Pursued by Grace: History as a love story
God has many names for us. Beautiful names. Words like “body”, “temple”, “flock”, “workmanship”. He compares His people to different parts of the physical world so that we can understand in part who we are. But there is no image He uses as often as that of a woman, a wife or a bride. Throughout the Old Testament and the New, He uses language to paint this picture again and again. He is a Lover, we are His beloved. He is a Husband, we are His bride.
It is enough to be His creation. We are privileged to be called His handiwork and His servants. It is staggering that He chooses to call us His wife. Why would our God condescend to profess love to the creatures that He has made?
Because we need to be loved. Our souls need it, like our bodies need air. We’re always groping for love, and when we don’t find it we atrophy. The world on its desperate hunt for pleasure is trying to fill a void that only true love can fill. And while they chase vanity, God, who is Love and the definition of love, is still waiting with open arms, wooing His beloved to Himself.
All of history is one long romance, one story of God’s passionate pursuit of His creation. It hasn’t been a fairy tale. It’s been a real, raw and poignant record of rejections and unfaithfulness. But beneath it all has remained God’s constant love, a force so strong that sin, death and hell tried to overcome it and only broke themselves against it. This love is a profound thing – deeper than the petty romances on screens and book pages, deeper even than the holy love of bride and groom at the marriage altar. God’s desire for us is infinite and yet personal. When we study it we feel both the dizzying immensity of eternity and the breathless sacred beauty of intimacy. God doesn’t want to own us, like slaves, any more than a good man on his wedding day wants only to be honored and obeyed. God wants us “to have and to hold, to love and to cherish.” He wants to know us, to look into our souls and find delight and communion. God has pleasure in us – not a condescending pleasure, but joy, like what a man feels about the woman he truly loves. He wants to be one with us, united. We, finite, mortal and broken, will have union with God. And this bond will never be broken by death. In this age and in paradise, we will share with our God one eternal relationship.
Every good love story has a problem. In a fairy tale, there is always a spell to be broken or an enemy to be defeated before the prince and princess can come together for their “happily ever after.” God’s story is similar, but unique. In fact, if it were written down as a narrative, it probably wouldn’t sell; it’s too astounding, too illogical. That’s because, in this true story, we are the problem. History is about a faithful Lover pursuing a brazenly unfaithful woman. She isn’t beautiful and pure – she is broken, unlovely and wanton. And yet God is always there, wooing, providing, transforming, working to change this wayward woman into a pure bride. He was there in Eden, calling to Adam, “Where are you?” He was there in the desert, leading His people toward an abundant land. He was there in exile, reminding Israel of His love, His jealousy, His forgiveness. He was there on the cross, dying in blood and anguish to give the ultimate proof of love. In Ephesians God describes in rich language His affection for His bride. He “loved her and gave Himself up for her” to present her at last radiant, holy and blameless. Yes, we are not complete yet, but we will be. When the earth dissolves and the skies fall, God will still be there. Loving us. Then the ancient vision will finally be present reality, and we will sit down with our Husband to the feast of the celebration of love. “‘Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”
This is the kind of love that surrounds us as God’s chosen. Everlasting, protecting, faithful, covenant love. It’s not just a theory or a dry point of theology. It’s a reality for today. For tomorrow. It’s our reality even in darkness and uncertainty. It makes life not only bearable, but beautiful. This is what grace has done for us. Nothing, not even hell and the devil, can separate us from the love of God. “I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine.” Forever.