He Loved First
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
A few weeks ago my son and I had quite the altercation. After receiving a consequence for unacceptable behavior, he stomped up the stairs loudly informing me (and no doubt the neighbors) of the injustice of his punishment. The stomping was followed by a door slamming, a door that then became a target for his toys as he threw them and shouted, “You are the meanest mommy ever!” etc. etc. etc. I sat on a stool in the bathroom, just listening to him. “I will never ever snuggle with you again! I don’t like you! I wish you weren’t my mommy!”
Typically, according to the parenting practices we’ve adopted for our boys, I would wait until he was calm before talking with him again. (For all practical purposes this is an excellent strategy.) In fact, during the conflict I had said, “Go to your room and come back when you are calm and ready to be sweet.” But as I sat in the bathroom, something else came over me: conviction. Laying heavy on my heart as I listened to him hurl insult upon insult at me was that I was asking him to be better before I would once again be with him. I stood up and went into his room as he was in mid rant, I sat on his bed and said, “Come here,” and motioned for him to sit on my lap. Within seconds, my six year old little boy was curled up in my lap, my arms wrapped firmly around him, and I whispered to him over and over and over again, “I love you…I love you, I love you, I love you…” He relaxed further and further into my embrace and his crying subsided. After a short while he whispered, “I love you, too, mommy.”
Why did I change my mind? What made me retract my earlier request and do the exact opposite? All I can say is that in the midst of my son’s tantrum I become freshly aware of something: God has never asked me, asked us, to be better before He would dwell with us. In fact, while we were at our worst, He came; while we were busy denying his very existence by our lack of belief, he made his presence known to us and pursued us. We earned none of his coming; our acts weren’t (and still aren’t) together before he comes. In fact, Paul writes in Colossians 2:13 that we were dead in our trespasses—it doesn’t get any more inactive and unprepared than that! And in this we are loved, truly loved. Remember what Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables: “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved—loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” God, in Jesus, loves us this way—we can neither earn God’s love nor can we drive it away.
I want my sons to know they are loved; not just when they are calm and sweet but when they are at their worst. Because it’s there, at our worst, where the “I love you” breaks in and becomes real. Jesus Christ, the one who was “in the form of God” as came to us and says “Come unto to me.” He came while we were still screaming and throwing our toys, and he says “Come here.” And crawling into His lap, relaxing further and further into His embrace, while our ears are filled with His “I love you, I love you, I love you,” after a short while we whisper the words of worship: “I love you, too.”