No matter who you are or where you are from, you would recognize it’s silly chant anywhere. A little girl’s delicate fingers pluck at a wildflower, or one stolen from her mother’s vase, and one by one the petals fall as she whispers ‘He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me…’ The final fallen petal is a powerful omen of some boy’s affections towards her. As sagely mature adults, we all know that a flower has no power over a human being’s affections towards another; it has no mystical force to alter any love story. It’s lunacy. But the truth is…these past few months I feel as if I have reverted back to my childish ways, sitting among proverbial wilted, abandoned flowers, plucking them one by one:
He loves me not. What kind of Father willingly, perhaps intentionally, wounds His children repeatedly and creatively? To disillusion me to the point of unmanageable grief and a counter full of pill bottles I can’t pronounce? To leave me sleepless and burdened, day by day? To put me on a dark path that seems relentlessly painful? It is hard to believe that love can hurt like this. It’s easier to believe You don’t love me at all.
He loves me. But You have never once abandoned me to the grave. I can honestly say that Your hand has successfully guided me through every dark valley, that I have found treasures in darkness that I cling to as precious gifts, memorials of everlasting mercy. There has always been a dawn after every nightfall. You have always guided me to safer ground eventually, and revealed more of Your face in every season.
He loves me not. And yet with every season the pile of ashes rise – nightmares, skeletons, dirt, shame – bitter soil to nurture love in. It is hard to trust You love me when shame is so crushing. It leaves me breathless and searching for dark corners, to escape from eyes that see. It feels as if there’s no protection from it with You – You force it on me like a straightjacket though I plead at Your feet for the removal of it all.
He loves me. But You were shamed for me. Shame is not a stranger to Your heart. You took those ashes and poured them over your head, and hung them from your shoulders. There are some days I’d rather You just take it from me, but it’s unprecedented love that You, as a Holy King, would dwell with me in this, to know with intimacy my shame, before lifting me out of it. You are the only person in existence who could redeem brokenness and shame like this. The reality of Your love alone compels me to reach out to You for it.
He loves me not. The marriage of Your righteousness and mercy confuses me. I plead for justice, yet it doesn’t come. I beg for mercy, yet Your wrath continually seems on me. Fear of judgment, fear of people, things, events, and most of all You, screams that Your love is far from me. Doesn’t perfect love cast out all fear? How could heavy hands of the Almighty that bear down on me also possess love for a wretched creature like me?
He loves me. And I am wretched – drenched in guilt, deserving of anything You pour over my head. Yet You anoint my head with oil and call me Daughter. Your patience to stay with me through every season draws such insatiable curiosity from within me towards Your proclaimed love. I am irrevocably drawn towards your mysterious ways. You say you are redeeming everything, that a Day of Judgment is coming, and I am hidden beneath your wings. You are a tower of refuge – a place of steady assurance for the fearful. You not only bear my shame, but You befriend my fear.
He loves me not. Yet still I am angry, so angry with You. The collision of my free will with Your Sovereign hand has led me to a place of bewilderment that I cannot reconcile. You seem so unjust, so inconsistent, so cruel even, at times, toward me. But then I remember Your response to Job. So how could You love someone who rails against You, like Job, in what feels like righteous anger, yet knowing that I have no argument that could prevail against You? How can my anger not anger You?
He loves me. But then I remember the cross. That You poured out every ounce of Your wrath against all evil on Jesus Christ, your perfect, obedient Son, that my soul might not be lost in Your anger. You have taken the hurt that was eternal and made it temporal for me. Not only that, but You have used every temporal pain to realize in me a deeper love for You, to use evil to help me see how You are fighting for me in an dark and broken world that deserves Your wrath. I cry out, clinging to Your robes, for You are not the only one strong enough to hurt me, but You’re the only one strong enough to save me. You’re my only hope. And You embrace me even when I rant and rave.
He loves me.
He loves me.
And I love Him.
So I’ll lay down these flowers, plucked and dry. I hear a gentle voice calling to me from the river. A voice I love. A voice that loves me, no matter what the flower petals say.