Today while preparing a lesson to teach an elementary school Bible class, a young fourth-grade girl approached me and asked, “What stamp would you use to send a Valentine Gram?” She held in her hands a stamp of a frog, a lion, a hand and, off to the left as an obvious non-preference, a heart. She continued to say, “I like the frog because it says that love can leap into your heart.”
I smirked and said, “Hmm…true, but why not…?”
Before I can finish, she interrupts immediately, “The heart?” She rolls her eyes and continues, “it’s too, ummm, much,” she says.
I laugh and say, “I see. A too-much-kinda-love, huh?” She nods and agrees. “That too-much-kinda-love is a lot, right?”
“Yeah,” she says in a matter of fact tone. “That’s like love you have for, like, your mom and dad and maybe, like, your brother,” as she shivers in disgust.
“Yeah,” I agree, “love kinda comes from the deep, deep part of your heart. The kind that is so deep that sometimes it kinda hurts but you wanna share and give it so badly.” Looking at me with a half-smile and half-smirk, she nods in agreement. “That’s the best kind of love,” I say.
In sheer repulsion, she exclaims, “Ewwww…that’s gross.”
I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my seat. As I composed myself, God began to minister and reveal to me, His love for me. Even as I write, my eyes well up just understanding this love…for me, for you, for us. A love so treasured it’s worth giving away; a love so indescribable and unconditional that to contain it would be devastating and unfathomable. How can God love me? Then He speaks:
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” -John 15:9
I love my wife, my sons, my family, my friends, but the intensity by no means is anything like what Christ describes in these words. The words “as” and “also” in Greek translate to kathos. This means according to the same degree. Jesus loves me as much as God loves Him! I am loved in the mirror-image way God loves Him. Reflecting on the meaning of this word greatly humbled me. Suddenly, the meaning of the phrase “Jesus loves you” became soul shattering. The welled-up eyes soon became streams as I grew overwhelmed by the love that Jesus is talking about in John 15.
Living in the American culture where the word…love…expresses our heightened affinity for something and expresses our deepest emotion for another human being, I realize my own depravity. Who am I to be worthy of God’s love? Why would God, in my wretchedness, love me? After all, none of us is worthy of that love, right? Especially considering that God is perfect and holy, pure and unblemished, and we…we are not, yet He loves us with a love like no other.
This is love that is unconditional. This love is longsuffering. It’s restoring. It’s replenishing and renewing. All of this I cannot fully grasp, as I figuratively catch my breath in the depth of this, I draw each one as if I can’t catch the next. Then I turn to the cross. Humbly, I see Him in my mind, drawing for that same breath. Each breath given for mine. His life for mine. It is finished. It is done! The unpayable debt has been paid and paid by this sacrifice in love, a “too much kinda love.” It’s a love I don’t deserve, but it’s a love that I am given. It’s poured out unto us, and is for us to pour out unto others.
Impossible. Lord, I cannot, I don’t know how, I’m not able. Then I see it, “ABIDE IN MY LOVE.” I can only love like Christ, in Christ! I must remain in His love to give this love. It’s a relational abiding, a continued abiding, a relentless abiding. I cannot say I truly love until I realize the love that has been given me. Even the notion of this love is glory to Him and Him alone.
“We love Him because He first loved us” -1 John 4:19
It’s the love that loves those in the fray, those who are outcast, those who are rejected, those who are unlovable. God who is merciful and gracious, righteous and just, high and holy, loves me while I was in the mire and muck, in the fray, in the rejection pile. He picked me out, delivered me and made me new in His “too much kinda love.”
In the depths of my reflection on love, I came to the truth that God created us for love. We are made to receive and give love. We all need to be loved for who we really are, just as we are, unconditionally, and in spite of wealth, poverty, power or meekness. Nothing can fill the human need for our hearts to be filled with this love. The need is so great that it compels us to seek it in many places and many ways, but this love can only be found in the very One who created us. This love that God has for us is a love that is given to a person who needs it the most but deserves it the least. We, as sinners, deserved His wrath, but instead He gave us His love, and He did this through Christ.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
My sin that first separates me from Him is now covered by His love. It’s He who drew me close despite that sin. There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me more, nor any less. It’s He who loved me first. He continues to love me, exactly in the same way He loved Jesus. Now I am called to love the same way. This Valentine’s Day, let’s truly reflect and understand the depth and breadth of this love. We must receive His love and allow it to live within us before we can love Him, others and ourselves. We can only give this “too much kinda love” if we abide in His love. Let us “above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’” (1 Peter 4:8).
I am jolted back to reality by the sound of stamping of paper. It was a continuous pounding on the Masonite counter. I get up and look over to see what this young girl finally picked to define the symbol of love for her Valentine grams. Surprisingly she chose – the frog. I would have chosen the heart…the “too much kinda love.”