I love the idea of a gangster rap image… me on a motorcycle like DMX with my “mad dog” going, only it would probably make you laugh rather than feel intimidated. This colloquialism might fall flat to many that know this Jesus-loving mom of four, but it might explain why I can sing along to so many rap songs from the late 90s and early 2000s. I used to cruise with the windows down and the base blaring, and back in the day, the term “Ride or Die” meant the epitome of loyalty… even loyal to a fault.
You know, when I get busted for drug dealin’ and you visit me in prison, or lie for me when the feds are hunting me down.
Ok, now I’m laughing. Ride or Die has become something different for me in the last few years, and it actually beats with a heart that relates more to LaCrae now. You see, King Jesus has been breathing words like Crazy Love and Radical to His bride here on earth. He is articulating His love as something rare and costly, a love that is aggressive in nature and yet seeks nothing for self. His model is unconditional and sacrificial to the point of injury, and then some! A love that would be labeled weak for what it tolerates, appearing desperate and rooted in insecurities to the untrained eye and unrescued heart. This love doesn’t care, though, because it doesn’t seek approval. Even now as I write, I consider the faces that will read these words; I picture faces falling quickly from shock to judgment.
Isn’t that what my own face did when I considered Abraham’s radical, crazy love for God? He did what?! Hold on, God. I know this is the son You gave him, and I know You to value Your creation. Since when does child sacrifice appeal to You?? And yet Abraham moves forward to kill the thing that he loves, and God is pleased. Our Lord of course does not permit the act, and in the process of rescuing a boy, He rescues a man from idolatry. Misappropriated love can sneak in on any heart, but the love that had to be cut out of my heart was less noble than Abraham’s: Love of Self. Not the vain, materialistic sort that cries for accolades, but the kind that begs for a comfortable, pain-free path full of food folks and fun – a life that only experiences winter from the inside looking out (preferably with a fire crackling).
My definition of love was catastrophically conditional, and as I look around, I see this shallow love in every form and fashion. You see, there is nothing on this earth that points to grace. Every interaction we have is built on the cause – effect economy that keeps us working so that we can eat. We brush our teeth so that we don’t get cavities, we cut down on drive-through so we can wear that dress, we slow down to avoid a ticket, we call our moms so they won’t be cross, the list could build!
We know the statistics of failed marriages, but what is the truth behind it? I believe there are a series of “I’ll love you if…” statements in our minds, continually providing an out for the contentment seeking masses. I’ll love you if you provide, but if you start spending your days playing video games and forget to pick up the kids, I’m out! I’ll love you in your youth and beauty, but if you gain 200lbs all bets are off. I’ll love you if you support and care for me, but your thoughtlessness and years of neglect have pushed me out the door. I’ll love you if you are responsible, but you’ve squandered our families resources and I have no other choice. I’ll love you if you are faithful, but betrayal is an unforgivable sin. Vows that include better or worse, sickness and health, richer or poorer, dip into an idea of commitment that outlasts feeling and comfort, but Our Savior dives further still. His forever love reaches from eternity past to eternity future with the blink of our lives in between. Jesus knew every person He encountered on Earth would betray Him, and yet He loved. He knew we had nothing to offer, and yet He sacrificed. He knew that so many would refuse the gift, and yet He gave. Come, Lord Jesus!
The truth is, my conditional love was justifiable in our culture, and that is where the words “radical” and “crazy” have a contrasting spotlight. Romans 8:29 says: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Hmmm. God wants me to be like His Son. His Son was known for sacrificial love, reckless obedience, and death on a cross. Jesus continually submitted to the will of the Father, and that never looked like comfort and convenience, relaxing in relationships with people whose value was readily acknowledgeable. Jesus, fully God, knew that His suffering would save us, and He said YES.
We see Jesus regularly seeking time alone with His Father. In the secret place He found sustenance for the requirements of a strenuous life. We never see Him tantrum when a person flakes on their responsibilities, or retaliate when someone openly offends Him. He endured the devastating duo of being betrayed AND misunderstood… without forfeiting His purpose. This Savior of ours, fully man, learned obedience (Hebrews 5) and acquired maturity through being fulfilled by the King, and therefor needed nothing from man. The manipulation that stems from a need to control is absent, and His stride through emotional pain is notably different than any other man I have seen.
How can my life reflect His in any small way? What authority does God give me on any day at any level to suffer in a way that benefits someone else? Is it truly possible for me to unplug from the outlets that meet my needs of all kinds and plug into Him alone? Sometimes the best way to learn is hindsight; I can see so many missed opportunities with my younger sister growing up to stand up and take responsibility rather than throwing her under the bus, or to give her the best of options for a change. I honestly can’t remember a time when I did. Sure, we loved each other and had fun, but my selfishness and self-preservation won out in most cases, and I regret it deeply.
When the bottom of my life dropped out a few years ago, an opportunity arose, though I didn’t perceive it at first. True, I was focused on my pain, but I was no longer the needy little girl that jockeyed to get those needs met. I was a believer, and I took my pain to the King. As the world spun, He held me fiercely. I would plead with Him to change my circumstance, but instead, He held. I would plead with Him to let me come home to heaven, but He just listened and held. He incubated me and began filling my cavern of need with His very self. Eating from His table changed my palette, making others’ obligations towards me a condiment rather than the main dish. Over time, He would begin my training in the most lethal form of martial arts… executed with the greatest of weapons: love. Love as the Author and Inventor intended, with no strings, conditions, or frailties. And because my needs were lavishly met, I could give it as a free will offering.
My devotion to the King played out as a commitment to my family. I am no longer the cute princess [read: flake] that was married at 23; I am a warrior [read: ninja] with a victorious record (or was that my Daddy God?). And with heaven waiting on me, you can bet that I am RIDE OR DIE.