Ten years ago I had a conversation with a young woman, we were discussing the characteristics of God. She said she had a heard a speaker one-time share that yes, people go around saying that God is love but first and foremost we must always remember that God is holy. Hmm, God is holy. Holy. Set apart.
Well, I clung onto that thought and somewhere in it set apart transformed into far apart. His holiness, His perfection was distant from my sin and couldn’t draw near. And when God is far away He sits in judgment. There fear steps into the place of love, but isn’t fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom? True, but if you can’t draw near to wisdom, then how can you obtain it?
With this transformation my faith became transactional, to get to the love I so desperately sought after, I would need to perform to do to obey because Jesus instructed that if we loved Him then we would obey Him. Obedience is easy because you can tell when you’re doing right and doing wrong, hoping that the doing right was inching you close enough to the favor you sought and the love that you hoped for. But to view God as far away meant that love was always far away too and no amount of transactions would get me to the point of satisfaction to a judgmental God or a judgemental self.
Now, well now I’m seeing that maybe I got everything all wrong. It started with this notion that God is Love. I had focused so much on holiness that I left off in discovering Love but thankfully it never left seeking after me. When Love began to awaken me I could finally sit in its presence, in all its glory and beauty. And for the first time, it wasn’t distant but it was still holy.
I couldn’t understand Love or God in His totality because I was trying to understand Him with human constructs and beliefs. I realized that when I thought of love I thought of the sinful way we use love, love as merely a feeling of the heart or give me love and I’ll show you love in return, hurt or harm me and I withdraw. This is not God’s Love. God’s Love is holy, it is set apart and that’s what makes it beautiful and life-giving. I start to start secure in Holy Love first.
To immerse myself in a Holy Love I must die to myself though, the self that clings to the human construct of love. If I continue to try and squeeze love into those standards no fruit will flourish into abundance and I would never truly love God, my neighbor or myself. I have begun to have a foretaste to what taking up my cross and dying to this false self will mean. It means seeing the true depth to the depravity of my own sin so that Holy Love can bestow compassion and grace and gentleness to me. It means bringing Light to old wounds, as painful as that might be so forgiveness, that is bathed in compassion can be truly bestowed and so I can stop living in denial and instead know healing and freedom.
So in my transforming view of life from the “either/or” to the “both/and” I am seeing that God is both Holy and Love, He’s actually Holy Love. We can not separate the two lest we get hung up on the one characteristic apart from the other. No, they must be married together. He must be Holy and He must Love, but it must be Holy Love. I still have much to learn about Holy Love but for now, I’m enjoying just being with Him and letting that gentle truth wash over me.
(Meditate on 1 John 4 to sit with Holy Love.)