I was sitting on the couch early one morning last week when my four year old son came and sat down by me. He’s my wild one, the child who doesn’t stop, so having him sit quietly next to me is a rare occurrence. I gently put my arm around him and pulled him close, as I said “Son, do you know why I love you?” He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face.
“Is it because I am nice?” “No sir,” I said with a smile.
“Because I put my shoes away?” I shook my head no.
“Because I eat all my dinner” “No, son.”
I laughed and said, “That’s great and all, but that’s not why I love you.”
He just stared at me with a big smile on his face. Then I locked eyes with him and said, “I love you because you are my child. I love you because you are mine.”
To be loved unconditionally, with no strings attached, is a difficult love to process. It is a challenge because such love is counter to the love we find here in this world. To find love in this world, you just have to find a way to produce what the world desires. And the world wants you to perform actions that will bring it value. Work hard at your job, and you’ll receive love from your boss. Make your family’s favorite dessert, and you’ll be the most popular one in the house, at least for half an hour. Look good while having a ton of money, and society will be your best friend. But the love the world gives us isn’t pure. It’s conditional. Works-based. You have to do something to earn it. And most of all, it doesn’t satisfy. It may for a moment, but that moment won’t last.
The love of God the Father is so radically different than the love this world provides. It doesn’t make logical sense. In fact, it is so simple, it’s complicated. God loves you just as you are, not as you should be. He loves you for you, not for what you do. When he sees you, he smiles because you are his most prized possession. And you do absolutely nothing to earn or deserve such love.
This concept is difficult for me because of a number of things. First off, receiving such perfect love from a perfect Father is hard. I am so used to earning love through performance that unconditional love feels foreign at best, and cheap at worst. I’m much better at doing things for God than I am at receiving from God. Next, the concept of being loved by a good Father is hard for me to navigate due to my experiences with my earthly father. But, even for the best of fathers, the fatherly love God provides is different in all the best ways. Lastly, often times the lies I believe and my past sins make me feel like I am unworthy of such love. The question, “Why would he love someone like me?,” pops up, keeping me from experiencing the perfect love the Lord has for me.
But if God really is who he says he is, perfect and loving regardless of my actions, and if I am really who he says I am, his child worthy of being a part of his family, then I want to experience all that my perfect father has for me.
Here are four ways that I try to experience the perfect love of God the Father on a consistent basis:
- Down with performance-based love!:
What is the “why” behind the things that you do? Which activities are you doing because of obligation to make God or man happy? Do you really believe God loves you just as you are, regardless of performance? I have found fear to be the main driver of most of my actions, but when I know that “perfect love casts out fear” it helps me change the motives of my actions. (1 John 4:18)
- Deal with my past:
Is there anything hiding in the darkness that you need to bring out into the light? Dealing with issues such as unforgiveness, childhood disappointments, or unprocessed hurts through trusted friends or professional counseling has brought freedom in my life.
- Speak the truth:
The devil is the king of lies, and he’ll speak those lies to you to keep you from experiencing the love of God the Father. Whenever I hear a lie, such as, “What will people think?”, or “You’re not _____ enough to do that,” I speak truth over myself, for example, “I am a child of God,” or “That doesn’t sound like something a perfect Father would say to his child.” Remember, God only speaks words that uplift and encourage; the enemy is the one who condemns, judges, and brings you down. Replacing the lies I believe with Scripture helps me remember who I am and who God says I am.
- Being over doing:
Spending quality time just being with God the Father helps me develop intimacy with him and receive his love from his Holy Spirit. Praying, reading the Bible, and listening to worship music fixes my eyes on Him instead of on the things of this world. Quality time with someone is a must in any healthy relationship, and that is true with the Lord as well.
As you go through today, I want you to ponder one question: Do you know why God the Father loves you? It’s not because you’re nice, or because you put your shoes away, or because you finished all your dinner. It’s not because of how much money you have, your daily accomplishments, or how many times you go to Church small group. Those are all great, but that’s not why he loves you. He loves you because you are his child. Because you are his. You are his most prized possession. May we all walk more in that truth today.