This weekend I attended a women’s retreat where the theme was “Loved.” I gotta be honest, I usually always experience a little apprehension about attending events specifically for women, because truthfully, I struggle to be comfortable with my own femininity, open displays of emotion, and sentimental concepts… and as you can imagine, encountering those things at a women’s ministry event is all but guaranteed. So when I discovered that the theme was “Loved,” (appropriately depicted in delicate, pink, swirly font), I anticipated potentially feeling out of place and difficulty connecting to the messages.
By now it should be pretty obvious…but I’ve got ISSUES ok? (Maybe that’s why God selected me to write about the works He’s done for me- He knew He’d never run out of material). Then again, maybe some of you reading this have got similar ISSUES too, I don’t know. I figure I’m not the only woman- or man for that matter- who struggles to identify with the softer, vulnerable, and more tender aspects of God. Maybe accepting and internalizing the concept of being “loved” by God is tough for you as well.
And so, I decided to take a break from relaying my testimony (which kind of has two parts, and I’ve finished the first) and share what I’m recently learning about the importance of being loved by God. Think of this as a sort of intermission if you will. I’m also going to experiment with breaking this topic into two shorter articles instead of one mega-long article (aka “the usual”). I realize not everyone suffers from gluttony when it comes to reading like I do. We’ll see how it goes.
Who Does God Say I Am?
This whole thing about being loved by God started several months ago, when I asked God the question: “Who do you say that I am?” Lest you think I’m just that spiritual of a person who regularly and of my own accord asks God profound questions… I’m not and I didn’t. Credit for this goes to my church, where we were instructed in a time of prayer to ask God this question.
Upon being given this directive, in my spirit I sighed, groaned, and rolled my inward eyes a little… (maybe just a half-roll, ok?), which is such great way to approach God, isn’t it? A part of me was expecting God to say something mushy that I couldn’t relate to (see above mention of issues with womanliness), while another part felt like I already knew all the ways He might answer this question. I know what the Bible says about who God says I am. I’ve read the lists of those “identity in Christ” verses several times over the years. I figured that He probably wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. (Yes, I needed to read my last post and remind myself there’s a vast difference between knowing in your head and knowing in your heart).
Anyways, I dutifully and obediently asked God, “God, who do you say that I am?”
And do you know what He said?
Boy did I call that one. God managed to hit both of my negative expectations by giving me a word (a) I already knew, and (b) a flowery, womanly-ish word. But, in all fairness, maybe He misunderstood my question? After all, I had asked who He said I am, not what He said I am. I decided to give
Him another chance myself another chance to hear correctly, and continued to wait, eyes screwed shut in concentrated silence. But that darn word “Loved” just kept floating its pretty little self to the surface of my mind.
Then it hit me. God was trying to show me that apart from Him, any other identity is meaningless. All that I am, is because I am loved by Him.
That shut me and my bad attitude up real quick.
Loved as an Identity
My disappointment with His answer revealed that really, I had been hoping God would give me a word that would somehow affirm my own attempts at fabricating an identity based on myself. I think any other word He’d given me, in my pride I could have probably made a case (at least in my own head to myself) for it partially resulting from my own effort or origin.
But being loved is something that happens to you. It’s not about what you do, or even who you are. It’s out of your control. You can’t force someone to love you, you can’t one day decide you’re going to be loved and Bam! Loved! Being loved is entirely dependent on the person doing the loving. The lover, if you will. And who better a lover than God, who IS love?
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16
When we allow ourselves to be loved by God, our identity merges with the identity of God, and we gain access to an identity that is independent of circumstance, the opinion of others or even ourselves. All of our life roles, positions, possessions, skills, talents, occupations, personality traits, and anything else we might try to find identity within is changeable, vulnerable to loss, and can be stripped away. But God, and by nature His love- are unchanging: the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His love is unfailing, and is unconditional. It cannot be taken away from us:
…I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
I could lose everything else that makes me “me,” yet I would still be loved by God. You would still be loved by God. There is no firmer an identity than that based on the love of God.
So I say to you: Be Loved.
In the next article, I will discuss the benefits of living with an identity based in God’s love, so please be sure to sign-up to receive new articles by email if you haven’t already!