A friend and I were headed for haircuts together. It was definitely time: My naturally curly hair was starting to resemble, at alternating moments, a lampshade or a labradoodle. As we circled a roundabout discussing spiritual matters, her confession tumbled out. “Honestly, I’ve always struggled with whether God loves me—as an individual.”
Her vulnerability echoed a statement I’d mulled over not too long ago. I know God so loved the world. But does He “so love” me? Strangely—humbly—I now felt like I had unshakably come upon the answer to that question. But how had I gotten there? My thoughts drew me back along my own meandering spiritual path.
In college, friends and I had remained ever cautious of the postmodern, individualistic, antinomian “God-is-love-and-that’s-all-you-need-to-know” theology, and the curious supremacy of the individual in so many modern churches. We’d seen “God wants me to be happy” employed as the reasoning behind far too many counter-Scriptural decisions. So it seemed necessary to wrestle through the Bible’s treatment of God’s love for the individual.
But more than that, the question waged war in my own gut. A deep-seated insecurity made me highly suspicious of love in general, let alone any theology with reports of such vast love aimed specifically at yours truly—though outwardly I’d be the first to affirm that truth. Inside, however, my impression of God’s “approval” had become subtly, inextricably plaited with what others saw, with their approval…which silent, ingrown scar tissue reminded me I didn’t always have. Far from operating out of my deep satisfaction from the Living Water, I was a perpetually unsatisfied well-digger. I was certain no one else would accept the raw version of my soul. So I wasn’t about to buy into any “you are special!” mumbo-jumbo without solid Scriptural backing.
Thankfully, the Bible bears a rich lode to the seeker in this category. Paul exclaims over Jesus, “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis added). Paul’s primary proof of God’s love of him as an individual: The Cross.
Winding myself even further through the stories of ancient seekers, I’m quietly astonished by God’s responses to these strugglers. Questions of calm intention and omnipotence expose God’s compassion for their own most sacredly held wonderings. From an abandoned, pregnant Hagar (“Where have you come from and where are you going?”) to the blind Bartimaeus (“What do you want me to do for you?”) to the disciples (“What are you looking for?” and, “Who do you say that I am?”), God’s gentle, all-seeing, arresting questions reveal His careful knowledge of and nurture for our souls.
Likewise, we see that Jesus was not simply concerned for mass quantities of people coming to Him. He took the time to answer Nicodemus’ burning question under cloak of night; to swivel his gaze toward Zacchaeus’ tree; to reply to a troubled John the Baptist locked in a slimy cell. He shielded Mary Magdalene’s weathered, tender soul when He might have been winning the approval of scads of Pharisees. He set a tortured, lone demoniac free at last.
To Jesus, one matters.
C’mon back for Part II on Wednesday!
 For this concept, the author credits Brown, Sharon. Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press Books (2013). Kindle edition.