Checkmate

Tuesday is my fullest day of the week this semester, followed closely by Thursday. Both days I have back-to-back classes from 8 to 4:45, except for a break between 10:45 and 12:30. On Tuesdays I go straight to work at 5, and don’t get off until after 9.

At the beginning of the semester, I decided that break between classes would be a good time to read the Bible and pray. For the most part, that has worked out well. But in recent weeks, I’ve been finding myself using that time for homework more and more.

This Tuesday started the same way. My 9:30 class got out at 10, so I had extra time. I started out by making my equation sheet for my steel test the next day. I was going to get started on one of my two assignments due today, but for both of them I needed books I’d left at home. So then I started to work on the recording from the message on Sunday. Most of the time I can do all the processing, editing, and exporting on my iPad. But some weeks, like this week, there is a lot of noise in the recording. To clean that up, I would need my laptop, which I didn’t have with me.

It was as if God had cornered me. So I prayed, “Alright, God, checkmate…what do you want to say to me?”

I was fully expecting something about my lack of discipline, about how I needed to be better about spending time with him, about how much I’ve been drifting away and not really living for him most of the time. Or something along those lines.

Instead, he said, “I love you.”

That was it.

It started to sink in. On the one hand, I’ve been more and more distracted lately by so many things, and I haven’t been focused on God much at all. In some things, I feel like I’ve just been going through the motions, and in others, I’ve been letting them slide almost completely. On the other hand, as I’ve been realizing this recently, I’ve been beating myself up over it, and telling myself I need to do better. To the point where that’s what I expected God to say to me when I took the time to listen.

But he didn’t. He just said, “I love you.”

I realized in that moment that I’d reduced him to a religion – one that I couldn’t even keep.

He doesn’t care about how much I’m following the rules if it’s just for the sake of following the rules. He doesn’t want me to begrudgingly give him time out of my day just to check it off my list. He doesn’t want me to serve at church and be a leader and all that if it’s not an outpouring of love for him. And he doesn’t want me to strive to do better in all those areas if I’m doing it on my own strength and because it’s what I “should” do. He loves me, and he just wants me to choose to love him. Everything else flows out of that.

It’s so simple, but so easy to forget. But in spite of that, he relentlessly pursues me. Until I finally listen.

In my mind I heard the lyrics from “One Thing Remains”:

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me
Your love

And it’s higher than the mountains that I face
And it’s stronger than the power of the grave
And constant in the trial and the change
This one thing remains

And on and on and on and on it goes
Yes, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever have to be afraid
This one thing remains

In death, in life
I’m confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid
There’s nothing that can separate my heart from your great love

No matter what I’m going through, no matter what I do, no matter what happens, he will never stop loving me. And he just asks me to love him back. And sometimes he needs to break through all my distractions and checkmate me to remind me of that.

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