. He faced the challenges of disability, loss of income and mounting debt. After emerging from this dark time, he discovered that profound growth had occurred. Three years later, he had a dream that inspired him to write his award-winning book, Four in the Garden. His intent was to illustrate one’s growth toward deep communion with God and to share the insights he gained from the personal transformation that resulted from his back injury. He lives in Martinez, California.

Website: http://www.fourinthegarden.com
Email: rickhocker@fourinthegarden.com

Hiding From Love

We’ve all heard the statement that God is Love. If that’s true, then why don’t we throw ourselves at Him like an adoring fan tries to get close to a favorite celebrity? In spite of all the glories ascribed to love, if we look deep inside, we’re afraid of it. And God’s love is the most frightening of all. So, whether we realize it or not, we hide from love.

Being Seen

Love sees us for who we really are. It sees past our defenses and disguises. It peers into our very souls. It sees what we want no one to see, including God. Most of us dislike the intensity of close examination. We prefer to control our secrets. We keep love at a safe distance to prevent it from peering too deeply into our souls. We chose to hide from love’s scrutiny. If we are truly seen, then we will be rejected, we tell ourselves. Sometimes, we hide because we are ashamed, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I’m encouraged that, in spite of their hiding, God sought them out. That shows God’s desire for relationship. When God asked them why they were hiding, they said because they were naked. They weren’t ashamed because they were nude. They were ashamed because they now had something to hide, their sin against God. When one has nothing to hide, then exposure is no threat. Because we have something to hide, we don’t want to be exposed, even before God.

God’s love sees you as you truly are. God unconditionally loves what He sees.

A Mirror

Love acts as a mirror. It shows us ourselves through the eyes of another who reflects to us what they see. We don’t like to see ourselves in this manner because it requires another to relay what they see. They might see something repulsive. Can we trust others to tell us the truth? Do we want others to tell us the truth? It’s difficult to trust people to be an impartial mirror. People withhold or exaggerate. Yet, we need mirrors in life. We need someone to tell us the truth about us. On our own, we can’t see ourselves accurately because the proverbial plank in our eye (blind spot) gets in the way. We can’t see the sign taped on our back that announces our foolishness. That’s why we need a mirror.

God’s love speaks the truth if you are willing to listen. It reflects to you your true nature.

Being Safe

When love draws near, we don’t feel safe, sometimes. It’s like a hound dog sniffing at the door of our pantry. We cringe because we don’t want it to discover our stash of candy bars. If love only knew what we did in secret, it would withdraw, we tell ourselves. We want to control what love sees and has access to. We welcome love, but on our own terms. So we keep love at arm’s length, lest it be too threatening. One reason love is scary is because it requires us to be vulnerable. When we are vulnerable, then we can be hurt the most. When our heart is exposed, rejection and reproach can wound us deeply. Knowing that, we try to protect our hearts as best we can.

God’s love can give you a sense of safety if you learn to trust it. It holds you when you are most vulnerable.

Hidden Monsters

Love shines a light into our souls. It exposes what’s hidden in the dark, things even we don’t want to see or admit to. Our monsters are those things we’re ashamed of, those things no one is ever meant to see or know about. We believe that these monsters are so ugly, they would repel even the most tolerant. If they threaten us, then they will certainly threaten others. We don’t venture into the dark of our own souls because we know the monsters are hiding there. We think that love isn’t strong enough to handle our monsters, that love is too pure to embrace such ugliness.

God’s love is strong enough to enter the dark of your soul and seek your monsters. Although perfectly pure, it’s capable to love the ugliness you cannot bring yourself to love. But you must give God permission to enter your soul.

Intimacy

Intimacy is being known. I have heard it defined as “into me you see.” Being known is one step further than being seen. It means we are understood. The knower “gets us.” We find comfort in knowing that someone understands us, even if we don’t understand ourselves. God’s love understands you.

God knows your thoughts and motivations. He can make sense out of your jumbled feelings and desires.

No Sense In Hiding

We cannot hide from God although we fool ourselves in thinking we can. God already sees everything and knows everything. He knows all about our monsters. He knows about the defects we aren’t aware of. When the mirror of His love exposes new monsters, our normal response is shame and embarrassment. But the monsters have been there all along, undetected by us. God has known about them for years. Others may have known of them, but didn’t tell us. So when God exposes them, be grateful because God thinks you are ready to see them. It also means He is ready to deal with them, so don’t beat yourself up but let God have access to them so He can heal you.

The Great Seer and Knower

When God sees you, he sees past your stuff. He sees past your history, past your deficiencies. He sees your soul, the unique person you are, the person behind the mask, the child within the adult. He sees the pure essence of your being, beneath the layers of debris you pack on yourself. That is what God really sees and wants to see. He sees past your hurts and fears, and sees you as a beautiful, fragile soul. It is your soul He loves. Everything will be stripped away one day, and that which will be left is what God sets His sights on, what He desires to embrace, what He chooses to love.

God knows you. He knows your thoughts, your desires, your obsessions, your destructive behaviors. And yet, He loves you. Unconditional love is not based on merit or worth. It is based on its own ability to love for its own sake. It is based on choice. And God has chosen to love you because His core nature is love. God is love manifest. He loves because He cannot help but love.

Freedom

All these observations support the claim that love is freedom. Freedom to be seen. Freedom to be known. Freedom from fear and hiding. Love makes you free, free to be yourself. Be open to love and let love free you. Let God love you and show you who you really are. If you dare, look into His eyes and see what He sees, the person He embraces with unbounded love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” – I John 4:18.

###

Rick Hocker is a game programmer and artist. In 2004, he sustained a back injury that left him bed-ridden in excruciating pain for six months, followed by a long recovery. He faced the challenges of disability, loss of income and mounting debt. After emerging from this dark time, he discovered that profound growth had occurred. Three years later, he had a dream that inspired him to write his award-winning book, Four in the Garden. His intent was to illustrate one’s growth toward deep communion with God and to share the insights he gained from the personal transformation that resulted from his back injury. He lives in Martinez, California.

Website: http://www.rickhocker.com
Email: mail@rickhocker.com

Loving Ray

What to do when someone doesn’t change

I met Ray at Sunday church. I heard he wanted a ride to the weekly home church that I attended, so I offered. Each week I gave him a ride. Each week I learned more about him.

At first sight, one knew he was different. He had a massive nest of black, bushy hair. I would have called it an Afro, but it was far more unruly than that. He was overweight and wore baggy clothes. His arms hung loose and jiggled when he walked, causing his hands to flap forward at the wrists. His most unusual trait was that his eyes constantly darted as though he were assessing the threat of every person in the room. I soon learned he had a large helping of paranoia. His primary obsession was the “demon people.” These malevolent beings were always telling him what not to do.

When I would pick up Ray to go grocery shopping, he would say, “Oh, no. The demon people don’t want me to leave the house.” After I convinced Ray it was okay to go shopping, then on the drive home he would decipher the license plate of the car in front of us. License plates were always bad news. “Oh, no. The license plate is telling me that I shouldn’t have bought the candy bar.”

By now, you must have deduced that Ray was not mentally stable. He didn’t work and couldn’t work. He lived by himself in section-eight housing. Twice a week, he attended compulsory “socialization” where others like him came together for planned activities. His apartment was filthy. His hygiene was lacking. His diet was atrocious.

Frustrating Behaviors

At weekly home church, eight of us met in the leader’s home. Ray would eat the snacks and then doze on the couch while the group discussed the Bible. This happened every time. Ray had more interest in food than in the Bible. It frustrated the hell out of the leader.

Ray frustrated me, too. Every time I saw Ray, I needed to remind him to not listen to the demon people. “Don’t pay attention to what they say. They don’t have your best interests in mind. They never say anything good or helpful.” Ray would hang his head and say, “You’re right. I shouldn’t listen.” But ten minutes later, he would be listening to them and getting worked up. And I would lecture him again. I believed that if I repeated myself enough times, Ray would get it. That never happened.

Ray’s Purpose

I didn’t know what to do about Ray. He was already on medications. He had case-workers who were trying their best to help him. I prayed for him. I also prayed for myself, that I would be more patient. One day, God said, “Ray will never change. Will you love him anyway?” It floored me to hear God say that someone would never change. I suppose I was naïve, thinking that people ought to change. I had seen people change, especially in response to prayer. What is the point of a life if that life never changes? The question wasn’t directed to God, but He answered. “The point of Ray’s life is to teach others to love.”

God had pressed my reset button. I staggered to reorient myself to this new information. The measure of life wasn’t about its impact on the person who lived it, but about its impact on those people who are affected by it. All of us have heard inspirational stories about people who have touched the lives of others, but what about those people who challenge us to be better? Ray’s life did have a purpose. Ray was God’s gift to me to teach me about unconditional love.

Easier Love

Things changed for me from that point on. I no longer expected Ray to change. Can you imagine how freeing that was for me? I knew I would have to repeat myself to Ray uncountable times, but that was okay. It became a given, like brushing my teeth. I became more patient with Ray. My earlier frustration was due to my expectation that Ray should change. With that expectation gone, I had little cause to get frustrated. No one expects newborns to do a whole lot, so their parents tend to be extra patient. As expectation increases, so does our impatience.

I found it easier to bear with Ray, to listen to Ray, to let Ray be Ray without any conditions. My job was to simply love him, not try to change him. So often, our love has conditions. But unconditional love values what is and has no agenda or expectations. What surprised me was that Ray’s quirks became more endearing to me. These odd mannerisms defined him as a unique person. When a puppy chases its tail, we deem it peculiar or silly, but that behavior is part of the whole package that we can love.

God’s Gift

Ray was a person who chased his tail, a puppy who would never grow up. We tend to be less tolerant of people than pets. We expect people to be grown up and act a certain way. When they don’t fit our expectations, we shun them. But it may be that God has placed these people in our lives to show us that our love is conditional and to give us an opportunity to practice unconditional love.

In the months that followed, I would watch the leader of our weekly home church get increasingly impatient and frustrated with Ray. I would smile and wonder whether the leader would ever see Ray as a gift from God to teach him how to love.

###

Rick Hocker is a game programmer and artist. In 2004, he sustained a back injury that left him bed-ridden in excruciating pain for six months, followed by a long recovery. He faced the challenges of disability, loss of income and mounting debt. After emerging from this dark time, he discovered that profound growth had occurred. Three years later, he had a dream that inspired him to write his award-winning book, Four in the Garden. His intent was to illustrate one’s growth toward deep communion with God and to share the insights he gained from the personal transformation that resulted from his back injury. He lives in Martinez, California.

Website: http://www.rickhocker.com
Email: mail@rickhocker.com