Hearts and Spines

“Look for tangible expressions of God’s intangible love,” our pastor challenged us last week. What better place to see God’s love than at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg, Texas.

As Mark and I scanned the vistas for a sign—a heart in nature—we didn’t see a thing. All we saw was a rock shaped like a cow’s head but we didn’t think that counted!

So we climbed down the Rock and forged our own path to make a shortcut to our next trail. This way was not easily defined and more precarious. At one point, I decided to shimmy down on my bottom only to get a bit too close to a cactus. It promptly stuck it’s spines in me, through my jeans and into my skin! (I was still pulling out those tiny, thread-like babies at nine that night!)

A little later we came upon a mushroom-shaped rock. Sarcastically I said to my husband “That’s not shaped like a heart.” Then immediately my eyes fell on a cactus leaf shaped like—yes, you guessed it—a heart. Then Mark saw another and after that we saw a bunch of hearts in the cacti.

We continued walking and marveling at God’s displays of love. Then it dawned on me that the very thing that had shown me God’s love had also stuck its spines in me! I didn’t like that thought. I don’t like the idea that God would hurt me or discipline me. I have spent my life avoiding God’s discipline by being good.

And yet scripture tells us that God disciplines those he loves in Hebrews 12:5-11.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Could it be that my motivation for obedience is simply to avoid discipline, rather than because I love God? In stark contrast, God’s motivation for discipline is his love for me!

What did God want me to learn from the cactus? His love comes in many tangible ways, not only through hearts (touchy feely blessings) but also through spines (discipline).

What tangible expressions of God’s intangible love have you experienced?

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