A harsh reality:
Unconditional love often seems like an alien phenomenon in our world. In the last week alone I heard about three acquaintances whose marriages have ended, in each case because one partner decided he or she no longer wanted to be with the other. In our cultural climate, almost any reason is viewed as a legitimate one for breaking vows and walking away. This kind of conditional love is the norm we live with. It permeates the stories in the media and the anecdotes we hear from friends. It disheartens and even angers us because we long to believe in something better.
If we are very fortunate, we have known the unconditional love of someone close to us; perhaps a parent or a sibling. And where this is the case, this experience of love is something we carry with us through life, knowing that it is possible, and striving to love others the way that we have been loved.
But each of us has many more examples of being unloved, being betrayed, and rejected. And everything we encounter in life – from social gatherings to advertisements – all of these things tell us that we should be more attractive, more intelligent, and more successful. We live in continual awareness of how we are measuring up with others. We know that if we gain weight or lose our jobs we will somehow be loved and valued less.
Really reflecting on His love
One day, some years ago, for reasons I no longer recall, I felt the need to spend some time in prayer just meditating on God’s love for me. You see, we talk about God’s love a great deal. We may say the words, “God loves me,” with ease and theological certainty. But I don’t think we really allow ourselves to experience, to be embraced by, God’s love as often as we need to.
After a long time in silence, just focusing on God’s love for me, I began to hear these slow words that unexpectedly reduced me to sobs:
“I love you.
I love you completely.
I love you just as you are.
Knowing every detail of where you have been and all of your failings,
even so you are mine and I love you.
And it doesn’t matter if you can think of nothing clever to say.
And you don’t need to be the best.
You don’t need to earn the most.
I love you in all the smallness of who you are.
I love you in your inherent brokenness.
You are my child and I love you completely.
No matter what happens I will always love you just like this.”
What we need to face the world
That was years ago. But I still wrap God’s words around me every day because his unconditional love is what I need to face the world with hope and humility – knowing that I am small, knowing that I am loved, knowing how desperately the rest of the world needs to know love like this.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” – Ephesians 3:17b-19a (NIV)