God’s steadfastness—His constancy—is the quality of God’s love upon which we can rest our weary heads and wake to work another day, upon which we trust in ourselves and our futures, upon which we step out confidently to fulfill the purposes God has given us.
Daniel James Brown’s book, “Boys in the Boat,” is the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 Olympic victory in rowing. They were 9 working class boys from western Washington, competing against the best, most elite teams in the East and in Great Britain, with races literally rigged to make them lose, as they rowed their hearts out under the gaze of Adolf Hitler. And they won.
The book is about the team and their sport, of course, but, more than that, it’s about one member of the team, Joe Rantz, the unlikeliest boy in the boat. Joe was poor, desperately so, and all but abandoned by his father and his new wife.
The bright spot in Joe’s life was his one true love, Joyce. She made a vow, writes Brown, “come what may, she would make sure he never went through anything like it again, would never again be abandoned, would always have a warm and loving home.”
She defended him, protected him, supported him, and encouraged him, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for 63 years, until, in a room they shared in a skilled nursing facility, where the nurses had pushed their beds together so they could hold hands. That’s how she died.
The author makes the case convincingly that it was Joyce’s unwavering, uncompromising love that propelled him to anchor his team’s races and win. Joyce’s steadfast love made Joe’s life possible.
God’s steadfast love, above all else, makes our lives possible.
If we know, down deep in our hearts and our bones, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, then there’s no reason not to step out and take a risk. There’s no reason not to dream that impossible dream, not to strive for the seemingly unreachable goal, not to pray the expectant prayer, not to make the kinds of commitments that will define our lives.
Yes, it’s said that we live in a prodigiously non-committal age. The average age for marriage now is 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 and 22 in 1960. The average length of time we Americans spend at a job is 4.4 years, though I expect that average is higher in smaller communities. The average man or woman in America spends less than 20 seconds on any webpage before clicking on.
So what? Webpages don’t matter. Channel surfing can be fun. But, some things, some tasks, and especially some relationships, do require time and attention.
Our relationship to God is one of those relationships requiring such time and attention. God loves us; He lavishes his attention, his care, his gifts, on us, every moment, every day. Do we love Him in return? Do we give Him more than glancing attention before eating dinner?
Here’s Eugene Peterson from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction:
Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church; for others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for religious entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies, and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so somehow expand our otherwise humdrum lives. The religious life is defined as the latest and the newest: Zen, faith healing, human potential,…We’ll try anything—until something else comes along.
But, discipleship—the slow transformation of our hearts and minds into God’s instruments of joy, mercy, and grace in our world—requires more than glancing attention. Daily prayer. Daily scripture reading. Daily thanks. Daily praise. Weekly gathering for admonishment and encouragement by fellow travellers. Regular participation in the sacraments. Regular study. Regular. Ordinary. Obedient.
I’ve said it to just about every couple I have ever married. I say, “Marriage is the closest re-enactment we human beings have of the love of God for us. The love of a husband and a wife, like the love of God for God’s people, is love between two who are completely different, yet who desire, despite those differences, to be together.”
Yet, imagine a marriage in which a husband only speaks to his wife before dinner, and only in a rote routine practiced every day.
Our prayer life needs more than, “Rub a dub dub. Thanks for the grub.”
Imagine a marriage in which the wife rarely stops to give thanks to her husband for the gift of his love.
Our thanks to God can’t ever really cease.
Imagine a marriage in which the spouses never spend time together to encourage, compliment or correct each other.
Our life together as followers of Jesus isn’t optional.
To love consistently, inconveniently, and unceasingly–this is the pattern of God’s love. It doesn’t always make sense. Yet, neither does it make sense for God to have chosen a people who are utterly faithless in response, and it certainly makes no sense whatsoever to redeem that faithless people and all creation, by dying the death of a criminal on a cross, but that’s how God in Jesus Christ loves. It’s how God wants us to love Him and love one another: committed, steadfast, and constant.