It's so funny when I get into those relationship "down times." I take a break from studying and learning and being with God, and at the same time I find it much less enjoyable to enjoy and love the people around me. And I usually have to get to that bottom place where I realize that I can't even LOVE without the grace of God loving through me, and I always have to pray the same prayer: "God, help me love you. I can't even do that on my own."
But I always hold onto all my stuff as long as I possibly can before I get to that point.
So silly, but the night after I read the story of Jacob wrestling with God I did not sleep at all. And I wasn't dealing with anything big (passing valentine necklaces out to my kids the next day proved the cause of most of the worrying), but I realized/remembered that God let's
us wrestle with him.
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.'
"But Jacob replied, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
"Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'"
God could have laid Jacob flat on his back and shouted "I AM GOD" in a deep voice and put Jacob right in his place, but he didn't. He let Jacob have it out with him. And then he touched Jacob with a powerful touch to remind him who Jacob was, and who God is.
I'm just learning that the God of the Old Testament is still the same God of grace and love as the New Testament. He is full of mercy and grace for Abraham every time he lies about Sarah being his wife, and when Jacob keeps trying to get his Blessing on his own power. God doesn't come in with lightning and say "THAT IS WRONG. YOU WILL DIE." He sees the silly and the bad things we do, and Abraham and Jacob did, but he also sees the good actions, our attempts and successes of loving others and seeking Him. And he loves those.
And any good we do is not actually from ourselves. I mean, I know any good I do is from God seeing me trying to do good and lifting me up to the goodness so I can do it. Like when he sees me wrestling with my love for my kids that are sometimes to very hard to love. He lifts me up to that love and just lets me enjoy them and love them! I got a mini rose bush from that trouble 5th grade boy who I feel like I yell at as much as help him with math. And all of the heart necklaces I made for them weren't even worn today but by a few kids, but all those kids know how much I love them, and that's the reason why I love. I don't love to get love in return, I just love. And a few of them return it. But all of them know it, or at least have some inkling of how much I love them. I'm not going to stop loving them just because they irritate me or don't listen or don't give me valentines after I gave all them beautiful hand-crafted ones. ;)
I think that's how God loves. He doesn't love us to get our love in return. He doesn't need our love in order to exist. He just loves, and he loves how we scramble to return his love. He even loves just our knowing that he loves us. He sees the love behind our store-bought valentine cards, even when he put more work and time into his. It doesn't matter that we express our love perfectly to God or to each other. God sees the heart behind it. I can guess at the hearts behind the kids who did return my valentines. They are attempting to show their love for me, but the love is the most important part.