There was a time when I barely spoke at all. I felt as though I possessed little self-worth and that any attention or love I received was based upon my ability to perform. I didn’t perform very well either. I was an awkward little redheaded girl who didn’t seem to excel at anything no matter how hard I tried. As I looked around my tiny world, I heard a subtle message spoken from the pulpit of the Church and throughout the hallways of my home that said that the only people worthy of love and respect are the ones who stand out in front and lead. I coveted that attention and acceptance. How did one gain the necessary skills and abilities to step out in front? I needed to know because I needed to be loved.
As I progressed through my 20’s, I began stepping out and taking on small leadership roles in my Church. I desired to serve God and His people with my whole heart but underneath, my motivation was just to be loved. And then an astounding thing happened: Our Church made a major doctrinal change from espousing legalistic theology to understanding the gift of grace. What an exciting thing to have happen! I had yearned for this thing called “grace” my entire life. But what was grace? I had been raised in the black and white vestiges of earning my love and salvation. How did I dismantle the entire scaffolding of my belief system and learn to accept something I didn’t deserve and hadn’t earned?
This monumental shift in our Church doctrine resulted in many vacated seats in our Church. For many, they just weren’t able to accept the fact that their salvation and membership into God’s family was freely given upon repentance. They exited the Church in huge droves because their leadership and works didn’t hold the same import it had before. There was no comprehension that they could be loved and accepted by God without working for His love.
This same wistful feeling seemed to whistle through my being like a violent windstorm. I very much wanted to be loved and accepted for who I was made to be but it was a spiritual sensation that I had never been given the right to. I continued to work and perform at Church at ever heightening levels. And then I couldn’t. Low level depression overtook my psyche and wove it’s way into my body. I avoided Church. People started calling. However, now they seemed genuinely concerned about me and not upset that I wasn’t performing my church duties. A few seemed to still love me but what about God?
Yes, what about God? I talked and talked to Him and asked Him what grace was. I now understood the basic concept of grace but I just could not comprehend how God could love me for me. One day, in the middle of a prayer, I had what I call an epiphany or a spiritual vision. It was like watching a movie play out in front of my consciousness. In this movie, I saw a newborn infant. The infant was held by a grown being who looked at it adoringly. The baby laid there and did nothing. In fact, it became evident that the infant did absolutely nothing to incur the intense adoration and love on the part of the grown person. Instead, the child exacted a great deal of patience and work from the adult being, as it needed to be comforted, fed, soothed, rocked, and changed out of it’s soiled diapers. What in the world did this infant do to earn the unconditional relentless love of the adult? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The adult person unconditionally loved the baby simply because it was His and He created it.
And in that moment, I realized that I was that baby. You and I are that baby. We did absolutely nothing to earn God’s love and we can do absolutely nothing to lose it. We are loved and adored simply because we are His and in His great love, He created us. Our only response to God is to praise Him, love Him, and accept His invitation to an everlasting love relationship.
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.