Does Christ Really Love the Church That Much?
Does Christ Really Love the Church This Much? |
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. NASU
In the past, I’ve always thought of the above scripture as instruction to the husband. I had never until now; saw it as a statement about how much Christ loved the church.
It was 5:00 PM and I wanted to be in downtown Richmond for a 7:30 PM meeting. I was exhausted and had been lost all day. I finally pulled off the exit and could see my campground. The plan was to fix a quick dinner and head downtown. I was a little nervous about navigating downtown Richmond at night in Hapless (the camper van) so my husband found directions on the internet. Looking at the gas gauge, I realized I needed gas and turned into a station next to my campground.
I pulled up to the pump, keys, credit card, and phone in hand. Pumping gas into Hapless takes a while and I often make phone calls. Hapless needs keys to open the gas cap, which doesn’t have a safety cord attaching it to the car. That means, in addition to the phone, keys, and credit card, I also had to hold the gas cap. Yes, I know I could put it on the ground, but I’m terrified of forgetting it.
I juggled the phone and credit card as I put the key in to remove the cap. Then I juggled the phone and gas cap while I inserted the credit card. Next, I juggled the credit card, phone, and gas cap while I removed the pump. Why anyone bought clothing without pockets suddenly alluded me.
I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t close enough to the pump for it to easily fit into the tank. I studied my options. I could move Hapless closer or I could insert the pump while pulling on the hose. Sadly, I chose the second option. As I pulled the hose and tried to insert it into the tank, everything else in my hand went flying. I leaned down and picked up what I thought was everything, and filled the tank.
When I got to the campground to check in, I was missing the credit card. Frantically, I jumped into the car and rushed back to the station. There was a car at every pump. I found my spot, got down on my knees, and looked under the car sitting at my pump. “What are you doing?” a grumpy woman asked.
“I lost my credit card. I think I dropped it when I was getting gas at this pump. I was hoping it was under your car. Have you seen it?”
“We just got here,” she said defensively. “I hadn’t even been out of my car so I didn’t take it.” I didn’t think she did. Did she protest too much?” I looked under her car but unfortunately, it wasn’t there.
Next, I went running into the station. “Has a credit card been turned in?” I asked the cashier, pushing ahead of others in line. People looked ready to attack.
“No.” She looked over at the other cashier and yelled, “Sadie, you seen a credit card?”
Sadie answered without looking up, “Nope.”
The cashier looked back and said, “Lady, you better call your company right now and cancel that card. Ain’t nobody round here gonna give back no credit card.”
I didn’t even have the information I needed to cancel the card so I did what any self respecting wife does. I called my husband. “Cancel the credit card.”
“Why?’ Reasonable question but annoying.
“Why do you think? I lost it,” I snapped. I’ve been married a long time and knew my best bet for delivering this information was to sound humiliated and repentant while giving all details the transaction, thus giving my husband a chance to process the dilemma. For some reason, I wasn’t willing to do that.
“How did you lose it?” he asked. I knew he was going to ask that. Why is he so predictable?”
“Why does that matter? Just cancel the credit card. I’ll tell you later.”
Bob is a curious person and this lack of information added to his stress. “You know this is going to ruin our lives, don’t you.”
How could he be so dramatic? Aloud, I said, “And what am I supposed to do about that now?” I hung up on him.
In all fairness to him, I knew perfectly well what he meant. We get frequent flier points on this card so we use it to pay our bills. Don’t worry, we pay it off each month. That means our card number lives in many computers. It would take weeks or months to get all of those computers convinced we had a different number. Since Bob pays the bills, he was the one that was going to have to pay the price for this carelessness. I felt vaguely guilty for dumping my emotions on him but rationalized, isn’t that what husbands are for?
After hanging up on Bob, I went back inside and asked the cashiers again about the card. They glared. “Go talk to the food people. Someone might have turned it in there.”
I walked over to the restaurant and asked if they had a credit card. To my surprise and delight, they said, “Yes, we do. Hold on.”
A man sitting at the booth said, “Boy, you sure got a break.”
“Yes, but I just told my husband to cancel the card. If I don’t catch him, he’s going to be upset.” The man chuckled, giving the look that men give helpless scatterbrained females. I quickly called Bob back and told him to not cancel the card.
He was so relieved. “Good. I was already in the cue for canceling the card but my cell phone kept dropping the call just as I get to the end.”
“You should have switched to GSM when I did,” I smugly said. “They warned us that the old digital network would start dropping calls.” Had I just said that? How shallow am I? Am I really pointing out his mistakes so I won’t feel so stupid? I tried to be more gracious. “I guess I’m glad you didn’t switch to GSM or our card would already be cancelled.”
This time, I said bye to Bob before I hung up. After taking forever, the woman came back and asked, “What name was on the card?”
“Touchton.” She left again and stayed another 5 minutes. When she finally came back she said, “No, that wasn’t the name. This isn’t your card.”
I wanted to cry. How was I going to call Bob again? I was finally feeling compassion for my poor husband. I called and gently said, “Cancel the card. The card they found wasn’t mine.” Silence on the other end of the phone. Finally, he sighed and said, “OK.”
I walked back to the cashier, hoping the card had been turned in while all of that had been going on. I asked for the third time, and this time neither woman bothered to answer me. I walked out to the pump, for one last look. All of the pumps were empty so I scanned the entire parking lot. Was I seeing things? There, on the ground, an entire row of pumps away from where I had been parked, was my credit card, none the worse for wear. It seems that when I dropped everything, that card had flown through the air to the next set of pumps.
I grabbed the phone, called Bob, but he didn’t answer. Oh no, he’s canceling the card and doesn’t want to lose his place in line. Bob and I both have call waiting and our rule is that if we call back a second time, that means it’s urgent so we take the call no matter what. When I called back the second time, he still didn’t answer.
What do I do now? Then I remembered that Bob had two cell phones. What can I say? I’m married to a man who likes getting phone calls. It took me a moment but I found the other number and dialed. Thankfully, Bob answered. I will never make fun of him again for having 2 cell phones.
“Good, I got you. Have you cancelled the card?”
“Bob, I found the credit card.” I wasn’t going to get excited until I knew if he had cancelled the card.
“Where was it?” Bob wasn’t going to answer my question until I’d told him the entire story. Turn about is fair play. I gave him all the gory, humiliating details. He didn’t interrupt.
After I finished, I asked, “So did you cancel it yet?”
“No.” Hmm. I noticed he was being awfully quiet – using those same one word answers that I gave when I was so embarrassed. It wasn’t like Bob to hold grudges so I suspected something else was wrong.
“Why didn’t you take my call when I called on the other phone? “ I gently probed.
“Cheryle, my phone is broken.”
“What? What happened?”
“I tried to cancel the credit card. Every time I’d almost get finished punching buttons, my phone would drop the call. I got so mad, I threw the phone,” he sheepishly confessed. “I guess I’ll be getting that new GSM phone now.”
At this point, I had two choices. I could do what I wanted to do (and laugh), or I could offer sympathy about how stressful this had been for him. By this time, I was thinking more clearly. “Honey, this has been hard on you. I’m so sorry I hung up on you.”
“What? I thought the phone had dropped the call. I didn’t know you’d hung up on me.”
Great, I thought. I’ve just made this worse. I didn’t know what else to say.
Instead of getting mad, my loving husband asked, “Aren’t you about to be late for your meeting?”
“I’m too stressed to go. I’m going to check in at the campsite and relax. As rattled as I am, I’d probably get lost. I guess I’ve been pushing myself too hard.”
Bob knew how much I’d wanted to go to that meeting earlier. “Cheryle, I’ll help you. I have the directions right here and when I get home, I can pull up a Richmond map on the computer. If you read the street signs aloud, I’ll know right where you are and can make sure you’re not lost.” How did I get so blessed as to have my own personal GPS?
As I listened to his calming voice, I calmed down. “I don’t have time to eat supper,” I argued.
“Yes, you do. If you get started now, you can make it. Go over and check in at the campsite, eat dinner, and call me.” I followed directions and even had time to change out of my camping clothes. I felt better, just wearing street clothes.
After dinner, I called him back and he walked me through to my destination. Calmly and quietly he would say, “You’re going to come up to James Street next. Just keep going. Your left turn is 2 more blocks.” He stayed on the phone until I arrived, went inside, and made sure there were people at this meeting. When the meeting was over, I called him back, and he stayed on the phone until I got back to the campsite, walking me through each turn. Never once did I hear a recrimination about my rudeness or carelessness. He did suggest not talking on the phone when I got gas. A couple of days later, I saw a sign that said it’s dangerous to talk on the phone at the gas pump so I’ll probably take Bob’s suggestion.
As I lay in bed that night, I thought about my husband. While I was taking my panic out on him, I’d known he would love me no matter what. I trust his love and don’t usually take advantage of it, but today I had.
I felt a sense of awe settle over me as I realized that Bob had modeled for me the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Through Bob, I could see Christ. I depend on Bob’s grace and he always gives it. Yes, I know Bob isn’t perfect. He did smash a phone, after all. But, because Christ is in Bob, he can model Christ’s love for me.
Suddenly, I had a new perspective for the scripture about husbands loving their wives. Christ, do you really love the church as much as Bob loves me?
I felt His answer. I love her more than you can fathom.
My mind wandered to the people I’m meeting who are frustrated with the church or have given up on her. The answer to their frustrations is clear. Jesus loves the church and so should we. Like Bob’s love of an imperfect Cheryle, Jesus loves the church even when she isn’t perfect. He sanctifies her and presents her blameless, without a spot, even when she doesn’t deserve it. Instead of blaming the church for her imperfections, we are to love her with unconditional love.
Years ago, Bob and I made a decision. No matter what happens between us, we will love each other. The answer to everyone who feels let down by the church is that no matter what the church does or doesn’t do, we should still love her, just as Christ does. The next day, I talked with a woman who had given up on church. “The church is full of hypocrites,” she said. “I pray and believe but I don’t have anything to do with organized religion.” In response, I just told her this story.