I remember, sometime when I was a kid, yelling at my parents, "You HAVE to love me-- you're my parents!!" Do you remember saying those identical words, or at least thinking them, to your folks? I remember even saying it to God-- You have to love me. You made me. As if their love-- the love of parents and family that is causeless and seemingly bottomless and exists regardless of what you did or did not do-- is less real than the love of people who meet you, find that the things that they like about you outweigh the things that they don't like about you, and then offer friendship love. Those friends, boyfriends, spouses, picked you. Parents don't get to pick. They don't get to choose. We are simply thrust upon them. So their love doesn't count as much.
How off is that?
When I looked down at Ella the other day, I began to cry. We all started laughing, but everyone in the room understood: there are no words for what I felt. It was primordial, if you'll excuse the word. It sprang up inside my heart, this fierce passion for a little girl I had only held one other time, the evening of her birth. In her face I saw all of my baby pictures and my little brother's face. I saw my sister-in-law's red hair and unattached ear lobes :). She looked up at me with enormous blue eyes and beautiful rose-bud lips and it occurred to me that there was not one thing I would refuse her, ever. My flesh and blood. I knew that I loved her immediately. I loved her the evening of her birth, I loved her the minute my brother told me he was having a daughter, and I was seized with loving her last Sunday.
And other than being desperately cute, she had done nothing to earn my love. She hadn't performed any feats of wonder, kept any of my secrets or regaled me with entertaining stories. She had never helped me out in a time of need, nor had she noticed anything especially important about me. I had to love her.
And it's no less important than someone picking us.
What I mean is this: we were chosen, in Christ, before the earth was even established. Before we had made one wrong (or right) move, we were loved. Each of us, individually and corporately as a species. I don't get it, but I know that it is the truth. And this love that we are loved with is not even remotely related to our ability to earn (or lose) it. It exists because He exists and because He loves us deeply, passionately, and without just cause. In the same way that my niece-- both of them-- has captured my heart without having "earned" it-- loving her because I have to love her is the only way to love her. This is a love that knows no boundaries.
And she's not even my daughter. Can you imagine (some of you can) how it must feel to love a child you've given birth to? Oh my gosh, the torment and the joy of it.
Anyway, it's something I've been thinking about-- those fights, that desperate desire to feel loved that every teenager seems to be tormented with (and not just teenagers-- but it's that desperate need coupled with the sheer lack of rational thought that seems to really bruise them).
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him... (1 John 3:1)
Oh for the faith to fully receive that into our bones....