ďGod loves you, and He sent His Son to die for you.Ē I understood what those words meant for me when I die. But what do they mean for my life?
Allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to truly love and be loved was something far outside my comfort zone. Having been abused by my father and ignored by my mother throughout my childhood, I had come to believe that love was a fairy tale; it just did not exist. I trusted nobody, and while I married a wonderful man who loved and cherished me and our two kids, I could not allow myself to be vulnerable to him or anyone else.
I spent many years building walls around my heart. They were designed to keep out pain and injury, but they also kept out love and tenderness.
After years of working through the pain caused by my childhood abuse, I came to a place where I was conscious of the barriers I put between myself and real love. As I dropped my son off for school one morning, the words to a song from my childhood resonated in my ears: ďYou better let somebody love you before itís too late.Ē
Understanding Godís sovereignty, I recognized that God loved me in spite of my sin, and in some sense it would never be too late. Yet, try as I might, I could not shake the lyrics that played over and over again in my mind, and I opened my heart to God, desperate to experience the love I had not dared to long for.
In the days following, I slowly began to allow some vulnerability to surface. I cried out to God with the hurts that had kept me from being honest with Him. I voiced the anger over the wrongs that had been committed against me. I challenged the love of a God who could have stopped the abuse, but didnít. I cringed and waited for Godís reaction to my challenges. I was sure the response would be the same as my fatherís--anger.
But God did not answer me with anger. He answered me with love. He did not lash out at me. He pulled me closer and held me tighter. He did not try to extinguish my tears. His gentleness encouraged them to flow, providing me with relief I had never believed possible. Each time the response was tender, I became more and more certain that nothing I said or did would change that response to my pain.
As my confidence in His love for me grew, my cries to Him became more and more heartfelt and honest. Eventually, the barriers came down, and I was able to show God everything I had hidden from Him, though He knew them all anyway. I came to realize that even though God already knows everything hidden in my heart, He wants me to tell Him about them.
Because God had answered my cries of anger and desperation with such gentleness, I had found a new sense of security and peace with myself in Him. As a Christian, my confidence comes not in myself, but in Christ. Having found a new sense of confidence in Him, I found myself growing in my relationships with others. I found a new sense of certainty in my marriage, in my relationships with my children, and in relationships with friends and family. Fears I had about being accepted and loved began to fade as I realized my value came in being loved by God, and His love is not earned, but given freely.
From the time God revealed Himself to me and offered me the gift of salvation, I understood what it meant to be saved. It was not until I was able to show God my whole heart that I began to understand what true love is. Godís love for His children is intended for our salvation, but it is so much more. It is intended to draw us closer to Him while we are still on this earth. It is intended to teach us to love others. It is intended to help us become love, for God is love.
God offered His love to me freely and despite my sinful nature. There is nothing I can offer that is worthy of His love, and all I can do in return is pour out to others that which He pours into me. His sacrifice purchased eternal life for me. Eternal life does not begin when I die. It has already begun, and in order for me to experience the fullness of eternal life, I have to accept the fullness of His love for me while I am still on this earth.