One of those moments happened, unexpectedly, to me last week. We had a new church member over having dinner with us and just before she left she casually handed me a shopping bag announcing that she bought me a gift and it just so happened to be my "half birthday"--or so she had discovered over dinner.
I opened the bag and inside was just this extravagant gift: a beautiful and carefully chosen handbag. Not a hand me down (although I love hand me downs!), this was a name brand handbag--for me, an almost stranger to her--and I was just floored. Like a gaping, staring, jumbling, teary eyed mess, I could not find words; I stumbled over my sentences. I mean, who wouldn't love to be given an expensive gift? But it was more than that. It didn't make sense. I could find no reason or explanation for such a gift--no prolonged friendship or previous debt she owed me, no magnificent feats or overly thoughtful deeds on my part, no intimate acquaintance or particularly shared interest. Not only that, but it was the magnitude of the gift that was so confounding. Again, who wouldn't be surprised by an extravagant gift? But this was more than that. The handbag won't last forever and the novelty of such a lovely thing will wear off, but what really happened to me in that moment was that I saw the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding. I saw a gift that was modeled after the one that God has given to me in Christ Jesus. A gift with insurmountable worth for no conceivable reason--an unmerited outpouring of extravagant favor. It makes no sense! And in that moment and the ones to come I was broken, humbled, and elated at the knowledge of God's love for me: how he loves me and pours out this unexpected and overwhelming love on me though I am undeserving. Yes, it reminded me of this spiritual truth of my salvation, but it also demonstrated a current outpouring of undeserved love and favor from God at that very moment--a current grace. I know I have salvation, but God reminded me that He continues to love and bless me all throughout my life and can at any moment arrest my attention with it. I now call it "Betsy Johnsoning" me. He tells me in His word that He has not withheld any good from me. He has given me His best and His all without holding back any good when He gave me His one and only Son. All that He does and allows in my life is viewed through that lens and security of His love--even the hard and heartbreaking things. But at any moment He can swoop in and reveal Himself and His character and His overwhelming love to me by sending someone to my door with a Betsey Johnson bag for no reason and leave me completely gasping and wordless in awe of Him and His love for me. He doesn't always do it that way and He doesn't have to, because He has already given me His all and demonstrated once and for all His love for me by laying down His life for mine while I was His enemy--but at any time, in His own time, He can and He does. In a time when I didn't feel worthy, wasn't looking, and was doing nothing to earn, merit, or find Him, there He was before me displaying for my broken heart to see the magnificent firework show of His overwhelming love for me. Why? Because He is love--the very embodiment of it--because He loves me, and because He has chosen to set His love on me. And I am undone.
A gift like that makes me want to love people boldly, extravagantly, and fiercely. I want people to see how ridiculously crazy God's love is: how nonsensical and beyond reason it is to be loved like that. Its like an electric shock to our souls when we are loved by Him. And I can only love people in an arresting way like that through Him. Without Him, all my efforts fall far short of magnificent like a little broken firework that never makes it past the first blade of grass before fizzling out. Fill me up and send me out, Lord.