Jesus loves me.
I’m sure you’re very familiar with these words. The simple, sing-song-y tune has been sung by children in multiple church Sunday school basements and popular films and books for years.
For me, it had become almost too familiar.
I’ve heard it so often, sung it so many times that it had blended into the background. Like wallpaper. Soon, I wasn’t able to even see it any more. It’s was just there, in the backdrop available but unexciting.
Even now as I write this, I can feel the familiarity of those words and only hope I haven’t lost the reader to a yawn.
But that’s the thing about these pithy Christian truths. They aren’t new or titillating but rather old, familiar and often taken for granted.
Pardon me for a few moments as I lapse into a very personal experience. But for this post, I think it’s important that I do.
A few weeks ago, I had this crazy dream about a friend. And in that dream I was seeing her through the eyes of Jesus.
And what I saw was breathtaking. Wow! Did he love her! Delighted by her, His eyes followed her everywhere she went in the room, and when He approached her, He reached out with His hands to cup her face and just stared at her smiling, His eyes alight with the deepest love.
But, in the dream, she turned away. She didn’t trust it, and it hurt Him.
In the dream, as my friend turned away, I saw a lot of myself in her distrust, and it stung.
For the last few years I’ve been struggling in my faith. I can only describe it as a dark cloud of doubt that seemed to follow me wherever I went. It made praying exausting and reading the bible about as appealing as eating chalk-dust. I would love to say that I was faithful to God during this time, persevering through the drought and patiently waiting for the rain to return, but I wasn’t. I decided that I could probably get all I was missing from the world and when the world didn’t return the love, I took that anger out on God. It wasn’t until a year ago, there has been a few sun-breaks or two.
I apologize if the next part raises a few eyebrows. I’m open to correction on this if you disagree, so please feel free to comment at the end of the post if you do.
But it wasn’t until I started praying through a book of prayers where the author encouraged the reader to get rid of any unforgiveness in my heart and pray and ask God to reveal anyone that I needed to forgive that I had a real break-through. I prayed and went through the normal list of people in my life that I’d had a history with and didn’t feel the need to forgive them again – I already had, years ago.
But the only person that kept coming up was…myself.
I really struggled with doubt after hearing this. Was this really God? I thought we couldn’t forgive ourselves -only God could.
But I heard it again and once more.
You see, for years I had been struggling with a seething self-hatred. I won’t go into all the things I hated about myself, but trust me, it was an extensive list. Whenever I made a mistake or screwed something up, I would tear off into a relentless tirade of inner-verbal abuse that perhaps only a sufferer of schizophrenia could relate to. In fact if I ever talked that way to my own kids , I’d probably have charges filed against me for child abuse.
The Lord helped me to see myself in the third person and showed that I had been abusing his child, not allowing her the grace to make mistakes and move forward – even if it was imperfectly. I understood that God forgave me because of what His son had done on the cross, but at the same time, every time she/I took a step toward Him for forgiveness or healing, I would scornfully yank her back and heap abuses on her again.
I didn’t realize how much this had been angering God.
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
What some of us turn outward, some of us turn inward. This isn’t to say that we can forgive ourselves unto salvation. No, not at all. But only in the way we seek to imitate our Lord in the forgiveness of others.
God has been gracious to me the last few weeks. Showing me how much he loves us in such a real and tangible way. Yes, he did demonstrate his love for us and the world on the cross, but beyond a few fleeting glances throughout my now twenty year walk with the Lord, I never realized the intimacy of that love.
So, if you would allow, let me leave you with this: He really, really loves you.
He can’t take his eyes off of you!
And when his eyes are on you, they aren’t full of condemnation, or disappointment. They are full of a breathless joy, like the moment before laughter. His eyes are dancing as he gazes into yours and the excitement! The excitement he has for you, knowing all the wonderful things he has in store. Like the night before Christmas and he can’t wait for you to wake up and watch you open your presents.
“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”