Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Finding God's Love in a Praying Mantis

            After the summer one year, I was getting the garden ready for the winter, cleaning out old plants and such.  And I ended up getting an unexpected lesson in God’s love for us.  I always had trouble really grasping God’s love for me.  It’s not that I really doubted His love, but I never really had a father that cherished me.  I didn’t know what it felt like to really belong to or feel loved by a dad.

            And so for many years, I struggled with feeling God’s love, with relating to Him out of love.  I related to Him out of fear instead.  Fear that I would disappoint Him or let Him down.  Fear that I would fail Him somehow.  And this made me a nervous wreck, always evaluating my “performance” and how I could do better. 
            Anyway, I was tearing up old pepper plants when I nearly grabbed one that had a praying mantis on it.  (I had bought the mantis egg cases from the garden supply store in the spring.)  And as the praying mantis began running from me in sheer terror, I found myself saying, “Oh, don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.  In fact, I’m the one who put you here.”  
            And as I said that, I suddenly saw myself as the mantis and God as the Gardener.  And I realized that this is how I was with God for years, always running around in fear.  I didn’t know how to just rest in His presences, in His love.  And this was the same message God had been trying to get through to me for years, “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.  In fact, I’m the One who put you here.  I only have love for you.” 
            It’s funny to me (not “ha ha funny”) that I could be so fond of and gentle with the toads, worms, and mantises in my garden, but that I live as though God isn’t as fond of or gentle with me.  Like He’s just waiting to catch me doing something wrong, waiting to throw a lightning bolt at me when I fail. 
            It took me way too many years to wrap my mind around the fact that God really does love us, just because we are His.  We don’t have to earn His love.  In fact, we can never earn His love.  It’s free and it’s available, and it can only become real to us when we accept it for the free gift that it is.  It’s not about what we do or don’t do or about how pleasing we are to Him.  His love is available to all of us, no matter how we have lived or behaved.  We just have to accept it and turn toward Him, instead of trying to earn it or running from Him in fear.  He loves us simply because of who He is – God is love – and simply because we are His.  And that is so amazing and so humbling!  And being set free from the prison of fear has been so freeing!  And life hasn’t been the same since!