LENT: Day 9 - God Is Love, Believe
Friday, February 23 2018
Today, on the ninth day of Lent, I continue to reflect on the daisy we spoke about yesterday.
When I was a girl, I loved to play the “Plucking-the-Daisy-Petal” game, always hoping that good luck would make that last petal I plucked a “he loves me”. It’s been many years since I’ve played with real daisies, but I have realized that I continue to play with “spiritual daisies” when I ask myself what perception I have of God’s love for me. Not just in my mind, where I have an intellectual understanding that God loves me. Not only in my spirit, where I believe by faith that God always loves me. But in my heart, in the depths of my soul, is my perception of God’s love for me like plucking daisy petals: He loves me – He loves me not – He loves me – He loves me not? He loves me, because today I woke up feeling good and content. He doesn’t love me because ten minutes later I got upset at my husband or children, and I know that my attitude was displeasing to God. He loves me, because I was able to experience some time in the presence of Jesus. He doesn’t love me because a little later a comment made by a colleague at work made me angry, and I know anger was not the reaction that God wanted from me … And I continue this way all day: He loves me – He loves me not – He loves me – He loves me not. Like a pendulum, swinging between the conviction that He does love me come what may, and the doubt that because of all the ways I have made a mess of things He really does not love me that much.
I struggle because I forget that my perception of things is not always reality. And when I’m dealing with the love of God for me, and the doubts and fears I have in regard to that love, my perception is always wrong. Because God’s love for me never changes. Never. His love for me is never “more,” whatever comes my way, whatever I do, whatever I say. And it’s never “less”. It’s always, always, always the same; it’s unconditional and it’s complete. There is nothing that I can do today or tomorrow that will cause Him to love me more, and there is nothing I can do today or tomorrow that will cause Him to love me less. He simply and always loves me with an unfathomable and eternal love. Period.
So, if I want to continue plucking my “spiritual daisies,” I need to change the rules of the game, and begin to say with certainty: He loves me – He loves me – He loves me – He loves me. He loves me because today I served God whole-heartedly and with gratitude – He loves me, even though I was impatient today and raised my voice – He loves me because today I overcame a temptation – He loves me, although today I fell into temptation … In this new version of the “Plucking-the-Daisy-Petal” game, each petal I pluck is a “He loves me” petal, because there is never a moment in time or in eternity when God “loves me not”.
The sad thing about all of this is that if I continue to play this game with the old rules, I end up living most of my life, or at least a great deal of my life, as if I were loved less than I really am. Each time I pick off a petal from the daisy and think or say “He doesn’t love me,” I live as if I were loved less than I really am. I live with doubts. I live with fear. I don’t live in abundance. I don’t live in fullness. My life ends up being less than it could and should be because I feel less loved than I really am.
This is why Paul’s words in his letter to the Ephesians hammer me again and again: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Henri Nouwen, a famous Dutch priest who passed away in Canada about fifteen years ago, went to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. For two full days he contemplated the painting The Return of the Prodigal Son by the famous Dutch artist Rembrandt. As a result of that profound reflection and meditation, he wrote in his book The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Meditation on Fathers, Brothers and Sons: “Each small step to the center seemed to be an impossible demand, a demand that required me to once again let go of the desire to always be in control, to once again release the desire to predict life, to once again die to the fear of not knowing how everything would end, and to once again surrender to a love that has no limits … I could never obey the great commandment to love if I did not permit others to love me without conditions and prerequisites … This is the essence of the good news: God is for us! … Many times truly accepting love, forgiveness and restoration is much more difficult than granting them. It is a place beyond winning, deserving and being rewarded. It is the place of complete devotion and total trust.”
Dear friends: my prayer during this season of Lent is that each day all of us might better understand the magnitude and excellence of the love of God for us – it is so wide, so long, so high and so deep that it surpasses our understanding – but only as we begin to understand it and believe it, only as we begin to abide in this love will we be able to experience the fullness of life that we so long for.
Dear friends: let’s play the “Plucking-the-Daisy-Petal” game again, but this time let’s play convinced that each petal is a resounding “GOD LOVES ME”. Let’s be rooted and established so deeply in the safe love of Christ that we will never live again as if we were loved less than we really are.
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