I’d like to invite you into my thoughts from a morning several years ago where God used my child to teach me of the love He has for me.
Today as I sat watching my children play, my son (a toddler before speech) caught my eye and came quickly over to see me. He laid his head on my leg and smiled as if to say “I love you.” In that moment, I felt his love and could see his joy as he expressed it to me. As I sat there enjoying and contemplating his love, I kept thinking why does this little boy love me? What causes him to express his love to me in these actions? I couldn’t help but think of the verse 1 John 4:19“We love because he first loved us.”
My baby loves me because I loved him first. He has the opportunity to love me because I chose to love him. Is he required to love me? Does he have to act a certain way for me to love him? Does his act of love make me love him more?
I loved this sweet boy before he knew how to express love and I loved him this morning before he snuggled in to show me love. I loved him when he was a colicky new born. I loved him when he wiggled in my belly. I loved him when I learned he was on the way.
Although I loved him before this display of love, his action brings me joy. I delight in him showing his love to me. He is one year old and still not yet talking. How would I know he loves me if he did not show me? His actions prove his love for me.
Contemplating love and how it is developed and expressed takes me to a story of love in my life even further back in my memories. I met my husband when I was 16. He knew that he loved me and would marry me very early in our relationship. I remember the night that he told me he loved me as he was leaving my house. I smiled and said “good night.” Over the years when we look back, he teases me of how early he knew and how he just waited for me to figure it out.
Before we were married, I remember someone asking me what I loved about him. My list started something like this… “I love the way he treats me with kindness and respect. I love that he speaks to me with gentleness. I love the fun we have together. I love that he makes me smile.”
The person was not happy with my answers, prodded further and told me that my response was not what I loved about him, those were only his actions toward me. I struggled with that argument. I questioned myself to see if I was superficial in my love for him. However, I have come to see that my love for him grew out of his love for me. I would not have loved Mark if he never paid attention to me. I would not have loved Mark if he never spoke kind to me. My love for him would not have had a chance to grow if we did not enjoy being together. I’m not sure why but Mark chose to love me and the very expression of that love invited me to love him. The way Mark treated me and the actions that I loved about him were an expression of his character. He is kind, gentle, generous, hardworking, loving. He is joyful and funny. His love opened a door for me to try and see his character and in turn have a chance to express my love to him. I love Mark because he loved me and I know Mark because of the actions of love he took toward me. Mark has shown me a picture of God’s love in my life.
When we experience or see pictures of love like these examples, we can see how being loved can invite another to love. Mark invited me to love him by offering his love to me in kindness, time and attention. I invited my son to love me by expressing my love to him in caring and providing for him.
However, all too often we look to these types of relationships of love for acceptance and value. If we build our value on how those around us love us, where do we stand when we don’t feel loved or accepted? This question takes me to yet another memory. This memory however, is not of acceptance and love but of feeling lost and alone. My memory transports me back into my middle school days. Though it may be long ago, I still remember the days I would go home and cry. I remember not wanting to go to school and not even having to fake being sick because the mere thought of facing those girls made me sick to my stomach. Really there was one girl. There was one girl that started it all, day after day. She would make me feel small and unimportant. She would say things to make the others laugh. With her words, she would push me down as she tried to create position and value for herself.
FOR YOUR JOURNAL:
Is it the love of others that give us value? If we feel unloved by others does that change our value?
This memory that sits back in my past holds a time that I began to learn that my value must be based on God and not what others think. I learned “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 b) and child, God loves us. Though I know this truth, it is still a constant struggle to remember this lesson and apply it to my life. It is often easier to seek acceptance, love and value from those around us than to rest in God’s love and love because we were first loved by God (1 John 4:19).
This action of seeking value and love from others can be played out in many roles in our lives but for me, in my adult life, it has been most visible in my role as a parent. My constant acts of doing things for my children was because I love them. However, as I found satisfaction from the relationship and their reactions, I came to expect their gratitude and love. Without even noticing, my actions became wrapped up in wanting something back. My love ceased to be pure, unselfish love like God has for us. I was looking for that returned love and thankfulness for what I was doing. I was seeking appreciation and being valued. I wanted my invitation of love offered to bring the response that I expected. I wanted my children to recognize my actions. As I mentioned, I didn’t even realize it at the time. I just felt the disappointment that nothing felt lasting or valuable because it often went unnoticed or didn’t bring the reaction I was looking for. I wasn’t seeking just to love my children with my actions. I was seeking to earn their love for myself, so I could feel valued. However, lasting value is not generated by those around us. It is found only in God.
I am very thankful that God is not like me. God loves purely because He chooses too. He does not get His value from us but gives us value from the depth of his character.
Lets look at the great love with which God loves us and how He invites us to love Him with His actions toward us. He loved you when he carefully and miraculously formed you (Psalm 139:13). He loved you when He made a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11). He loves you with each new morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Great is His love for us (Psalm 117:2). How do we know His love? In the very actions God takes He expresses His love to us.
Romans 5:8 tells us, “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We don’t have to do anything to earn His love. He says here, He showed His love to us by sending Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners. While we were still walking in disobedience to Him, He loved us! While we were still seeking only ourselves, He loved us! While I was still living for me, He loved me! Before you even gave Him a thought HE LOVED YOU!
Listen to this picture of Jesus’ love for us in John 10:9-11. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. …. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Jesus laid down His life for us!
FOR DEEPER THOUGHT AND UNDERSTANDING:
Who is this one who died for us?
Is He the very I AM that we have been talking about?
Let’s look closer at Colossians 1:15-20
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
This scripture says Jesus is the image of God, all things are created by Him and for Him, He was before all things, in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:15-20).
Jesus, the one sent by God was God. He is the I AM. He was before all things and by Him were all things made. This Jesus died for me. The One in whom “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” died for you (Colossians 1:19)! Why?
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
He loves us with the deepest, strongest, greatest love! He would die for you. He did die for you!
I am Loved.
EMBRACING MY GOD GIVEN IDENTITY:
- Can you claim this for yourself? I, _______________, am loved.
- What does it mean to be loved?
God loved us before we gave Him a thought. He gave His life for us. Our value is not determined by what other people think of us. God does not wait for us to have it all together to begin to show us love. While we were still living in our sin He loved us. In His death, Jesus showed us His love. No matter what we have done, how far we have run, or what we are hiding, God loves us. He has made a way for forgiveness.
God’s love brings value to our lives because Jesus, the I AM, the one who holds all things together. He put action behind His love.
When we search for significance and identity, our confidence is found in God. We don’t have to prove our value. We don’t need the world to tell us of our importance. We can rest our value in Jesus’ sacrificial love. He loved us and He showed us by laying down his life. (John 15:13) “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
- If you believe this is true how should this affect your life?
- What action should be spurred by this truth?
- How does this aspect of who God has made us play out in a role/position you hold?
If we are loved we don’t have to fight for position or acceptance. We don’t have to try to be something else to earn love. Love from this world or lack thereof does not indicate value. We don’t have to worry if we are accepted by others. We don’t have to change from who God wants us to be to fit in. Instead, we can live knowing we are already loved no matter what others think of us. We can choose to give kindness and love with a pure heart knowing we don’t need it to be returned with acceptance and love from others. We have already been given belonging and love from God our Father.
- Do you need to ask for forgiveness for falling short in this area?
- Is there someone that God is prompting you to invite to love you by expressing love to them?
- Are you loving unconditionally or expecting something in return?
If we were to let being unconditionally loved by God flow into our positions and actions, we would love even those that seem undeserving or hard to love. We would not need to look and search for acceptance. We could give love without needing love returned to feel accepted. We could give and not look for anything in return. We don’t have to love only those who love us. We can love because God fills us with love. 1 John 4:19 puts it this way “We love because he first loved us.” We don’t have to love and then wait for love to be returned. We have already received acceptance. Love can no longer be a tool that we use but an outpouring of what I have been given.
Borrowing from Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
May we know and fully grasp the love of Jesus. May we love our families and community out of a pure heart and expect nothing in return. Your love is enough to tell us we are accepted! Thank you that we are loved. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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What is the relationship that makes you feel most loved? Why? Is that person easy to love back?
When was a time that you were tempted to feel unvalued because of another’s actions toward you?