Monday, April 4, 2011

How Can You Love Me?

God loves me.  

Several days ago, I knew this to be true based on several things (the Bible says so; God sent His Son to die to atone for my sins; He has worked miracles in my life; He has revealed things to me and used me in ways that I can interpret as nothing other than love; He has blessed me immeasurably), but I had not actually felt it. For me to understand love in my heart as opposed to in my head, you see, has been a lifetime struggle. Perhaps it always will be.  When people disclose to me how they feel the love of Jesus, I have a hard time understanding it.  I want to, desperately, but can't quite get there.  

I can relate it only to the way I feel love in human relationships, which, in large part, is more like need.  In other words, when other people need me, I interpret that need as love.  In this way, love becomes more like a business deal, or an exchange of some kind: I do good work, you love me.  I excel at sports, you love me.  I buy you a piece of jewelry, you love me . . .  or how about this one: I love you, so you love me.  Not every relationship is like this and not all the time.  But we often are loved and love people in this way.  And generally, this kind of love can sustain us for periods of time.  What happens, though, when you are not needed; there is no one who needs what you have to give?  Isn't that where loneliness and darkness set in?  We feel an emptiness, a uselessness or even worthlessness.  It is often in stillness, that I feel least loved and often unloved.  Worse yet, when I am feeling unloved, I cannot love others very well, if at all.  I suspect I am not alone in all of this.  There are others out there who associate love with need, or who believe subconsciously or consciously that love is what you receive in return for something else.  So when there is no one there who needs what you have, you cannot expect to receive.  You give nothing, you get nothing.  And when you get nothing you give nothing.    

I sat alone in my car last week watching a masterfully drawn sunset (above) and suddenly, despite myself, felt within me: God loves me.  It hit me out of nowhere and it was a feeling of deep sense of fulfillment, one I hadn't felt before.  This was followed immediately, however, by tears sparked not by joy and delight, but by overwhelming regret, shame, and embarrassment.  I asked God through my tears:     

      How can you love me?
      I am disobedient, unfaithful, sinful.
      How can you love me?
      I am ungrateful, forgetful, prideful.
      How can you love me?
      I don’t do enough, I could do more.
      How can you love me?
      I go my own way, I turn from yours.
      How can you love me?
      I fear, worry, and distrust.
      How can you love me?
      I do all of the things that you hate.

As soon as I ended this cross-examination/self-condemnation, hands shaking, eyes swollen, nose running, there was a moment of silence followed by a whisper from God, impossible to miss:

            One has nothing to do with the other.

In this moment I knew God had revealed to me not only a major flaw in the way I have been understanding His love, but also a new understanding of the way I am to love others.  To understand His love, I had to first tear down my construction of love.  His love is not an exchange.  Ever.  There is nothing I can do or not do that will make Him love me more or less.  One has nothing to do with the other.  He just loves me, unfailingly (Psalm 6:4), unendingly (Psalm 100:5), perfectly.  The way Jesus loves me is not based on whether I am faithful to Him, always trusting, always at peace, always fearless.  His love for me is not based on accomplishments or whether I come through on something.  His love is not dependent upon whether I love Him.  Indeed, God demonstrated His vast and unconditional love for me by sending Christ to die for me in my unfaithfulness, sinfulness, ungratefulness.  (Romans 5:8)  

This matters for two interconnected reasons:  

First, I can stop striving to earn God's love.  It is there no matter what.  

Second, I must love others the way God loves me.  Jesus said: "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  (John 13:34-35)  Jesus did not say love others the way they have loved you.  Perhaps it's just me, but this command, though I've heard it thousands of times, suddenly feels pretty impossible.  But God's perfect love enables us to love the way He does.  "God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. . . We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:16-17, 19)  By accepting God's perfect love for us, our love for others will eventually come to resemble God's love, a perfect love.  And in our human relationships, if someone were to ask us the questions I asked God (above) or if we were to ask these questions of others, the answer would be: one has nothing to do with the other.  Imagine.




  1. We sing "amazing grace", but less often "amazing love."

    Unless, of course, we are singing along with the Newsboys:

    Amazing love, how can it be?
    That You my King should die for me?
    Amazing love, I know it's true.
    It is my joy to honor You,
    In all I do, to honor You.

    A beautiful, profound post, Kellye. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, I love those lyrics. They made me think of these, from Tenth Avenue North's song "Times":

    "my love is over,its underneath, its inside, its in between;
    the times you doubt me, when you can't feel;
    the times that you've questioned 'is this for real?';
    the times you've broken, the times that you mend;
    the times you hate me and the times that you bend;
    well my love is over, its underneath
    its inside, its in between,
    these times you're healing
    and when your heart breaks;
    the times that you feel like you've fallen from grace;
    the times you're hurting;
    the times that you heal;
    the times you go hungry and are tempted to steal;
    in times of confusion and chaos and pain;
    i'm there in your sorrow under the weight of your shame;
    i'm there through your heartache;
    i'm there in the storm;
    my love i will keep you by my power alone;
    i dont care where you've fallen, where you have been;
    i'll never forsake you
    my love never ends, it never ends."