I Love You
‘For 50 years I have known in my head God loves me. For the first time I felt his love.’ A man shared this with me during a retreat focused on God’s presence and power. When we have assurance we are loved it changes everything about our life and those around us. The opposite is also true. Many of us aren’t sure, so we spend quite a bit of time and effort looking for love by earning it, comforting the wounds and suffering of not being loved and treating others accordingly.
When it comes to hearing God’s voice it helps to know what God talks about. Assuring you of his love is his main topic.
If you’re anything like me, you can spend most of your time talking to God for guidance. I asked God once what to do in a decision. All I kept hearing was: “I love you.” Great God, thank you, but what do I do in this situation? “I love you.” I love you too, but what about this decision? “I love you.” I finally allowed myself to soak in and receive his love and quickly realized how anxious I was and began to calm down and feel peace. Then, clarity about the decision came much easier. Shame and fear kill, steal and destroy relationships and life, and along the way lead to poor decisions. Perfect love drives these out like nothing else.
It’s why I think so much of Jesus’ ministry focused on offering a different version of what God was really like. If you listen to his teaching and actions the focus is consistently on ‘you think my Father is like this, but he is actually really like this…’ Take the story of the ‘prodigal son’ from Luke 15 as an example.
As a youth pastor, I noticed that with many teenagers who grew up in church I could say until I was blue in the face “God loves you” and it didn’t matter. Their glazed-eyed, spaced out look said everything: ‘I know, I know, Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so’. Each of them needed to encounter God’s love as real, experienced, felt.
But, how? If this is what God is talking to us about more than anything else, how do we hear and experience this more in everyday life? This is a big topic. I’m going to focus on two things:
- Believe and expect God’s demonstrating his love to you. This is only scratching the surface. It doesn’t address all the reasons we don’t believe, expect or have assurance of God’s love. For example, I developed a deeply rooted operating paradigm I needed to perform well to be loved, rather than perform (do the things I do, say the things I say, etc) because I am loved. Recognizing, healing and transforming this achievement-oriented, distorted view of love hasn’t happened overnight, and still lingers. And the degree I operate in it is the degree I keep myself from experiencing unearned, real love that drives out my fear. Another major obstacle for me was how emotionally shutoff I was. God could have poured barrels full of love all over me but I could at most only experience a trickle of it because my heart was so hard. That said, believing and expecting God’s constantly demonstrating his love is a great place to start (and end). It opens us up to receive what he is giving.
- Understand how you feel loved. So much of experiencing more of God in everyday life involves knowing who you are (and who you aren’t) and embracing this. Gary Chapman developed language for identifying five different ways people feel loved: words of affirmation, touch, gifts, acts of service and quality time (www.5lovelanguages.com). We each prefer one or two of these over the others and have assurance someone loves us when they speak our primary love language. God knows your love language and will speak to you in this way. For example, my primary love language is touch and quality time. It has taken me awhile to recognize this, but looking back over my life in relationship with God the two primary ways I have felt most loved and connected to him are when we spend significant amount of unstructured, unfocused time hanging out together, enjoying one another, just simply being together. And one of unique ways I experience God is feeling his presence physically in my body. I literally feel God’s touch, like being hugged, held, energy, warmth. He spoke to me in my primary love languages even before I fully understood them. It took awhile to embrace how physically affectionate God is and his desire to spend time together without a particular ‘to do’ to obey. A book that helped with this was Jack Frost’s Experiencing Father’s Embrace, among others.
So, try it out: believe and expect God to assure you of his love in the primary way you give and receive love. Remember from the previous post, God is near you right now, constantly talking (about his love for you) and designed you to hear him. Listen for and experience his love. And see what happens to you and those around you when you get so filled with God’s love it overflows out of you onto others, sometimes without you even trying or realizing it.
***This is part of a series on Hearing and Experiencing God in Everyday Life. Posts build on each other. Consider subscribing on the home page of gregmillikan.com to receive these posts by e-mail.***