For a Sunbeam
By Edward Waters
(Copyright © 2003)
Her angels face
As the great eye of heauen shyned bright,
And made a sunshine in the shadie place;
Did neuer mortall eye behold such heauenly grace.
-- Edmund Spenser (The Faerie Queene I.iii.4)
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate ...
-- William Shakespeare (Sonnet XXIX)
Through the years I have heard a number of preachers in various pulpits warn married people against making idols of their spouses -- loving a wife or husband as much as one should love only God. I do not know that there is a connection, but I find it painfully ironic that the wife of every one of these preachers eventually filed for divorce.
Of course, it is true enough that we should always be wary of letting our love for anything compete with love for our Lord. We should never exalt the creation over the Creator, or the gift over the Giver. However, it is also true that great evil often comes of overcompensating in one direction while trying to avoid some imagined evil in the other.
With all due respect to those preachers, I see more worth in the comment of another Bible teacher: that He loved God with all his heart and loved his wife with all his heart, and that he had not found the paradox to be a problem. While I am not certain precisely how that worked in his case, I do know that my relationship with my own wife has often proved, not competition, but in fact a good monitor or gauge of my relationship with God. When I fail Him, it frequently produces an 'echo' in my failing her somehow. And my love for her, rather than leaving less love for God, tends to deepen my gratitude and devotion toward Him and help me better appreciate His love for me. Even during the years when Cindy was being consumed by clinical depression, withdrawing emotionally and relationally from everyone -- including me -- and sometimes doing and saying things that hurt me more deeply than I will ever be able to express, I found myself considering again and again how my own thoughts, words, and deeds alienate me from the God who loves me, and how they must break His heart every moment of every day.
Most of all, however, the simple fact of my marriage has always been to me a miracle. I who almost always feel alone in a crowd, I who have such difficulty just making and keeping ordinary friends, I against all odds found the love of my life fairly early in life. No Christian apologist will ever be able to offer me more convincing proof of the existence, the power, the love, and the grace of God. In a song I wrote for and sang at our wedding, I told Cindy, 'Because you're joining me, I know I never really was alone.'
I am sure it is possible to make idols of those we love, but it is also significant that the Bible repeatedly charges us to demonstrate our love for God by showing love to those around us. 'Beloved,' wrote John, 'let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.' 'Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these My brethren,' said Jesus, 'you have done it unto Me.' And, of course: 'Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may show yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven.' We who believe are called 'the Body of Christ'; and, both collectively and individually, we are to embody Christ to the world. Chiefly, we do this by imitating His love.
There is an old children's song which begins, 'Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.' At first glance, a sunbeam bears little resemblance to that massive ball of fire spinning through space and holding our world in its orbit. Yet have you ever noticed, during a partial eclipse, how, shining between the leaves of some tree, every sunbeam mimics on the ground below that shape in the sky above, the one that is so dangerous for us to look at directly? So should we, through our love, remind others of the Source of love. And sometimes we may be all of Him they can see for the moment, either because they have never yet dared to face Him directly or because some pain has temporarily dimmed a believer's eyes.
Love can be counterfeited, of course. People often neglect or hurt those around them in the name of loving God. Or we may neglect God Himself as we seek our own affirmation under the guise of serving others. But real love can never compete with real love. 'We love, because He first loved us.'
When we surrender ourselves to the love of God, we learn love from Him, and it begins to permeate and transform everything. It manifests itself not only in our spiritual devotions, but in our human relationships. So not only can we love both God and one another, each with a whole heart; we are, in fact, commanded to do so.
The one leads to the other -- and is proved by it. Matthew 10.37; Luke 14.26
 I John 4.7
 Matthew 25.40
 Matthew 5.44,45
 I Corinthians 12.27
 I John 4.19
 Matthew 22.37-40[The preceding is from the Lent 2003 issue of Stirrings of the Grey Wind, where it had been adapted by the author from a devotional delivered in October 2002 at Covenant Fellowship of Greensboro, North Carolina.]