“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Walking in the woods behind our house was a daily Mother-son bonding time. Some days we picked up garbage, other days we told stories about the animals we saw “hiding” in the forest, but one spring day we set out on a new adventure, an asparagus hunt! My youngest son, Ben, was about 3 years old and had no idea that asparagus was a vegetable that he didn’t actually like to eat. All that mattered was that we were on the move and it took a great hunter to find the tender shoots of green among the rest of the new vegetation coming up. We took our time, searching in the places I had found the wild vegetable in past years. To each new area we ran expectantly, sure that this would be “the place!”
Each time we were disappointed, and as our walk progressed Ben’s small shoulders slumped, his feet dragged, and finally he stopped altogether, and with a pout, said, “God doesn’t love me.” I didn’t see the connection, but obviously he did. Without trying to counter his silly, childish thought, I asked him to explain what he meant. He sat down in the dirt and started crying. Not big sobs, just quiet sniffling, but the tears dropped into the dirt nonetheless. I sat next to him and waited expectantly. After a few minutes I asked tenuously, “So buddy, why doesn’t God love you?” Ben was, and is, the child that doesn’t want to talk until he is ready. Through his sniffles he explained that he had prayed that God would help us “have a good hunt” and find the “spargaz” and since we hadn’t found any, it was obvious that God didn’t hear him pray and didn’t love him “for real.”
Out of the mouth of babes…I can’t be the only one that feels this way, can I? The rational me knows that God loves me unconditionally. That He sent his “one and only son” to die for me (and all humanity), because I can never be “good enough” to meet God’s requirements. But because He is full of mercy and grace, I don’t have to be or do anything in order for him to love me. But sometimes I feel just like Ben did that Spring day. I drag my feet, slump my shoulders, and feel like there’s no way God could really love me because of the circumstances I’m facing, because I don’t have what I want, or because it feels like God hasn’t heard my prayers.
Satan, the devil, the enemy of our souls, works hard to get those “God doesn’t love me” thoughts into our heads because when we doubt God’s love, we doubt ourselves, we doubt our abilities and our power in Christ to do the improbable and the impossible. Chalk one up for the bad guys. We cave so easily. We sit down in the dirt, hang our head and cry. We give up, and that’s just what the devil wants, because he knows we are dangerous when we trust God’s unconditional love completely – we take risks, We ask, “What next?” and then we go!
I talk a good talk, but in all honesty there are days I believe the lies. Times when I feel alone and afraid to take the next step, goodness, to take any step! Moments where I seriously doubt God loves me or hears my voice. In reality, those are the times when I am not listening to His voice… usually because I’m too busy with my own agenda, my own “spargaz” hunt. Often the blessing of His love is right in front of me and I don’t see it because of the ever-present worries around me and my own self-centeredness.
That day long ago I asked Ben if we should pray again and ask God to help us find some asparagus? He nodded and took my hand and closed his eyes. Out loud I asked God to help us with the asparagus, but in my head I begged God to show my little boy that He was real and that He really did love Ben and that He cared about the little things that Ben asked of Him, so that Ben would know that God really, truly loved him. We stood up after that prayer and right behind Ben’s seat in the dirt, there was an asparagus shoot. Just the right size. I squeezed Ben’s hand and pointed. I will NEVER forget the look on Ben’s face. The dirty streaks of tears on his cheeks couldn’t cover the look of incredulous joy on his sweet face. I cried silently as he bent over the shoot and touched it gently. “Can I take it Mom?”
Take it, hold it, never let it go. God’s unconditional love is forever and ever. Nothing you do or don’t do can ever change that. He is bigger than any failure or fear or disappointment. We won’t always find our “spargraz” when we look for it. But that only means that He has a different plan, a way to grow us, stretch us, and mold us into just who we are meant to be, and on the way, we need never doubt His love for us.
Father please forgive us for our doubts and fears and empower us, through your Holy Spirit, to grasp how deep and wide and high your love for us truly is. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!