Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ragged God

Background on this post - I just finished an awesome book (Love Beyond Reason) by an awesome author (John Ortberg) and I wish I could just post the entire book here for you to read it... but you may as well buy it, borrow it from me, or get it from the library rather than read it here. But I loved this one story in the book so much that I want to put it on here in case there is someone that will read my blog instead of picking up the book. :)

Just so you know, the whole book is about how we as humans are rag dolls. God doesn't love us because we're flawless. He doesn't love us because we're perfect. He loves us just because we're the way we are. So when Ortberg calls God "ragged" it's not blasphemy, it's going to show the enormity of God's love for us.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard told a parable about why God communicated his love the way he did (Note: Why did God become like us? Why did God become man in the flesh? Etc..)

Imagine there was a king that loved a humble maiden. She had no royal pedigree, no education, no standing in the court. She dressed in rags. She lived in a hovel. She led the ragged life of a peasant. But for reasons no one could ever quite figure out, the king fell in love with this girl, in the way kings sometimes do. Why he should love her is beyond explaining, but love her he did. And he could not stop loving her.

Then there awoke in the heart of the king an anxious thought. How was he to reveal his love to the girl? How could he bridge the chasm of station and position that separated them? His advisers, of course, would tell him to simply command her to be his queen. For he was a man of immense power - every statesman feared his wrath, every foreign power trembled before him , every courtier groveled in the dust at the king's voice. She would have no power to resist; she would owe him an eternal debt of gratitude.

But power - even unlimited power - cannot command love. He could force her body to be present in his palace; he could not force love for him to be present in her heart. He might be able to gain her obedience this way, but coerced submission is not what he wanted. He longed for intimacy of heart and oneness of spirit. All the power in the world cannot unlock the door to the human heart. It must be opened from the inside.

His advisers might suggest that the king give up this love, give his heart to a more worthy woman. But this the king will not do, cannot do. And so his love is also his pain. Kierkegaard writes, "What a depth of grief lies in this unhappy love... No human being is destined to suffer such grief... God has reserved it to himself, this unfathomable grief... For the divine love is that unfathomable love which cannot rest content."

The king could try to bridge the chasm between them by elevating her to his position. He could shower her with gifts, dress her in purple and silk, have her crowned queen. But if he brought her to his palace, if he radiated the sun of his magnificence over her, if she saw all the wealth and power and pomp of his greatness, then she would be overwhelmed. How would he know (or she either, for that matter) if she loved him for himself or for all that he gave her? How could she know that he loved her and would love her still even if she had remained only a humble peasant? "Would she be able to summon confidence enough never to remember what the king wished only to forget, that he was king and she had been a humble maiden?"

Every other alternative came to nothing. There was only one way. So one day the king rose, left his throne, removed his crown, relinquished his scepter, and laid aside his royal robes. He took upon himself the life of a peasant. He dressed in rags, scratched out a living in the dirt, groveled for food, dwelt in a hovel. He did not just take on the outward appearance of a servant, it became his actual life, his nature, his burden.

He became as ragged as the one he loved, so that she could be united to him forever. It was the only way.

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