No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

I was barely eighteen when a man told me that I was the kind of woman who a man would work seven years for, and then another seven years, like Jacob did for Rachel. It was flattering, and at that young age, I wasn’t too bothered that it was followed by a but. It is one thing for a man to tell a woman that he values her and quite another thing for him to actually ‘do the time.’ I look in the mirror and think of all of Jane Austen’s descriptions of old maids that had ‘lost their bloom,’ and the opportunity to marry had passed them by. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I got a couple of looks, but no man actually found a treasure worth putting in the time for. Each potential relationship had a turning point, an if, and, or but that kept a man from pursuing me further. I could never get past the conditional conjunctions.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13:5-6

I have been thinking a lot lately about the general principle that words have meanings. We can’t just use words to mean whatever we want them to. Or rather, we could try to use words however we wished, but we would not be able to communicate. It brings to mind my much-loved high school English teacher. He taught us that a writer is trying to communicate a specific message in a poem or story. The interpretation is not up to the reader; rather, it is the job of the reader to utilize his or her knowledge of language to understand what the writer is expressing. This means that it is crucial for a writer to choose the correct words, which is why I keep my thesaurus close, and my dictionary closer.

A song called “Reckless Love” has become popular in Christian circles. It has received some attention because not everyone is comfortable with the adjective reckless being used to describe the love of God. When I first heard the song, my impression was that the songwriter needed a thesaurus, and perhaps a dictionary, too. I felt as though I knew what he was trying to convey based on the rest of the song, but he hadn’t chosen the right word. Someone told me that the songwriter was using reckless in a different way, to mean something different. But that doesn’t fly with me. The word has a specific definition in the English language, at this period in time.

Blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

We sang the song at church last Sunday, and I was bothered even more than the first time. The sermon which followed was on The Parable of the Prodigal Son, which my pastor said should really be called The Parable of the Loving Father. This sermon about our Father’s love for His sinful sons (and daughters) helped bring into focus what was bothering me about the song. Namely, that our God knows the end from the beginning. He knows not only all of the sin I have committed, but all I ever will. Before the foundation of the world, he chose to pursue me. (Here, I am still on the same page with the songwriter.) He knows that I will betray Him, and dishonor His name thousands of times. But He also knows the end. He has a plan for redemption.

To be reckless is to be heedless of the consequences, or to be careless. I almost convinced myself that God pursuing us in spite of our sin and wandering could be considered to be ‘heedless of consequences.’ But I realized that regarding our sin as a consequence to God is to look at His plan from a backwards perspective. It isn’t about us, it is about God’s own glory. The end is His victory. To love us is certainly not the obvious choice; it demonstrates that God’s character is far beyond our comprehension. Recklessness hints of immaturity and impulsiveness, whereas God’s love is perfect and planned. His love is the very definition of love.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1:7-10

I was the one who was fickle and reckless, ‘throwing caution to the wind’ in hopes that a man would love me. God was faithful, merciful, my Redeemer. God chose to love me, and He didn’t include an if, and, or but. He had a plan to redeem me. Ephesians 1:8 tells us that His grace is “lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. . .” Our redemption is “according to his purpose” as part of His “plan for the fullness of time.” I know that God was not being capricious when He chose me and pursued me, and that is reassuring to my heart. It is important for us to believe without a doubt that, when God tells us He loves us, it is unconditional. He is never reckless, so we know He will not change His mind.

2 thoughts on “No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

Add yours

  1. I’m not comfortable with the “reckless love” thing, either. It can’t be redefined; it means what it means. Kind of reminds me of certain people changing the meaning of “gay” or kids in the ’80s saying “totally tubular.”

    It is just Reckless English

    I agree with you that God’s love is not reckless; just unconditional.

    Like

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