Live Unconditionally

That’s my new mantra. I’ve been writing it on my hand or wrist for the last week, just as a reminder. Doesn’t mean I’m actually doing it, but, hey, just setting the goal is a good start, right?

Two characters from the Bible have kept popping up in conversations this summer, and I’ve taken that to mean that I probably should be learning something from them. To be fair, I’ve been partially responsible for recurrence of one of them, even if someone else planted the seed originally. The other, however, has a life of his own.

And, let me hasten to point out, I’ve also been too lazy to actually do a serious study on either of these guys, but think I’m about to start. I even included a biography of one of them in my big Amazon order I mentioned recently. So what I write here isn’t really so much my conclusions, as the foundation of what I’m going to be looking at. If this post is horribly ignorant, just let me know where the flaws are, and I’ll be sure to look at those things as I’m diong my actual research.

Anyway, the characters in question are David and Hosea. Initially, I assumed these were two separate threads, they came from different places and seemed to tie in with different, albeit possibly related, issues. Recently, however, I’ve decided that there is a common thread to the two stories —

Live unconditionally.

The seeds of the awareness of David were planted very early this year, as I was reading Gene Edwards’ A Tale of three Kings: A Study in Brokenness. I read the book, got out of it what I got out of it, and moved on. When I returned to David, it was for reasons that had nothing to do with that book. Instead, it was more inspired by some stuff I read about Saul in God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God, which I wrote about a while back.

The issue then was what the difference was between Saul, David and Solomon, and particularly the first two. All three start off annointed by God, and recognized as Godly men with great promise as king. All three stumble, to varying extents in varying ways. And all three come to very different ends. All three paint VERY different pictures of redemption. Sure, God redeems everything, but in Saul’s case, the redemption doesn’t help him much. On top of all of that, David is called a man after God’s own heart. He’s far from perfect, so what quality in imperfect David does God identify with Himself?

I chipped away at it gradually, not making much progress but, without knowing it, gathering pieces of the puzzle, until I came across an answer that I’m working with now. My discipleship group leader was talking about David as a model of a bad father, and that he wanted to learn from David’s mistakes in raising his own kids. Basically, his take was that David became different following the death of his child by Bathsheba; that he became more passive. And, as a result, he became a poor father who failed to be the head of his house and install discipline, which led to the revolt by Absalom. That passivity was captured, he argued, in his reaction to the revolt; not really even trying to maintain power, and just leaving his fate up to God and the people.

But it struck me that the approach of the “weak” later-years David was not that much different from the “strong” younger David, when Saul was king. He fled, but continued to do what he was supposed to do. He refused to claim the mantle of leadership, but allowed others to choose to follow him. He wouldn’t kill his enemy himself. And, he trusted that if God wanted him to be king, he didn’t have to make it happen, he would be king.

In short, I would argue, David lived unconditionally. He was the unconditional king — he didn’t make anyone follow him, he allowed people to choose to follow him. He did what he felt he was supposed to, regardless of what anyone else did or didn’t do.

And, I would further argue, that may well be why David was a man after God’s own heart — he was a king much like God is a King. God makes no attempt to force us to follow Him, to accept Him as King. He simply does what He would do if He were, and allows us to choose whether or not to follow Him.

The story of Hosea, to me, has two pictures of unconditionality, one of which took longer than the other to get. The first is the picture of unconditional love — buying his adulterous wife back after she left him. And even this is something that I struggle with. It’s easy for me, not just in relationships but in general, to think this is something that comes easily to me. I’m not one to harbor grudges, to dwell in resentment, even when some might argue it would be in my best interest. But is that really unconditional? Or does it come with expectations? I mentioned in a blog post the other day about love songs with substance the Alanis Morisette song, “You Owe Me Nothing in Return,” which includes the line — “You can ask to live by yourself or love someone else and I’ll support it.” How many of us are really anywhere near that level of unconditional love? I love you enough that I don’t care if I’m with you or not? Yeah. Wow.

But the second lesson of Hosea for me is this, as I put it on Twitter last week after church — “Hosea was a prophet, not a beggar.” Chapter 1 of the book talks about his wife leaving him. Chapter 3 talks about their reconciliation. Chapter 2? Prophecy. When his wife leaves, Hosea doesn’t beg her to come back, and doesn’t even go after her until God tells him to. In the meantime, he’s off being a prophet. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, living his life for God.

Again, he’s living unconditionally — living the life he’s supposed to, and trusting the outcome, the future, to God.

Working from that point, I could come up with more examples, more support. But that’s beside the point, because those are the two stories I was given to work with.

The issue of surrender has been a big theme for me this entire year, and one that I’ve really struggled with. It’s a balance I have a very hard time with; I just really didn’t have a good enough picture of what that looks like to even try to walk it, despite trying to work on it and grow in it over the last seven months or so.

It’s not atypical for me, however, to have something make more sense to me after having the same picture presented to me from a different perspective. And while I’m a long way from being able to actually walk the idea of living unconditionally, I think I’m making more progress with it than I was with the idea of surrender. Live how I’m supposed to, don’t try to force an outcome, and trust the future to Him. Sure, it’s hard. But if I ever figure it out …

My devotional book this week talked about trapeze artists at the circus, and compared God with a safety net, “one that never wears out and that prevents (us) from making fatal spiritual mistakes.” It went on to talk about the freedom that gives us: “Secure in his arms, we can learn to take the risks that faith requires. If you have been playing it safe, resisting some new direction in your life that you know to be right, take some time today to meditate on God’s faithfulness. Tell him you want his will more than you want your own. Then go ahead and do whatever the Father asks!”

And that’s where I find myself — I realized two years ago that He’s much better at the big picture than I am. I can easily trust Him with where I’ll be five years from now. I know that I couldn’t begin to make plans for the future that He couldn’t do far better than. But I still struggle with the small picture. I can trust Him with five years from now, but can I trust Him with today? Do I really trust Him that I don’t need to worry about tomorrow, I need to just do what He would have today? Do I really trust Him that I don’t need to worry about whether I’m loved, I just need to love? Do I really really trust Him to do, to live, without worrying about the outcome, without second-guessing the results of what I’m doing?

Answer: No. But I’m working on it.