What does God’s love for me feel like? And, for that matter, what does me loving Him back look like?
I’ve gotten this question a lot recently. It almost seems to be whispered by the air, filling the minds of many wondering teenagers.
And I totally get it. I mean, how DOES God, a non-human being (or presence, or whatever un-humanly-fathomable God is) love us humans? We are incredibly physical beings. If you buy into the five love languages (gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physicality)…all of those are pretty dependant on this physical world. How can God, who is outside of time and space, reach into our little three dimensional world and express His love to us through one of the incredibly limited ways we receive love? I mean, really. How?
And, okay, say that God does reach through time and space to show me He loves me and…I don’t know…has some flower bloom extra-brilliantly for me with the exact right lighting, right as I’m walking by? How do I know that was God, and not just a really pretty moment? What if I didn’t even notice? Or, if God does one of His “talking to me” things which feels a whole lot more like instinct or premonition or my subconscious trying to get attention, how do I know it’s God?
And how do I love God back? I mean, He’s not human, not to mention He’s not even really a “He” (No, don’t go yelling at me for that one, it’s true. If God made man AND woman in His image, than both reflect Him, which means He isn’t a He, nor a She, but both…somehow. We can talk – nicely- about it if you want.) How do I know what He likes? He’s not human or a creature – how do I even know He CAN “like” stuff? I can’t give Him a hug. I can’t give Him Christmas gifts. I can’t even find His profile on Facebook (well, I found a Facebook page that was named “God”…but I’m pretty sure it’s not actually His), so I can’t like any of His pictures or statuses.
I really wish there was a formula. I wish I could play Cogsworth (the clock dude from Beauty and the Beast) and tell you exactly how God loves you and how you can love Him back.
I mean, of course, as for God’s love, He has shown us the ultimate love by coming to Earth and taking our place and the consequences of our sinful lives. Which is really, untruly, unfathomable. But, on an everyday basis, in an incredibly physical world, sometimes we need a little personal reminder, right? A man can marry a woman, but if he doesn’t tell her at least daily after the ceremony that he loves her, things are going to get rather ugly. She’s eventually going to believe lies and she’ll forget that he loves her. Saying “I love you” only at the wedding is just not enough. This is common sense (or should be).
Same is true of us and God, I think. I say that feeling a bit guilty and ashamed. I mean, Jesus’ sacrifice should be enough. But I’m human; I need a daily reminder. (I think this was true before the world got all messy too – hence why God came down and walked with Adam and Eve in the garden often.)
After wrestling with this for years myself, the best I’ve come up with is actually pretty simplistic. Though, keep in mind, unlike Cogsworth, I really don’t believe there’s a formula to this. God, though orderly, is willing to enter into our mess, which means He’s not bound by formula.
First, you just gotta believe. If you love God, if you want to love Him better, if you’ve surrendered your life to Him, than you need to remember that the Holy Spirit dwells with you. He helps you out. And often that feels like, for me anyway, a huge urge within me. A desire that is so pressing is almost feels like a need. I had it explained once to me as the “blow fish” feeling – it feels like everything inside you is pounding / getting larger/ pressing to get out, and if you don’t do whatever it is you need to do or believe whatever you need to believe, you’ll explode.
Sometimes He’s much more quiet than that, and I wake up one morning realizing that I believe something I didn’t know I believed, or that I’m determined to do something I didn’t know I was going to do.
And I have to believe Him loving me happens in those moments when I feel close to Him. Those moments when there is no real reason to feel extra close to Him, but I do. Or when I notice that yellow flower growing on the side of the road, or I get a needed hug from an unexpected source. Or dinner is extra delicious for no real reason. Or, those incredibly rare, extra special moments when I’m being still, or even taking a walk or a hike or something and I can almost, physically, feel His presence surrounding me. I have to not let my mind explain those treasured moments away. I have to have faith that those experiences are actually God reaching out to little, limited, broken me.
As for loving Him back, I firmly believe that God gave each of us things we love to do, that can be forms of us telling God we love Him, us worshipping Him. For me, that’s writing, taking pictures, going for walks, spending time in His creation, or having good conversations with friends and my kids. For my dad, it’s learning or completing a Sudoku puzzle. For Mom, it’s gardening. For some, it might mean baking. For others, it might mean painting or sewing or doing ceramics, or creating sculptures. For some it might mean throwing a football, or scoring a basket. Or driving. Or doing some sort of complicated mathematical formula. It looks like many different things. For me, the key is picturing God in my mind, doing it with me.
And, of course, the main way we love God is to love others. We are His reflection. We carry His image within us. How we treat each other is how we treat God. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul” and the second was to “love your neighbor as yourself”. He said it in the same breath, even though he had only been asked what the greatest was. It was as if the two commandments lead to each other. As if one can’t really be done without the other. Love God – through people, through your neighbor.
So, in summary (because people like summaries and I’ve “talked” a lot):
trust that, when you think it might be, that it actually IS God speaking to you, loving you.
LOVE OTHERS –
Do whatever you have to do to let others know you love them. Pretty “simple”. Ha!
DO FUN STUFF –
Do stuff you enjoy, the stuff that gives you endorphins (even if, as is often true in my case,
there is no physical reason why you should be having endorphins running through you) and
invite God along. He’s coming anyway, you might as well acknowledge Him, hang out with Him,
get to know Him better. It’s so much less awkward than when you’re ignoring Him when He’s
coming along anyway.