Friday - A Devotional by Jeani Cranford

We all crave love. We all desire to be accepted and loved for who we are.

And even though the need for love is a dominant driving force within most--if not all of us--we've somehow learned the steps of the dance that teach us to move this way or that way, to say these things or to say those things, to think, speak and act in ways pleasing to others so that we may be accepted and feel important.

In doing this, we often find strings attached to this acceptance and affection we need. And if we misstep, become tired, or no longer fit someone else's vision of the dance we must perform, we find ourselves experiencing, yet again, that old familiar sting of rejection.

May I be honest and admit that while I've certainly performed the dance, there have been times in my life I've been the instructor? There have been times in my life I've been the one directing the steps so that others may receive from me the acceptance they needed?

And is it okay that we talk about the church and the role it sometimes plays in this choreography? Is it okay to acknowledge that maybe our experiences with church haven't always been positive and encouraging?

When thinking about Pastor Shropshires's sermon series on love, and the power that pours from it--through patience and kindness and the agape love called forth through the work of the Civil Rights movement--I can't help but remember the conflict within my spirit as a teenager - the pull toward God, who I believed resided in the church; the very place I felt rejected. 

The reality is we can (and should) experience God in the community of the church not necessarily because people are awesome! Truth? We sometimes get it wrong. We sometimes invert the messages. We sometimes don't apply the teachings well. Why? We are all learning and becoming who God is calling us to be.

We can always do better. And we should strive to do better.

A bigger truth than the church being the place where God resides, we cannot forget God resides within us. It isn't only that we experience God because we have the church. But also that we experience God because God pursues us with reckless abandon. God chases after us much like the father of the prodigal son. God seeks us, looks for us, and searches us.

We are drawn to the church because God calls our names.

We seek God because God loves us.

In 1 John 4:8, I have found powerful words that helped reshape my understanding of God's love. These words didn't resonate within me until several years ago when I found myself surrounded by darkness. This scripture became a beacon of light and hope for a new understanding of who God is. This verse tells us that God is love.

Some of us need a new picture of God in our minds. We need to remember that God is Creator. A creator in love with God's creation. God created and then God said, "It is good."

"For God so loved the world....."

We are God's created. And we are led into who we are called to be. We are led into healing, into the perfection--that wholeness--of our complete selves.

Today, in class, our professor encouraged us with these words, "If God's intention is Love, maybe following God's call is to risk the vulnerability of experiencing wholeness."

To become completely who we are called to be, healing and overcoming, redemption and reconciliation must happen. Those accomplishments are found through patience and kindness; agape love. The strength and endurance, the sustenance of these actions comes from our Source, our Creator, our God. 

God is Love.