He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.
~ CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter VIII
I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to give up this love, this kind of love, this way of loving… To me, it seemed like the only way of loving, intimately, another human being was with a woman. I could see no other course. Giving up this love was like stepping off into a black hole, or standing in front of a wall – left there staring at it for the rest of my days.
“If only the will to walk is really there…” But what if I did not even have that? What would a righteous, holy God – the Creator – want to do with a part of His creation who said she wanted to be all His, yet wanted to keep this part of her life to herself?
I’m not sure where or how I came across it, but it was when I was in college. I had put a copy of these words posted on my wall over my desk in the dorm room in Philadelphia:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.
~ Ezekiel 36:25-27
So, the Almighty – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – was willing to stoop down to meet me where I was and give me even the motivation to follow Him. After all that He’d already done for me, He was willing to do more.
We used to sing this hymn in a single’s group I belonged to:
Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From Whom those comforts flowed.
When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou
With health renewed my face;
And, when in sins and sorrows sunk,
Revived my soul with grace.
Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the last a cheerful heart
That tastes those gifts with joy.
Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
For, oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all Thy praise!
When All Thy Mercies, O My God
Words: Joseph Addison, in The Spectator (London: August 9, 1712).
“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts,” He had already given. And this was yet more. So I prayed, many times then and still do now when the occasion calls for it. An echo of the cry of the man who came to Jesus asking for healing for his son; ”Lord I believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) I started asking God to help me to want to follow Him in this part of my life. Not to stop loving women, but to learn how to love them differently, sine eros. And to be open to the capacity for loving men intimately.
And He did, little by little, bit by bit – I began to gather the will to want to hand over the way I was loving others to Him.
He warned people to “count the cost before becoming Christians. “Make no mistake,” He says, “if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect – until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.”
And yet – this is the other and equally important side of it – this Helper who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty. As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk; no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I will save you…
~ Ezekiel 36:29a