“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:16 ESV
I recently attended a pastor's conference with our fellowship in Illinois. My staff and I arrived in the Chicago area early to enjoy some down time before the meetings began. 2022 was a busy beginning to the year and this was our first breather on the calendar. Our team was ready to take the Monday morning and relax, but we also had another motive for our early arrival.
My wife and I had our attention on a special little person who was going to be at the conference with us... my granddaughter. All seven months of her ready for some good PaPa B and Grammie loves and snuggles. We arrived at the church where the event was held while they were still setting the venue up. My son and his wife were leading worship and needed us to watch Etta while they rehearsed and did soundchecks. To add to the blessing, my two other children were joining their elder sibling to help him. As my wife and I gathered our little bundle of joy, we sat in the auditorium and watched our family fill the atmosphere in worship. How could I be so fortunate to have this experience at that particular moment with my family? Here I am holding my new granddaughter while enjoying the sound of worship to the Lord from my kids. Yes, it was a very cool vibe.
I do not claim to be a super parent. My wife and I made our share of mistakes, and still do. Our kids will tell you about them. However, there was something that my children experienced in our home that propelled them to be who they are today. Love! Love does not have transforming power simply because it is said. One of the nuggets from the conference we attended was the fact that love is not what you post on a sticky note to your kids. Yes, it may give direction and affirmation, but it is not enough. I tell my kids all the time I love them. Every time I see my granddaughter, I tell her she is loved and safe. But words are not enough. They are important but not enough. Words alone did not give my kids what I was enjoying in that auditorium early that morning.
My actions were not enough as well. I provided for my kids. I held them, supported them, fed, and clothed them. I sat at their ball games and cheered them on. When they were having a bad day, my wife and I put our bad day aside to make sure they felt cared for and listened to. Even through my mistakes and occasional terrible timing, my kids always knew they were loved. I told them, and I showed them. But still, telling them and showing them were not enough. They needed so much more. Now before I go further into the devotion, I admit that the inspiration of this devotion comes from my experience at the conference. On Monday, I was in awe of God’s blessings, but by the end of our time together, I had learned so much about love. What I share with you next has been the missing piece for many of us. It is what truly makes us happy, blessed, and successful internally where it really matters.
The greatest love to give to others is the love we experience ourselves from God. The love I generated from my own affection for my kids alone was never enough. The best love is the love we give from being loved. This love is not proven by external measures alone. It is not because I read it in the Bible. My love for my kids does not come from what I know God thinks about them. My provision, though it is loving, is not the deal sealer in the heart that is wired for love. What truly brings a healthy heart to those we are connected to is our own experience of God’s love in our lives. I can truly love others when I am loved.
It made sense now. This is what Jesus was always trying to communicate to us about His relationship with the Father. When storms came, He was not freaking out because He knew He was Jesus. He was calm because He was loved. He was secure in that love of the Father and in that relationship, He was at peace. When the woman caught in adultery was thrown at His feet for judgment, that wisdom He gave to the angry crowd came from a relationship of love that overflowed into the woman who experienced mercy. When Jesus went to the cross, it was not simple obedience to the mission. It was love. Love that He experienced. Love that was in Him, around Him and literally Him. This is the love the disciples shared with Jesus that caused them to give their own lives away. When we are loved, we love. A father’s love is powerful when it is experienced. This is true for my kids and for us in Christ.