Ahhh. Sunday morning. This is my favorite time of the week. Joel is off to church early, and the kids are sleeping snug in their beds. Honestly, I would still be sleeping myself, if it weren’t for this stinkin’ sickness that keeps lingering and interrupting my comfort. However, I am not too disappointed, for the events of this last week have been calling out for my reflection. It has been an exhausting and wonderful week of ministry for me: wrapping up our women’s Bible study series, hours of meetings and emails, our first special women’s event, retreat planning, and a women’s ministry conference. He is been so faithful, and has chosen to bless and do more than I could have ever asked or imagined. Quite frankly, sometimes that kind of blessing takes me off guard. It’s not that God isn’t capable of moving in and through people. It’s not that He isn’t willing. It’s just that sometimes I am shocked that He would allow me to be a part of it.
You see, I sometimes struggle with believing God loves me…in a special, wonderful, “just me” kind of way. Part of my story is that I have grown up in the clutches of God’s love. I was four years old when I gave my life to Jesus, and ever since, He has had a fierce grip on me. I have known with my intellect that He loves me. I believe that He loves Israel, the world, and the church, of which I am a part. But, it’s kind of like standing in a crowd of people, and having the speaker say that he appreciates you…couldn’t have done it without you. Lumped into a group, the gesture is authentic and kind, but less meaningful than when you are singled out and pulled aside by the Important one who is placing His importance on you. For all of these years, I have been deeply grateful for any ounce of the love of God that He would choose to impart to me. I will take being “one of the crowd” in a heartbeat, for I am desperate for Him, and even that stirs my soul in return love for Him. I am very mindful that a rescue, even in masses, is an incredible gift and I can say that I am loved. But, deep down inside the recesses of my heart, I want to be special. I’m guessing that most girls do. We play princess when we are younger, dreaming of a rags to riches story where we are pulled out of the masses to become esteemed and loved by a prince. It isn’t the same when you are loved because of your belonging to a group. I want to be loved for just me. I have heard people say “if you were the only one on the face of the earth, Jesus would still die for you”. Really? Where does it say that in Scripture? Jesus died because God so loved the WORLD. The reality is that He died so that millions would know Him as their Savior and spend eternity in heaven. We don’t know that Jesus would have died for just one person. Would He love in that way for just me?
This heart-wrestling regarding the love of God for me, has impacted the way that I love. I sometimes struggle with love, because my love tank feels dry. When I do respond in love, it is often a generic kind of love because that is what I feel I have to offer. And, my desperate desire for a special love, often makes me do things like the disciple John…clamoring for important positions…looking for ways to promote myself or preserve my image. But, perhaps all that shifted for John as Jesus spoke to the disciples on the path from the upper room in Jerusalem, down to the garden of Gethsemane on the night He was betrayed. As they walked along, discussing the meaning of abiding in Christ as pictured by the parable of the Vine, Jesus said something that I imagine changed John’s life. And God, in His tender, special love for me, pointed it out to me this week. In John 15: 9, Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you”.
“Yes, Lord. I see that. You love Me. But, you are speaking to your disciples here. Again…a group. Loved for being part of a group. “
“No, Joy. Look again.”
“What does it say? How do I love you?”
“Like the Father loved you.”
And who am I to Him?
“You are His one and only Son…..What?! You love me like that? You love me like a one and only?! Oh my goodness!”
“Yes, Joy. I do. I love you with a special “one-and-only” kind of love. You are my daughter and I love you.”
In that moment…hearing those words from Jesus…I was overwhelmed. A lump caught in my throat and hot tears ran down my cheeks as I realized that it was quite possible that Jesus would have died for just me. The generic became the specific. The love a group became the love of an individual, and I was completely humbled. Can you imagine John? In His time with Jesus, he experienced his love, but to be told that he was loved in this way brought his understanding of it to a crescendo. And as the only disciple having been recorded as being at the foot of the cross, John was able to see the love in Christ’s eyes as He gazed down upon him from His place of pain and suffering. John knew that Jesus was dying for Him. I imagine that the rest of the world faded away and it was he and the Lord. Focusing on the cross, John would go on to live a life in response to this personal and intimate love. He wrote five books of the Bible, stressing the importance of love and obedience. He was so caught up in the cycle of love Jesus had told them about in John 14:21-23 during their last meal together, that his love and obedience brought him to the ultimate point of revelation. He was caught up to the throne room of God. From the foot of the cross to the foot of the throne. He saw the loving gaze of his Savior on earth and the firey eyes of His King in heaven. John knew that he was a man loved by Jesus. In fact, he would be known by no other way. He identified himself as “disciple whom Jesus loved”. John’s identity by name had given way to an identity of love.
Praise God…I, too, have that identity! Joy may be the name by which the world has known me, but when you pass me by, know that I now see myself as the “girl whom Jesus loves”…like a one and only.