I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints to grasp how high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19
This semester I’m teaching Lifespan Development, which is one of my favorites. My master’s degree was in Developmental Psychology and I always find it fascinating that other people don’t think about development the way I do. I just naturally ponder what biological or environmental occurrence is behind a behavior…and I love tickling out that thinking in my students.
I recently showed a documentary called “Everybody loves…Babies” and had students answer some thought-provoking questions about the cultural differences in parenting little ones. The film simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps – in Opuwo, Namibia; Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Tokyo, Japan; and our own San Francisco, California in the U.S.
Although my students were astounded by the wide variety of environments (from old animal bones in the dirt that a baby played with like a rattle and babies who shared nursing Moms…to a very tightly swaddled baby left on a bed alone with a rooster for company) they all saw the love and bonding that occurred between the babies and their mothers. When asked what the three needs were that each of these babies had, and received, all of them included “love.”
It’s universal, isn’t it? That need to be loved and accepted may look different in different parts of the world, but it’s obvious when a baby knows they are loved, and when they’re not sure. My students were quick to realize that although the nurturing they felt comfortable with was seen in the San Francisco scenario, the other three babies thrived in their environments because they were bathed in love and had a strong sense of security and trust in the adults taking care of them.
Does your “baby” know they’re loved? For that matter, do you know you’re loved? Do you feel the sense of security and trust that’s a bi-product of unconditional love? Regardless of the environment that you grew up in (healthy or dysfunctional; safe or dangerous; fun or somber; plenty or poverty) or the biology you came into the world with (healthy or sickly; heavy or thin; attractive or homely; introvert or extrovert) there is a universal answer to our universal need for love – Jesus.
Many of us, if not all of us, have a serious disconnect between our heads and our heart when it comes to believing that we are loved. Imagine what life would be like if you really believed how “high and deep is the love of Christ” so that you were “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God?”
- What if, in horrible situations, you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God always has your best in mind? (Jeremiah 29:11 & James 1:17)
- What if you truly accepted that God is totally kind, approachable, and wants to hang out with you all the time? (John 15:12-15)
- Think about how great it would be if you could completely grasp the fact that God emotionally connects with you in your hurts and joys, hopes and dreams? That He chooses to allow your happiness to affect His own? (John 11:33-36)
- For a long moment, just contemplate the idea that God takes pleasure in you just for who you are, right now, aside from your performance, your accomplishments, your waistline, or your bank account? (Psalms 139; Zephaniah 3; Romans 5:8)
Sometimes that love comes through loud and clear when we see God actively orchestrating the people and circumstances in our world to express his affection; but He also selectively corrects us to provide for our ultimate good – which isn’t always how we want to be loved. But it’s the same love we show to our babies when we say “no” to protect them, or “not yet” so that they will wait for what’s going to be better and give them more joy in the long run.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Most of us can easily quote this one…but do you truly believe that you are one of those people that he so loved? Has that fact gone from your head to your heart? Do you believe it even when you don’t feel it?
Let me just go out on a limb here and challenge you even further…do you believe that God so loved the world…that means those people that don’t look like you or act like you or even do the things you think they should be doing? It didn’t really look like love to my students when the baby in Namibia was allowed to teeth on a bone he found while crawling in the dirt near his Mother, but his smile said otherwise! Truly believing that God loves me gives me the freedom to love others – whether they look like me or they’re so different from me that I can’t even relate. It’s a challenge, but when I’m filled with the fullness of God’s love, it naturally overflows to others. And that’s when you know that you really know that you’re loved.
Father, thank You for Your love; a love so real and true that You gave Your son Jesus so that we could have eternal life. We never have to doubt Your love because You’ve already proved it. All we have to do is accept and embrace that love – whether we feel it or not, it’s real. Help us to share that love with others – all people – because You have created every single human being in Your image and You love each one with a perfect Father’s love. In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.