The candles were lit, the fairy lights were strung, acoustic worship was being sung. I stood amongst friends, amongst friends of friends, and amongst brothers and sisters in Christ, in one of the oldest Church buildings in the City.
As we sung “so I’ll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned”, I could feel tears start to gather in my eyes, and was really honest with God that I have nothing else to try, nothing else to give. I prayed, “I wish I could just stay here, in your house of love and safety and grace”.
Then I was convicted by God in a way I don’t think I ever have been before.
It’s funny, isn’t it, that when we pray for patience, God gives us the opportunity to be patient with someone and it’s difficult. Or we pray for provision but then God gives us the option to use that £5 we found on the floor for a coffee on the way to work for ourselves, or for the homeless we just passed. Or we pray for God to make us more like Him & to convict us, but when He does… ouch.
Firmly, yet with such peace, I felt God say, “I invite you to dwell in my house of love and safety and grace, but you always leave kicking and screaming”.
After we sat to listen to a short sermon, we sang some more. As we were singing the lyrics, “'Cause Your goodness is running after, it's running after me, with my life laid down, I'm surrendered now, I give You everything”
I felt God continue, “… but I’m never going to stop running after you to bring you home”.
I love that we have a God that convicts, not condemns. It’s a bit like a father teaching his child to ride a bike. When the child falls off, the dad doesn’t say, “why can’t you get this right? I’ve taught you, now do it!” It won’t matter if the child keeps falling off the bike. It won’t matter if the child never gets it. The father won’t lose his temper and eventually snap. The father won’t lose hope and say, “you’ll never get it, let’s just give up” and walk off for you to wipe the tears away yourself.
But he scoops the child up, wipes away any tears, puts the child back on the bike and says, “It’s okay, let’s try again together. You got it wrong, but that doesn’t change my love for you”.
I had an image that night of a daughter being picked up by her dad, but she doesn’t want to be picked up. She’s kicking, punching and screaming to be put down. She doesn’t know that in her dad’s arms is where she needs to be, in the arms of safety and love.
I love that we have a God that will never stop running after us, never stop pursuing us and taking us home. You can scream, kick, punch, run, cry. He’ll always come after you.
He is not a God of condemnation, but a God of conviction and love.