by Joanie Butman
My dad was visiting last week and accompanied me on a trip to Costco. What is it with guys and Costco? Every man I know loves that place. My husband’s idea of the perfect date? Costco and Swanky Franks. To him it’s like sex and a cigarette. We’ve even coined a new phrase for our outings: choreplay!
Anyway, with my Dad in tow we headed to Costco to buy food for my mom’s birthday dinner. I don’t know how we got on the subject of God, but it’s one of the safer subjects with him as his next favorite is sex. I’m telling you, men are genetically engineered in a way that undeniably puts a high emphasis on the topics of sports, food and sex - not necessarily in that order. We’d already covered the Mets’ no-hitter from the previous night, the menu we were en route to purchase, and the effects of aging on a man’s virility. And that was at breakfast!!!!
Truth be told, God is usually foremost in his mind and we’ve shared many a letter and conversation about our shared faith. Our ride to Costco was no exception. We were discussing how hard it must be for people without faith to face the challenges of life - particularly as they age.
He asked, “Did you ever have a dream that was so vivid you’d swear it was real?” I’ve heard some of his dreams, so I hesitated briefly because it wasn’t clear whether we were still talking spiritually, and I wasn’t quite sure where this was going. But before I had a chance to reply, he began to describe a dream he’d had years ago that remains with him today:
I dreamt I met Jesus and He welcomed me in a tender embrace. I stood back in astonishment convinced He had mistaken me for someone else. I looked in His eyes and said in awe, “Who, me?” He pulled me back into His arms and whispered lovingly in my ear, “Especially you.”
My dad went on to emphasize how the dream felt so real, he’d swear it actually happened. However, his next comment is the important part. He explained how on his “good” days it is real to him, but on the days he allows his failings to haunt him, the less of a reality and the more of a dream it becomes.
The conversation is one of those that will remain with me because of its poignancy in the middle of an ordinary errand and as an excellent reminder of God's unconditional love. What’s interesting, though, is that I feel the total opposite of my father. Being born a rule breaker, I don’t have many “good” days though I suppose there have been a few that others might consider good. On those days I delude myself by thinking I somehow earned God’s favor – a dangerous, corrosive mind game called pride. Conversely, the majority of my days are lived painfully aware of just how far short I fall of deservinganything from God, which is exactly where He wants me. Unlike my dad, my “bad” days are when Christ’s whisper of “especially you” seeps into the depths of my soul comforting and restoring me with His grace, mercy and love. Those are the days I eagerly melt into the warmth and safety of His waiting arms knowing I am where I belong. When I let go of the dream of perfection and recognize how undeserving I am and will always be, that is when God’s loving embrace becomes a reality. It’s something that can’t be earned, only accepted, which is what makes it so precious. Trust me, any good I’ve ever done in my life has been because I have God’s love, not because I need to earn it.
I will leave you with a key concept it took me a lifetime to understand because “religion” kept getting in the way:
“Nothing you ever do will make God love you less.
Nothing you ever do will make God love you more.
He loves you completely right now.”
Even so, it is always our choice whether or not to accept that love, to allow that quiet whisper to permeate our very being, to walk or run into His outstretched arms, to let His “especially you” become our reality.
You may need a card to gain entrance to Costco, but His arms are open to everyone - 24.7!