If I were to take a poll, I would guess that love and acceptance would be on the top of the list of things people seek in their life. Isn't that the ultimate feeling of satisfaction...to be loved and accepted? We can search the earth all over and we will never find the kind of love that our soul earnestly seeks. The love for which we long can only be found in God. However, God did create us with emotions and feelings. He created us to desire relationships and therefore to desire human love. That is good and well but that love will not satisfy us fully until we accept and embrace the love of Jesus.
If that is hard to comprehend at this season in your life, you're not alone. I know that my heart wants to be fully satisfied in Christ's love alone. Truth be told there are still certain human and relational loves that I still seek, even knowing Christ should be enough for me.
In chapter eight of Lisa's book, we examine how we are completely loved and accepted by God. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1. Lavished. That's not a sprinkle, a dash, a spritz, nor a smidgen. That's a big ol' lavish! That's more than we could ever feel, know, or understand.
Lisa so poignantly wrote at the beginning of this chapter something my heart has felt as of late but didn't realize until I read her words. Listen to this: "the depths of God's love for us is hard to comprehend. So are the height, the width, and the breadth of His love. Our human minds will not allow us to process the greatness of the love of our Father because we are programmed by the world's view of love, which has great limitations." When I read her words this past weekend, I captured my instant thoughts in the margin: This is so true. If I could comprehend His love, I think things would be easier for me...easier for me to understand the things in my life. The world teaches us to define love in fallible ways based on conditions and expectations, sometimes unknowingly. The only true love that never fails is from God. It is hard to comprehend God's love because we do not experience it from any other source. Relationships have conditions and expectations that we try so hard to meet. God does not condition His love nor does He have requirements He expects us to fulfill for us to receive His love and acceptance. When we have never experienced free unconditional love, it makes it difficult to understand how anyone, including this huge and great God, could love us so.
I shared with Lisa how I struggle with finding my identity solely in my relationship with God and His love. Instead, I look to the roles and relationships I lack. I try to measure my life on the typical life of an American: husband, children, dog, white picket fence, grandkids (okay, not grandkids...I am only 34 ya know). My identity and love should not be wrapped up in what I lack compared to what is sociably the norm. Lisa shared with me something very encouraging to my heart when I needed it. I want to pass that along to you: "It's my belief that in times like those He looks at us, not in judgment of what we SHOULD believe, but with eyes of love and grace for us to see how our life can be rich and full without anyone or anything but Him."
Lisa spoke of a story about a man and wife visiting an orphanage to adopt a child. They had much to offer the child. However, the boy declined if that was all they had he'd rather just stay put. They were puzzled and asked him what in the world else could he want. Listen: The boy replied, "I just want someone to love me." Oh, how those words pricked my heart. At this season in my life, I feel that is what my heart is screaming. I find myself envying more and more those marriages of longevity. To have a lifelong spouse of 10-15-20-30 years. Wow...what that would feel like. Lisa says: "...we long to feel the warm embrace of love wrapped around us." Oh yes. She goes on to say: "Even the best of our earthly relationships with the strongest bonds of earthly love cannot quench the insatiable thirst of our souls for a deeper connection...so much so that we're not even sure anymore that it really exists." I know this to be true. My head knows but my heart is a little behind...slow at catching up. I do have the love of the One so why am I still wanting earthly love, a love that can never quench that thirst? The love of a particular one but really the love of anyone. I feel I'm missing out not only being loved but to give love...someone with which to share this journey of life...someone with which to share all the marvelous revelations of Christ that I learn.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians. 3:17-19
Unlike human love, God's love is without conditions and limits. We limit our love with hidden expectations, conditions and unforgiveness. I believe many times we don't even realize when conditions and limits are placed on love until a relationship is put to test and the conditions are revealed. We can say we love unconditionally but that's hard to believe and rare to see. Human love within itself is limited but when we invite Jesus into the relationship and it's a circle of three, there is no limit, no power we can't utilize. A circle of three could be any relationship...spouse, friends, relatives, parents, children. Any time we invite Christ to truly be present and ask Him and His power to reign, the possibilities are limitless.
I love how Lisa pointed out that basically we can place the feelings we have about our worldly relationships onto God. Listen to what she says: "The truth is we never totally feel accepted every day by anyone on this earth, even the people who love and care for us the very most. We often feel judged and compromised by the people around us, and we just can't seem to shake the feeling that God also somehow reserves His opinion of us, depending upon how we behave or what we say and do." Have you felt that? I sure have. We cannot place God in the same category of how others may or may not treat us. God does not judge His love and acceptance based on our actions. Otherwise, we could earn His love and that is not possible. We can earn His favor and blessings. Maybe we mix up His favor and blessings with His love and acceptance.
Lisa shared seven verses revealing God's deep concern toward us and His acceptance of us. Two of them are ones written on my heart.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5
At times my flesh can rationalize that God wrote verses in general and to everyone yet somehow not personally and specifically for me. He formed everyone so my flesh says what makes, me Paula, different? Yet my heart knows it is. He did it all just for me, even if there were no one else. Yes, He formed Sally and Bob and Missy before they were born and He also formed Paula and set me apart. I know God has adopted me as His child for I am a believer and follower of His Son. I also know that He has accepted me completely. Yet, I struggle with whether my life, thoughts, and actions please Him. He accepts me as I am and who I am but am I a pleasing aroma to Him? I can say I'm accepted by Him because of His character but I can still stink at times.
God shows His love for us all the time but we have to look for it. I shared a couple weeks ago in this post about how I was angry with God yet He reacted by reassuring me of His presence in my life. In short, I was mowing the yard and vocalized my anger at God for not seeing His Hand working in my life. Rather, I had felt His abandonment and punishment. That is not what He was/is doing. I still am not quite sure what it is but He's not punishing or abandoning me. He showed me that same evening that He's working but it's in His time and His way. The entire incident has remained with me. It has grown into even more of a mark in time calling me to remember. Remember He has not forgotten me but rather He is doing His own thing, in His own way, in His own time. My flesh tries to equate my lack of understanding things to God not caring about me, my desires, wants, or needs. Instead, my heart knows He does care; I just just cannot understand His almighty ways in my finite mind constrained to an earthly view.
Lisa challenged us to consider whether we most need to know if we are completely loved by God or accepted completely by God. I would say I need to know I'm completely loved by God. To be completely loved by someone means to be completely accepted in my mind. To be completely loved means I would be taken care of, my needs fulfilled, my best at heart. I don't know how God sees it but I feel when we truly love someone we also accept them for who they are.
The way I see it...
To love is to be forgiven.
To love is to be accepted.
To love is to be cared for.
To love is to be put first.
To love is to be given the best.
What do you need most from God? His love or His acceptance?
I had to smile when Lisa said "God already knows that He accepts us just as we are...with all of our failures and faults and insecurities, but He wants us to know that--to really know that." Do you really know that?
Seeking to Comprehend His Love,
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