YOU ARE SO LOVED!

Before Eckhart Tolle talked about the power of now; before Brene’ Brown studied vulnerability; even before random acts of kindness became a thing, there was “Dr. Love”  – Leo Buscaglia. He was a ground-breaking researcher and actually taught classes on love. If you’re interested in reading his work, you can find at least one of his 14 books in a garage sale or maybe all of them at the library. Or ask your parents. (Unless they’re the ones who sold them in a garage sale.)

I remember being touched by his passion, his tenderness, his uninhibited enthusiasm for caring. He was an advocate for the power of love. No act of love was too small for him.

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When you haven’t been properly or appropriately loved, self-affection or the belief that anyone else can love you is virtually impossible. To this, Buscaglia said, “Love yourself-accept yourself-forgive yourself-and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.”

It’s too easy for some of us to put the needs of others before our own. But if we do, then loving ourselves is mandatory! We must love ourselves in order to love others. Why else would one of Christ’s two commandments be to love your neighbors as you love yourself?

For as long as I can remember, whenever I heard that, I thought, ‘My neighbors are in for a whole lot of nothin’ if that’s the case’ because I didn’t love myself. Not at all. I hoped others would love me, but I certainly didn’t expect it. I harbored the quiet belief that if anyone were ever to find out what I was really like, they wouldn’t like me at all. Essentially, I felt unlovable.

And there, in the middle of my growing up in self-deprecation, was Leo Buscaglia, a boisterous, loving bear of an Italian who was telling the world how important love was. I could read about it, but it may just as well have been well-written fiction to me. It was a lovely but ridiculous idea to a young woman who saw conditional tolerance at home and earned appreciation at school, but not love.

But Christ has it right, and so did Buscaglia. We can only offer what we have. I spent many of my 50-plus years being judged, and so I am now judgmental (And, yes, I’m working on it. I’m especially judgmental of people who are judgmental! I know, right?). I have learned to be more loving to myself, which has allowed me to be more accepting of love from others. The more love I can accept for myself, the more love I can offer to others. Eventually, I hope that loving others as I love myself will be a really good thing for other people! For now, I do the best I can. If I want to love as Christ loves, though, I have to allow myself to feel loved.

Here’s the cool part: If we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and we can’t love ourselves without accepting love, where does the first act of love come from?

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

This is great news for anyone who has grown up feeling unloved and unlovable! (And I believe there is a difference between the two.) If no one showed you love growing up, you can bet that God loves you! He always has and he always will. If you’re a Child of God, nothing you do can make him love you more; nothing you do can make him love you less.

First Romans 8:38-39 confirms this:

And 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.

You are so loved! Never forget that and never doubt it.

GOD WANTS YOUR REJECTED HEART

God so desperately wants a relationship with you. Do you know that we are the only creation of his that needs reconciliation and has been given the opportunity for reconciliation? The animals don’t need reconciliation. However, there’s a third of the original angels in heaven who left with Lucifer who desperately need reconciliation, and God hasn’t made a way for them.

‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son'”? Hebrews 1:5 (NIV)

And if we are adopted, grafted into the family of our Almighty, that makes us co-heirs with Christ. And that’s exciting news!

Angels, however, have no opportunity to be reconciled to God. What torment that must be. As humans, we can only imagine – and our imagination is incredible limited! – what it will be like in the presence of God when we reach Heaven, and yet so many of us yearn for it, look forward to it. The fallen angels know what it’s like to be in the presence of God, and they are bound to be denied that presence eternally.

This is how much God wants you! So much so that he has made a way to spend eternity with you at the expense of his only son, Jesus Christ.

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This may not be a comfortable thought for many of you who were not only discouraged from being a part of your earthly family, but were outright rejected. There’s no pain like the pain of rejection.

Like being picked last for the team. Some of you know what I’m talking about. The team captains are down to you and the kid who picks his nose – and eats it! And the nose-picker gets picked before you! You’ve never, ever picked your nose, much less eaten it! Who does that in the eighth grade anyway?

But then you go home, where it’s supposed to be safe and loving, where Mrs. Cleaver has just brought out a pan of fresh brownies for your after school culinary pleasure. Instead of brownies, there’s a note: Went out to eat with friends. Find some leftovers in the fridge. Again.

I had a profound experience of rejection when I was in college. It was a class exercise in recognizing people in the dark. The professor turned off all the lights. Then we were supposed to find a partner. But because there was an uneven number of students, he explained that if time were running out, someone would have to take on a third person. Simple enough, right? I wandered around in the dark, looking for a partner. Everyone I tried to attach myself to told me they already had a partner. When the lights came back on, I stood alone and humiliated.

Now someone who had been raised with more self-esteem than me may not have been bothered by this. I wasn’t one of those people. Instead, I stood there with tears threatening to run over my lower eyelashes. All I could think was, “I’m so defective that even in the dark, people know enough to reject me.” And I believed that.

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But God! Oh…God looks for you in the dark! He knows where you are. There is nowhere you can hide that his light can’t find you. And you’re the one he wants. It’s your rejected heart that he wants to hold next to his own. He didn’t send his only Son as a sacrifice simply to leave you out.

I used to think He did.

I accepted Christ as my Savior in a small Southern Baptist church when I was 12. As the years went by and I became a connoisseur of rejections, I began to genuinely believe that if I got into Heaven, it would be on a technicality. I imagined Jesus standing at the Pearly Gates, seeing me show up and begrudgingly saying, “Hmm. Well, I didn’t mean you, but rules are rules so come on in.” I even imagined an exasperated eye roll behind my back.

Our Lord isn’t like everyone else in our lives. He doesn’t just love. He is love. And he wants you to come to him with your rejected heart. So go ahead! You can trust him with it.