A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Yeah, but does God “so love” individuals (as in, me)? –Part II

does god so love me

Missed Part I? Get it here!

We’d all likely agree that each person matters to God. But when it comes to us, in our own moments alone, we can allow fear, doubt, and darkness to trump the gifts piling up to our left and right, evidences of a Father.

Truth is, as I’ve looked back at how God’s brought me from my jaded, skeptical, highbrow position of holding His love at arm’s length, my delicately veiled ingratitude has been revealed. Most of us would be appalled by a well-loved child—a teenager, perhaps?—insisting, “My parents don’t love me. They love all their kids, and I happen to be lumped in to that category.” Any mother who’s meticulously guarded her diet when she only suspected the double pink lines on that stick, who’s forfeited countless REM cycles to middle-of-the-night feedings, or who’s scrubbed vomit from the carpet would counter (at least mentally), where were you when I took such pains to care for you?

God has not left me as an orphan—in any sense of the word. Choosing insecurity in His love, for me, was denying the beauty, warmth, and privilege He’s so generously moved heaven and earth to bring me. Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, brother to renowned author Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote, “The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”

Perhaps that’s what’s led me most toward unfolding the arms of my heart to embrace this waterfall of God’s care: a reality that it’s everywhere. The effervescent tangerine streaks of a sunrise; the belly laugh of a child tickled by his dad; the just-in-time sight of my keys on the car seat before I slam the locked door. Some version of Ann Voskamp’s suggested list of one thousand gifts from God has shifted me from a sulking pride to worship.

In truth—it’s shifted my focus from my own, disbelieving self, to who God is.

Quietly, God has changed my tone from my “Prove it!” (even when that tone is pleading) mentality to, “How could I deny it?”

All this time I’d wondered whether my focus on God’s love for me would put me in the center of my beliefs about Him, rather than God as the center of my world. But questioning that did just the opposite, my mental arms petulantly crossing my chest and refusing belief in a God much greater and certainly far more loving and faithful than myself.

Moreover, finding my satisfaction in God and His love has shaken my world. Turns out my insatiable appetites aren’t so voracious when they’re stuffed with the “Bread” that can fill every hole in my heart.

Maybe you don’t suffer from the same swamp of ingratitude cementing my feet from dancing. Perhaps the scars of your heart extend much further inward than mine, only swelling when you consider that from which God did not rescue you. If God loves me, how could He allow such an elaborate setup of tragedy in my life?

Questions like these are less easily solved. Please understand I’m not implying a blithe, “Suck it up and be grateful!” In place of the physical arm around your shoulder, the silent listening an article can’t possibly substitute, perhaps I would simply ask you what a counselor requested of a sexually abused friend as she crawled from beneath the incredible burden of her past. In all those places where you wonder Where were you?, imagine Him holding you. Imagine Him weeping at the unspeakable suffering humans cause one another. Imagine His anger, and His promise of justice. Imagine His own suffering at the hands of vile men, not because He couldn’t stop it—but because He loved you just that much. Because He saw, and trusted, a resurrection far greater, just three days away.

Plodding along my spiritual path, I’ve collected stories like smooth stones, dropping them deeply into the pocket of my mind. Sometimes I mentally run my fingers over the lives represented there: My friend, Rachel,[1] abused by a church official and family friend for over two years. Hers is a life of beauty from ashes, as now the abuse victims she’s helped and the mentees and foster children filtering in and out of her home have become too many to number. There’s my friend Tara, a victim of rape and molestation, who now serves out of a muscular inner strength as a missionary in Africa—with a particularly sturdy arm to hold up struggling women. There’s Jim, whose learning disorders have given him a rare creativity and a remarkable capacity for compassion. There’s my friend Shawn, whose unstable, manipulative home has shaped him into an intuitive, gifted mediator and counselor, an advocate for the downtrodden.

Do these stories condone the evil that batters our lives? Hardly. But they do point to a God who continually—individually—continues to form beautiful things out of dust, to layer life and breath upon dry bones. He is still the “God Who Sees”, the God who touches the untouchable, whose mere garments carry power to reverse the maladies of a decade. Who, despite the intentions of man, intends evil for ultimate good.

The Bible is far from a large, lumped-together story of humanity being loved. It’s the tightly woven tapestry of thousands of years, untold individuals, who generation after generation found God to be just as He said He is: faithful. Loving. To them, and undulating outwards to their family, their friends, their people.

And waiting—arms outstretched—for you.

[1] Names have been changed to protect identity.

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  1. Finding the love of God from a youth’s perspective is so much different than trying to find the love of God after major abuses. So often in these abuses, Satan comes in and uses those “cracks” in the souls of those broken by the sins of others against them, and tirelessly fills them with lies about God. Everything from His sovereignty, to His perfect love. It becomes so cancerous and toxic. In these people, it is important to not look at what they can do to heal themselves, for there is no hope without the power of God intervening through deliverance prayers, but how God can redeem them from the great oppressions that comes because of the lies and the beliefs that are built on these lies. When those barriers are gone, the love of the Messiah is able to naturally flood us with His great and perfect love. And the proof of this is that the triggers dissolve, the need to control our environments dissolve, all the the things that fear does to create a frenetic pace in the mind that lacks the peace of God are swept away in His healing love. Love these verses…
    1 John 4:16-18. Thank you for your heart felt blog.

    • I definitely agree with your (well-articulated) thought that the way people suffer at the hands of others opens our minds to a new level of distrust God and His love–our original temptation back in the Garden. And “frenetic” is right: I think that deep-seated distrust robs our peace, our joy, our ability to love others well and “believe all things, hope all things, endure all things”. I’m so thankful with you that Jesus is our ability to conquer, to believe and love Him with all our minds and our strength–and to bring life from dead things.

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