It is increasingly hard for me to believe in a loving God. Not because I look around at my life and see pain and suffering, but because I look at who I am and realize that I am not worthy of love from even an imperfect mortal, never mind the immortal God by whom good itself is defined. Indeed, it is not the presence of pain and suffering in my life that makes me question God, but their absence. I cannot understand how I am not a pillar of salt already, how I have not been struck down for knowing the goodness of God and still acting like I do. How can a truly just and perfect God tolerate so much weakness – often willing weakness – in one He has called?
What it truly comes down to is this: I love my sin more than I love my God. I am without excuse. I cannot turn to God and say, “I am ignorant of You and Your commands and their worth, and therefore go astray”; I can only say, “I know You and Your Love and Your Beauty and still choose the things of the world over you every day.”
And yet God loves me, and this I cannot comprehend. To my mind, a perfect God should love that which is perfect and hate that which is not. I can understand him destroying the chains of my sinful nature and releasing me – after all, it is the chains that are to be hated and not the one they bind. But if I stand and thank Him and then proceed to wrap the chains back around me, then it is I who must be destroyed, for I have freely chosen to be exactly what God hates, even though I knew His hatred for it.
Mercy is the great mystery, then, and is by nature utterly incomprehensible to us, for we will never be able to truly give it. We may empathize with another’s sin and forgive them because we know that we too are guilty and have still been forgiven, but this is merely a shallow reflection of God’s mercy, which is nothing short of miraculous. God cannot empathize with sin or forgive as he has been forgiven, for there is nothing in him to forgive. He is the unrelenting standard by which we judge virtue, and yet has reached out and offered salvation to those who fall short.
It would be easier to face a God who simply rejected us for the hatred of him we show every time we sin. That would be understandable. But this love is humiliating. Here is a God who not only knows our every petty lust and desire, but also our frequent disrespect for Him, and loves us just the same. It casts our sins into sharp relief – every resentful and uncharitable thought for another suddenly becomes ridiculous, our reluctance to forgive absurd. Punishment we could handle, but this! This is intolerable.
And so it will remain as long as we hold ourselves back. We worship an all-or-nothing God – either we will dive into his fiery Love and find in it comforting warmth, or we will hold back and be continually scorched. It is not enough to have a single moment of acceptance. We must continually fall deeper into these fires of mercy, trusting ourselves completely to that which we can never understand. Complete abandon is the only route we have left, and it is the road we are least willing to take.