Friday, November 13, 2009

The Perfect Lover: How Reading a Vampire Book Brought Me Closer to Jesus - Absolute Provision

Ironically, absolute provision is not about the Gift - it’s all about the Giver.

We all need things. We all want things. No mater what anyone says, we all need a little money now and again, and some of us want a lot of it.

As George Bailey says, in It’s a Wonderful Life after Clarence the Angel tells him they don’t use money in Heaven, “Well, it comes in pretty handy down here, Bub!” Indeed.

In our culture, we’re either programmed to provide for ourselves or to allow others to provide for us. Neither way, however, results in absolute provision. A bond must exist, one measured in fathoms – the deeper the relationship, the greater the provision.

There’s a natural progression to a romantic relationship in this regard based on the level of affection – friends “go Dutch” – a dating couple exchange gifts of affection yet it’s inappropriate to join bank accounts at this stage – after the ultimate commitment (betrothal/marriage) come the ultimate gifts… physical, financial, tangible, mental/emotional, etc..

But, it’s not fair to ask for the white picket fence from someone you just want to be friends with. The greater the intimacy, the greater the gifts/provision. (Every provision is a gift on some level.)

Today, we misunderstand the art of giving. It’s become a trade – if someone gets me something worth $50, I feel I ought to give that person something of similar value. That’s not gift-giving – that’s an obligation and/or entitlement.

We’ve all heard, - it’s not the gift, but the thought that counts. There’s some truth in that – but only if the thought is sincere and truly born of the heart.

We’ve also heard – giving is better than receiving. Well, that all depends on how you look at it. What they forgot to tell us is that both are important.

The gift does not depend on the deservedness of the giftee or the greatness of the giver. Receiving is as great an art as giving. Great people can be crappy givers. The lowliest of rascals can be the most gracious receivers.

It comes down to intent and thankfulness.

Edward possesses all the characteristics of a great giver –honorable intent, desire born of love, unlimited resources.

The Cullens are loaded financially – spending money is of no consequence to Edward even though he doesn’t do it ostentatiously. So, resources are not a problem.

Desire isn’t lacking – he desperately (though quietly) wants to provide for her – car, college, birthday presents. It’s the one thing he can do that doesn’t cause him any pain!

He’s clear on intent because his only motivation springs from unconditional love and unyielding commitment – he has no plans to use giving to lord over or manipulate her.

So what’s stopping him?

Bella is – the givee. She’s a horrible receiver.

This causes conflict and stalls the progress of their relationship.

Her main rationalization turns out to be a massive inferiority complex, although she puts a nice spin on it. Edward didn’t seem to understand why I objected to him spending money on me… But how could I let him give me things when I had nothing to reciprocate with? He, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to be with me. Anything he gave me on top of that just threw us more out of balance. (NM, pg. 13)

Perfectly justified in her own understanding, she outright refuses the one hero attribute she’s capable of resisting. She blocks his desire to give and thus robs his joy.

To Bella’s credit, she doesn’t hurt him intentionally. If she realized what she was doing, she’d probably be mortified since her every waking breath depends on him. But she’s so self-depreciating, she believes the misconceptions about herself, Edward and their relationship. She just couldn’t grasp how her actions could deprive amazing, perfect, divine Edward of anything.

That’s not her only problem, though, because there is something that she wants – essentially, the white picket fence on the basis of their current relationship status.

And for Edward, it’s not an acceptable trade off.

She wants to become like him, a vampire, which basically freezes her life in time and space. She’d never age or change or die. She could be forever young with her love. Thing is, she wants Edward to change her – to be the one to give her that eternal life.

For reasons too complex to go into here, Edward does not desire this outcome for her. It’s not that he doesn’t love her or want her around for eternity, but he has a few personal issues with his state of being that take him outside of the analogy I’m trying to draw here. That’s not important to the point. The point is, he agrees to her request…

On one condition! He’ll change her, but only if she marries him first. (NM, pg. 539)

It’s not a condition of his love. He loves her unconditionally and that won’t change no matter what she does/decides.

But the gift she asked for went beyond the level of intimacy they had attained. She’s not even accepting the gifts appropriate to their current relationship status, why should he grant her something so entirely significant without a deeper level of intimacy?

I love this because it's a beacon in our modern world. Today, intimacy is cheap. Access to greater, more sacred gifts is granted so easily, without thought to their value, without care of true commitment, love, or intimacy.

Bella grew up believing marriage stood for bondage (that’s a sum up, but it’s the gist). She didn’t know that committing herself solely before giving herself wholly could possibly turn out to be a good thing. But Edward knew. And he didn’t want her to miss it. So he withheld something she wanted, a big, ultimate thing she wanted, to encourage her to take the plunge into a greater existence – not just the living eternally part, but the deeper, intimate relationship of husband/wife part.

It was about the giver, not the gift. Bella needed to realize that first.

What a poignant and maybe surprising perspective of our Perfect Lover, Jesus.

For starters, Jehovah Jireh (Gen. 22:8), which means Provider, is loaded! Resources are definitely not an issue. And I think that’s easy enough to grasp.

But do we believe God desires to provide for us, and that His intentions are a natural overflow of love? (Isa. 64:4; Jn. 10:10)

Maybe it’s not that you don’t think God is great enough to give. Maybe you’re a resistant receiver.

Maybe you’re self-depreciating like Bella, and you resist the provision God wishes to bestow out of false humility, feelings of unworthiness or self-righteousness.

Maybe you want the ultimate gift of eternal life, but are unwilling to dive into an intimate relationship with Jesus – to follow His commands, read His word, walk with Him daily.

Maybe you’re willing and trying, but depending too much on your own understanding, worrying, fearing, disobeying, not trusting His promises.

Maybe your focus is too much on the gift, and not enough on the Giver.

Jesus’ love letter to us says, “Seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matt. 6:33) He’s saying – Look here! Focus on me. Love me. Have relationship with me. Don’t you think that out of that intimate communion, I won’t provide everything you need because I love you?

Some of us don’t know because so much about love is learned through experiences and so many of our human experiences are bad, harmful even. But Jesus also says, “You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? If they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:9-11) The comparison here is parents, but it can also be applied to lovers.

There are so many more Bible verses begging for us to hear our Perfect Lover’s giving heart I can’t write them all here. But I’ll reference a few and encourage you to look into them. Also, study the Old Testament characters (Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Job… just to scratch the surface!) and look how God provided for them - because He did – every time.

1 Kings chs. 17-19 – Ps. 37:25Ps. 50:10Ps. 121Psalm 144Jer. 29:11Matt. 6:25-34 - Matt. 7:7-122 Cor. 9:8Eph. 3:20-21 - Phil. 4:19Heb. 4:162 Pet. 1:3

There are so many out there desperate for some sort of provision– financial, physical, emotional – and are at the end of their ropes. You may feel like your Perfect Lover can’t hear or doesn’t care (perhaps like Bella when Edward went away for a while in NM).

Don’t give up! Hold fast! He does hear and He does care, and He wants us to trust that He will be our absolute provider. Seek Him first, tend the relationship between the two of you, and He will take care of all the rest.

I’d say I promise, but the better and more accurate thing to say is -

He promised.

(click for next chapter: An Intimate Relationship with the Perfect Lover)


LynnRush said...

Right on.
Never thought to look at it this way. I always did wonder why he wanted to marry her first. Makes sense though, Lori.

Nicely said.

Susanne Dietze said...

Beautiful, Lori. What an awesome reminder that God CAN provide for our every need. He's got the means, and He loves us and wants to give us good things. Great analogies. Thanks!

KM Wilsher said...

I didn't see this. Wow. Great Lori.

And what a wonderful way to wrap it up :)
Just love this!
Don’t give up! Hold fast! He does hear and He does care, and He wants us to trust that He will be our absolute provider. Seek Him first, tend the relationship between the two of you, and He will take care of all the rest.

I’d say I promise, but the better and more accurate thing to say is -

He promised.
Want to hold on to this!