Months ago a friend handed me a little book entitled “Have A Little Faith,” written by Mitch Albom. Honestly, it sat on my shelf for a long time gathering dust. It’s not that I was uninterested; I was plowing through some dense reading material and figured that Albom’s book was a little too light for what I had my teeth sunk in at the time.
I thought I would turn to it when I needed something lighter, like cleansing your palate after a heavy meal. But what a fantastic surprise! This little book has turned out to be proof that big things indeed arrive in small packages. Mitch says more in a few pages than I can say in writing a year’s worth of columns. Further, ten percent of the profits from the book go to refurbish places of worship that aid the homeless. You really should go buy a copy. You can read Mitch’s words for yourself, and help your neighbor in the process (No, this is not a paid advertisement).
To whet your appetite, the book tells the story of Rabbi Albert Lewis, who asks Mitch to deliver his eulogy when the time comes. It was a strange request, as Mitch had pretty much abandoned faith. But over the last few years of Albert’s life, Albert rekindled Mitch’s faith through deep friendship and the telling of story after beautiful story. One of those stories is called “Salesman.”
Albert told the story like this: “There’s this salesman, see? And he knocks on a door. The man who answers says, ‘I don’t need anything today.’ The next day, the salesman returns. ‘Stay away,’ he is told. The man gets very angry and yells and threatens the salesman.
“On the third day the salesman returns once again. ‘You again!’ the man screams. ‘I warned you!’ He gets so angry, he spits in the salesman’s face. The salesman smiles, wipes the spit off with a handkerchief, then looks to the sky and says, ‘It must be raining.’”
Albert explained to Mitch – to us all – that love is just like that. If they spit in your face, you say, “It must be raining,” and you go back tomorrow. You stay at it. Albert would agree, I think, that such love mimics the endless, relentless love of God. He stays at it.
No, this isn’t warm and fuzzy talk. This isn’t the power of positive thinking. This is the real love and grace of God poured out on us without condition and without end. God’s love for us does not depend upon who we are, the good or bad we have done, or the mistakes we have made. God’s love depends upon his own nature and goodness. Even when we spit in his face, he keeps coming back. That is why the worst of your personal failures, the worst crimes you have committed, your divorce, your drug abuse, your emotional baggage and weakness, your arrest record, your selfishness, your adultery, your addiction, your dishonesty, stupidity, and your bone-headed decisions – fill in the blank – can never separate you from God’s love.
Yes, we have all been guilty of having the “uns” at points in our lives. We have all been unworthy, undeserving, unprepared, unemployable, undone, unnoticed, unthankful, unjust, unfair, uninsurable, uneasy, and unaccepted. We have been unknown, underdogged, unapologetic, unhinged, unraveled, undesirable, unbearable, unclean, unethical, underhanded, uninterested, unkind, and untouchable. We have been unwanted, unlucky, unnerved, unpopular, unpredictable, unqualified, and unstable: But none of us have ever been unloved.
God is not keeping his distance. He arrives at our doorsteps with open hands and an open heart, loving us to the point of infinite sacrifice, doing anything – and has done everything – to make us feel welcome, safe, and able to trust him. So even if we shake our fist at him in rage, spit in his face, and do everything we think possible to spurn his love, God will be back; standing on the porch in the rain of our refusal, eager and ready to love us through our rejection.