"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
October 6, 2010
A few days ago I was babysitting my great-nephew, Jax, for the day. He is starting to say a few words and is at a very fun, cute stage now. But there were a few times throughout the day when he would do something that would absolutely melt my heart.
I was cleaning the kitchen for my niece and was standing by the sink, when I felt these little arms grab me around the knees. I looked down and Jax was standing there holding a book, and was looking at me with big blue eyes and a sweet little smile on his face. Of course, Aunt Loretta stopped what she was doing and held him on her lap to read him a story!
Later when it was his nap time I laid down on the bed beside him. He was so tired and was fighting his sleep, and would give this silly little giggle and look at me to see if I was watching him. Finally, he scooted over next to me and I put my arm around him. He latched his little hand around my finger, and something about that act made me all sappy. Thankfully he can't say sentences yet, because during that moment if he had of looked at me with his big blue eyes and asked for a pony, I would have asked how big and what color! Other times during the day he would come sit on my lap, or give me that sweet little smile of his and my heart would turn to mush.
Most nights Jon and I turn our radio on sleep mode, listening to music for a specified amount of time, as we fall asleep. After babysitting Jax recently, I was dozing on and off one night before falling soundly asleep. I woke up and there was a song playing that depicted the great love God has for us. The main line in the song was, "He loves me so much, He can't keep His eyes off of me." Another line of the song was to the effect that no matter where we are, God's arms are holding us.
If asked, I would emphatically say that yes, I know and believe that God loves everybody. But honestly, I don't always live and think as if I truly believe that He loves ME unconditionally. It's easier to believe it as a blanket statement, than to personalize it individually.
I've heard people make statements such as: "If God really loved me, He'd do this for me." "God can't love me because of bad things I've done." "Bad things wouldn't have happened if God had of really loved me."
We try to rationalize the love that God has for us. Perhaps we feel disappointed or hurt, so we blame God and begin feeling as if He doesn't love us. Maybe, it's because of the guilt and self-condemnation that we personally feel over our actions that cause us to feel that God couldn't love possibly love us. We don't love ourselves and have a hard time accepting forgiveness because of things in our past, so we don't feel worthy of God's love.
But the truth is, God loves me and you with an unconditional love. Do we deserve it? Probably not! But He loves us anyway.
When your child does something that irritates you, you may feel anger at them for a short time and question their actions, but you still love them. You may not like what they've done, and honestly you may not like them very much at that time, but you don't stop loving them. When they come to you and apologize or ask for forgiveness, do you hug them and reaffirm your love for them, or do you isolate them and cast them out of your family? Certainly, there are those who sever that relationship, but overall most parents will continue loving their children and will forgive them. They'll work towards reconciliation and reach out in love to help their son or daughter correct their mistake. They offer encouragement, wanting their child to succeed and be the best person possible.
If you're willing to do that for your child, do you not think our Heavenly Father will extend that same type of love and compassion toward you? I'm sure there are times when God gets frustrated at us and wonders when we're ever going to grow up and stop doing bone-headed things! But He doesn't give up on us and stop loving us. He is always willing to forgive when we go to Him and apologize and repent for our stupidity or rebellious acts.
Just because God loves us, doesn't mean that we won't ever get hurt or that nothing bad will happen to us. We live in a sin-filled world surrounded by those who willfully choose to sin and commit violent acts. We live in an imperfect world and unfair things are going to happen. Car accidents occur, homes get broken into or burned down, sickness and disease are no respecter of persons, and the list could go on and on. But just because we become a victim of the evil that surrounds us, doesn't meant that God has forsaken us or has turned His back on us. He is always watching us. God doesn't just look down from Heaven and see a mass of people walking around, but He sees each of us individually and knows our heart and thoughts. I don't know how it works, I just know that He has the ability to do that.
When I babysit Jax I hate the thought of him getting hurt while I'm in charge. Now that he's getting bigger and walking, the risk level has increased, but there has always been a level of responsibility that I have felt when I'm babysitting him. When he was a baby and would nap longer than usual, I would go into his room and check to make sure he was okay and still breathing. Even if he didn't sleep longer than usual, many times I would still go check on him when he was sleeping and make sure I could see his little chest rising and falling. I didn't want anything to happen during my watch!
A while back I was keeping him at his parents house, and we had gone outside. He was walking around and I was a bit nervous about him falling down and getting hurt. But I know that I can't continually hold onto him in order to protect him. For one thing, he would get irritated at me for not allowing him the freedom to explore and play. Also, he has to walk himself in order to gain strength and become steadier and more balanced on his feet. I can't constantly be carrying him around. I can't put him in a bubble (so to speak) in order to keep him protected. I watch over him and do my best to make sure he's safe, but accidents will happen.
Jax was walking on their driveway and saw some pea-gravel beside the porch and headed towards it to explore. He tripped and fell down. He started crying and I went over to pick him up. I looked and he had scraped his knee and it was bleeding. I felt really bad that he got hurt. Even after taking him inside and cleaning up the knee, it was still scratched up. I held him and spoke words of comfort and love, and soon he stopped crying. It was only a few minutes before he wanted back down and was ready to play again. He wasn't mad at me nor did he blame me for not being there to prevent him from falling down. When it happened it initially hurt, but it wasn't long until he was back to running and playing again. Somehow I think he knew if he fell down again that I would be there to pick him back up as many times as necessary; and would take care of him and dry his tears.
When we get hurt or there's pain in our lives, God is always there to pick us up, hold us in His arms and bind up our wounds. We can have assurance that we can depend on God. As much as He'd like to wrap us in a bubble and keep us continuously safe, He chooses not to do that. We'd never learn, grow or mature if He did so. God knows if He only sent blessing to us, only allowed good things to happen, and kept us continuously healthy then we'd not have the strength and endurance to make it in this life upon earth. He sometimes allows adversity in order to help us grow and become stronger individuals. It's not because He hates us, but because He loves us. He wants us to be the best we can be. But we can be assured that He'll always be there to pick us back up and dry our tears when we fall down and get hurt.
How would you feel if your children's love for you was as fickle as yours is sometimes for God? If your sons and/or daughters treated you like you treat God how would that make you feel; loved or neglected? If your kids communicated with you as often as you pray and communicate with God, would it make you feel cherished or like they really didn't care about you? If your child only spoke to you when they wanted or needed something, would that make you feel used? If they only came around when they needed money, were sick and wanted you to take care of them, or were in a mess and wanted you to fix it for them; would you feel as if they genuinely loved you?
Yet all those things are often how we treat God. We only pray when we are in a bind and have tried every other option, to no avail. We have no time for Him in our lives on a daily basis, yet expect God to immediately answer when we do decide we need something from Him. Do we really love Him, or just want a "magic genie" in our life to be at our beck and call?
The problem is not in God loving us, but in us loving God. Not just saying the words, but living it in our daily lives and showing our love for God. If I never told Jon that I loved him, never showed it in my actions and never spoke to him, do you think he'd believe that I really love him? People can asked me, "Do you love your husband" and I can respond positively, but it's necessary for me to show that love to Jon personally. How will he truly know that I love him if I never tell him and never show him? It's easy for me to show my love for Jon. There's no doubt in my mind that my husband loves me, and no doubt in his mind that he is loved by me. We not only say the words to one another, but it's obvious in the little things we do for one another each day. It's obvious in the respect and trust that we show one another. It's obvious in the way we communicate and react to one another.
When we truly love God, it's going to be obvious to those around us. They won't question whether or not we know God or have a relationship with Him, but they'll be able to hear it in our words and see it in our actions.
1 John chapter four speaks a lot about love. Verse 22 pretty much sums up the entire chapter. "And this commandment we have from Him that he who loves God must love his brother also." When we love God, it will be evident in the way we treat others.
I have two questions for you. First of all, do you truly love God? Don't become defensive or nonchalant about your answer, but really think about it. There are times when I have to stop and consider this question for myself. Do I really love God with all my heart; and if so, am I showing that love to others? Does God know that I love Him; and am I telling Him and showing Him? Sometimes it's easy to take God for granted and become lax in my relationship with Him. Put some thought into this question and be honest with yourself. If that love has wavered or you've become lax in your relationship with Him, or if you're not sure whether or not you really do love God, then realize it's not hopeless. You can choose to love God.
Before Jon and I got married, at one of my wedding showers the women were taking turns giving out words of advice. One of the ladies told me that there are times when love is a choice. I might not always feel the emotion, and there might be tough times we go through, but that is when I choose to love anyway. That same advice can be given regarding our relationship with God. There may be times when we don't feel the emotion and we may go through difficult circumstances, but we choose to love God anyway.
Secondly, know that God loves you! As I said in the beginning, He loves us so much that He can't take His eyes off of us.
In Zechariah 2:8 and Deuteronomy 32:10 we are referred to as the "apple of His eye". Isaiah 49:16 says that "He has inscribed our names on the palms of His hands." In Exodus 19:5 we are called a "special treasure" to God. Matthew 10:30 tells us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered. John 10:3 says that He knows all His sheep by name. Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you..." Before we were ever conceived, God knew us!! That's pretty amazing. There are so many scriptures that speak of the love that God has for us.
Regardless of whether or not you return His love, God loves you. You can't make Him not love you. He loved each of us enough to send His only Son to die for us so that we could have eternal life in heaven with Him. None of us are an orphan, an outcast, nor are there any "middle children" in God's family. God is our Father, and He loves each of us the same. We are each His special child, and His greatest desire is to have a close Father/child relationship with us and pour His love down upon us.
There's an old song that says, "You made me love you." But that's not right. You can't make someone love you. But you also can't make someone hate you. On the flip side of that, though, no one can make you love them, and they can't make you hate them.
As Loretta said, sometimes love is a choice. No matter how aggravated we might get with each other, it's still our choice to show compassion toward one another. Even if we didn't want to talk to one another, we could still rub the other's shoulder.
Even though no one can force us to love, they can make it easier. Fortunately, Loretta does just that. And so does God.
1 lb. Sausage, browned and drained
1 box cream cheese, softened
1 roll crescent rolls
Brown the sausage; drain. Add the cream cheese and mix well. Roll out half the crescent rolls in the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Spread the sausage mixture in the pan; cover with remaining crescents. Bake on 375 for 20 minutes or until browned. For a larger family, double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan.
When my niece, Janee', was a little girl she was quite "spiritual" at times! One time at school she made a sign to put on her desk that said, "Quiet please -- I'm praying." Another time the kids were lining up to go to lunch and she quoted the scripture, "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." They let her in front of the lunch line! Yet another time, she was in a fabric store with her mom. There was a kiddie corner in the store and my sister overheard Janee' asking another little girl questions such as, "Do you go to church?" "Do you love Jesus?" On the way home she asked her mom, "Did you hear me witnessing today?" My sister replied, "Yes. I'm very proud of you." Janee' asked, "So, how much are you going to pay me?" Janie had to explain that you don't get paid for witnessing, you do it because you love Jesus.
Now abide faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
We love you!
Loretta & Jon