35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
We are being put to death all day long for your sake.
We are treated like sheep for slaughter [Psalm 44:22].
37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. 38 I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers 39 or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.
1 John 4
7 Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. 8 The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.
16 We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them.
The apostle Paul sent the Romans quite a list of things that might separate them from God’s love: “trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword.” He’d faced all of those, but he wrote the list to say, “In all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us” (verse 37). That sweeping victory empowers us to love other people with the same tireless love which John said is God’s very essence. John didn’t say just that God loves us—God IS love. If our life and love ultimately reflect our creator’s love then, as Bishop Michael Curry put it, “There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live.” *
All powerful God, whatever comes my way, keep me in the shelter of your love. Thank you that, through you, my partner and I can win a sweeping, loving victory in “all these things.” Amen.
* Curry, Bishop Michael. The Power of Love (p. 8). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
** L. L. Morris, article “Love” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997, pp. 697-698.
Several years ago, I married a young couple in a stunningly beautiful outdoor setting. In one of our premarital sessions planning the wedding, they asked if they could do something a little different than a unity candle or a sand ceremony to acknowledge their coming together as one. They wanted to do a unity painting, which I’d not heard of before. This is when the bride and groom each take paint of different colors and pour them together on a blank canvas creating a piece of art representing their union, which could later hang in their home.
The idea is that as they create this piece of art there will be places on the canvas where the colors blend and mix, flowing together, creating a new color of experiences shared. In other places, the colors will stay separate and stand out alone and independent…yet, still a complement to the bold color by its side. There may be places of contrast. Parts of the canvas that look dark or messy, while another spot remains blank and bare. However, when you step back and look at the canvas in its entirety, you will see that it clearly is an original masterpiece. A representation of how our lives come together in marriage to create something new and beautiful.
I told the couple I would be happy to try it and would work out an explanation of the ritual to introduce it to their guests, but I wanted them to promise me they would buy the supplies and practice it before the wedding day. They assured me they would.
Well, the wedding day came. When it was time for the unity painting, the couple pulled out tubes of acrylic paint. When they opened the paint and began to squeeze it onto the canvas, instead of it pouring and blending as they imagined, the paint came out like toothpaste. It didn’t pour and blend at all. They were able to smear it together in a few places and in the process a couple of chunks of paint fell off onto the ground. It wasn’t quite the creative process they imagined, nor did it produce the desired results. Then to make matters worse, a quick gust of wind came up and blew the canvas face first onto the ground. When they lifted it back up there was sand stuck all over the paint that remained.
The first thing they said to me after the service was, “I guess you probably already figured....we didn’t practice the painting.” We laughed and they said, “We should have listened to you.”
I’ve thought of this moment often and how, perhaps, it is a better representation of what marriage actually looks like at times. I think any artist would tell you that the creative process is awesome, messy, agonizing, joyous, elusive, fun, maddening, invigorating, mysterious, and sometimes all of these at once. It’s not really that different in a relationship either. You have to imagine and invent and fail and reimagine and reinvent countless times as you move through your life together.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, there are many things that will attempt to separate us from love, but thankfully there is a power in God’s love that enables us to “win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us” (Romans 8:35). So keep God at the center and don’t be afraid of the mess. You’re creating a masterpiece, an original. I never asked my couple what happened to their canvas, but I will say, they’ve got two of the cutest little girls I’ve ever seen!
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