Everyone needs good friends -- people who rally around you, people who are always in your corner, people who love you no matter how stupid you act. I have a number of friends, but Shaunti and Linda are in a league of their own.
Shaunti is like a big sister, and Linda (who works for Shaunti -- and is sort of my manager when I do contract work for Shaunti) is old enough to be my mom... if she had me as a senior in high school, anyway. They are too good for me. In a sense, they each have an arm around my shoulders. I love my family, but we had all sorts of turmoil going on in my family when I was a kid. I basically raised myself (pity my future children!) and I didn't feel loved most of the time. I suppose I knew deep down that I was loved, but I rarely felt it, and it was rarely shown.
In my relationship with God, I have always struggled to hang onto my faith when I don't "feel" God. I go astray. I start to doubt. I suppose I am learning that the reason that is such a struggle for me is because I didn't feel loved growing up. Surely, God wants to make us feel loved, right?
Well, yes. But not always.
Mature faith understands that sometimes God pulls back those feelings in order to cause us to draw closer to Him, too seek Him with our whole hearts, to reach the end of ourselves and awaken to the fact that without Him, we're like a child's lost balloon floating across an endless blue sky -- no direction, no destination, blown wherever the wind takes us.
When I "feel" God's love, I absorb it like a sponge. I cannot take it for granted, because I have spent my life desiring it. I feel loved by God in many ways, but mostly through my earthly relationships. I have an amazing group of friends. God has used Shaunti and Linda and my sweet husband, in particular, to bring about that feeling.
I look around at the people He has put in my life and they way He has used to them to fill the void in my heart... and how He has used them to show me, in a very tangible way, what His love looks like, and one word comes to mind: ADOPTION.
I spent the evening with a friend tonight -- another older woman assigned by God to help guide me through this life -- and when I came home, I got out of my car and couldn't help but notice how bright the moon was, and how perfect the stars were, and I truly understood the phrase, "adopted into the family of God."
If that doesn't amaze you, let me put it another way. The King has thrown open the gates to His kingdom, and has sent out an open invitation EVERYONE. Doesn't matter if you show up in a ball gown or tattered rags. Doesn't matter if you drive a Jaguar or a Ford, if you're a rock star or a waitress. Come one, come all, and COME AS YOU ARE.