Heart, Mind, Soul, and Neck
God said to Moses, “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” – Exodus 33:3 (NIV)
I’m always a little wary when a couple comes in for premarital counseling and they say they’ve never had an argument. Makes me question their readiness for lifelong commitment. How can you be sure you love someone if they’ve never made you angry enough to destroy them?
Maybe that’s a strange way to look at it. Perhaps we should be looking for the one we never fight with. At least we might expect that God would be such a partner … unless, of course, we’ve opened the Bible.
Instead, the God who leads Moses & Company is a God who can keep covenant in the face of anger. God still welcomes the Hebrew people into the land of milk and honey but needs to take a timeout and cool down all the same.
When I think of the most significant relationships in my life, they’ve all included conflict, moments when friends and family were mad enough to destroy me. And then they didn’t. Despite their anger, they chose forgiveness.
Those moments taught me something about the depth and reality of their love for me. A love based on never arguing is a fragile love. It may disappear if trouble comes. But a love that stays committed when I am at my most stiff-necked is a love I can depend upon. That’s the love I’d follow into the wilderness.
God of stiff-necked people, (like me) may frustration give way to forgiveness and all know the depth of love in which they are held.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.