I was raised in a very conservative, Southern Baptist home, and my parents took me to church every time the doors were open whether I thought I needed it or not (Thank you Lord for godly parents). I also attended a Christian school from kindergarten through high school. It was at school that I felt that God was all about discipline and damnation. I learned of God's harshness and how everything is either right or wrong. The results, a lot of kids rebelled and were turned off from the church rarely to darken the door even now. Some kids like me lived in fear of failure and condemnation. I have to admit it made me stronger because I bucked up to it and towed the line, but it hasn't been until recently that I have been willing to accept God's love unconditionally. I have had an amazing walk with God with peaks and valleys, and He has proved Himself over and over again to me throughout my whole life. He took me and my husband through such a journey just to become parents and has restored my marriage on more than one occasion. And yet, here I am at 38 really feeling, learning, and accepting His love. It started when I read The Shack by William Young, and when the main character returned to the shack and met God. It was such a healing book, and I didn't know that I needed healing.
The Bible said there's no greater love than this that a man should lay down his life for his friends. If God, knowing that I was going to royally screw up in my life from time-to-time and that I was going to need redeeming, decided to sacrifice His son for me before I was even created and yet He created me anyway, does that not speak volumes as to His love? His love cannot be measured. It's incomprehensible to me at times. "I could sing of your love forever. I could sing of your love forever."I have been loved by my wonderful godly parents, and I love my husband and children dearly, but in my life next to God's demonstration of love, there are two women who have shown what sacrificial love truly is. These women are the birth mothers to my beautiful children. One I've never even met, and the other allowed me in the delivery room when our daughter was born. It was the most gut-wrenching event when she had to place Erin in Patrick's arms and leave the agency without her. People tell me that they could never place their child for adoption, and yet, birth moms and dads make the choice to give life to their children and bravely, boldly, and lovingly choose a better life for their child. That sacrificial love is rare, and I am doubly blessed as are my children for the selfless act. God made that same choice for His Son. The only difference is God knew in advance His Son would pay the highest price in order to show us His love, His sacrificial and redeeming love. Birth parents place their children for adoption to give those children hope and the possibility at a better future, but God gave His Son to Joseph and Mary and all humanity knowing -- HE KNEW -- He would be brutally sacrificed so we would KNOW -- not hope for a better future, we would KNOW that He has a plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). Plans that include hope and a future in Him the One who loves us without strings or conditions or limitations. He loves us despite of ourselves, and there is great freedom in that.
Sorry, I went off on a tangent.
Lisa wrote, "God's love is without pretense, without conditions, and without limits. His love feels good the night before, the morning after, and every time in between. It is like water to a thirsty soul, food to a hungry heart, and freedom to a confined prisoner. It is nothing short of amazing, and I am constantly amazed by it. I cannot believe He loves me like He does..." This is what I have been learning this whole year. Could not have said it better myself. You know, I looked to my husband for love, and while he loves me, it isn't always the way I want to be loved, and to be honest, he's human. He's going to screw up like I do. I cannot expect him to fill the need only God can fill.
Acceptance -- here is another area this chapter has had perfect timing in my life. Since being off from work for 6 weeks recovering from a partial hysterectomy God has been laying some things on my heart that requires action. One of them is, for lack of a better term, a charm school for girls in the 3rd through the 5th grade. Keep reading. I'm not talking southern belle stuff. If you knew me, I'm more of the Steele Magnolia sort. It is my sincere desire to find a curriculum or create a curriculum that focuses on manners, physical changes and acceptance, and spiritual. I want these girls to know their value comes from God. Lisa sited Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I KNEW you, before you were born I set you apart." THANK YOU, JESUS! Psalms 139:13-14 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I pray you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." God does not consider a life a choice, nor does He consider the work He is doing in a woman's womb, a choice. For those who have struggled with fertility issues, we may be keenly more aware or more sensitive to how miraculous pregnancy and the creation of a life is. Your life is. You are precious in His sight. The creation of a human being and a healthy delivery is truly a miracle. If a baby makes it through delivery, they are already over-comers.
I want these girls to not only accept themselves but to accept others the way God made them. He takes His time to knit them together -- do you realize knitting requires hands? God's hands? Do you realize that knitting takes time, patience, and He uses those terms only when talking about the human race. I haven't found in the Bible where He does that with any other living thing on this planet. I want these girls to know how precious they are to God and to not believe what the world and Satan are selling which is women have to be toothpicks to be beautiful; to be popular is the goal and will make you happy; to have the designer toy, etc, will make you fit in and belong. HOGWASH! I have a 7 year-old, little girl named Erin, and Wednesday night on the way home from church after having some special mommy-daughter time before, I told her I was so thankful that God created her so wonderfully. She told me she didn't think so. She told me she wanted to be thinner! SHE IS 7! And Satan has already started feeding her the lie.
We don't have to do one thing to be accepted or loved by God. He loves us despite ourselves. We just have to be willing to allow Him into our hearts to work.
One more thing before I close. Last year when my mom was going through a grueling round of chemo to fight Stage 3 breast cancer, my worship pastor went to visit her. He asked her if there was anything, anything at all he could do for her. My mom said that there really wasn't. She said, "It's enough to know that Jesus loves me." Why would God send His Son to the cross all those years ago just to harm my mom now? He wouldn't. He's not cruel. One of the most valuable lessons my family learned last year was the love of God and how He uses other Christians to do His loving for Him.
I hope the little girl in you will sing: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones (God's children) to Him belong. They (we) are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
My prayer is that we have the courage to leave our fear and insecurities and jealousies at the feet of Jesus and that we willingly accept the loving arms of God around us and the Spirit's gentle hands around are hearts. And then, my prayer is that we emanate God's love to those around us, accept them as they are, and lead them to the One who loves like no one else every can.