Monday, August 3, 2015

I Thought I Knew What Love Looked Like

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"The one who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I too will love them and show myself to them." John 14:21
"Most live life with love gone much unsaid." These narrated words from a new BBC series pricked my heart as I thought about all the years I withheld my love from my father; repressed my childhood affection from the one who walked away and yet returned with a repentant heart. We'd lost so much time play-acting our roles as father and daughter all those Saturdays of my youth, that when he returned in my college days, I didn't know what to do. Showing affection was awkward, at least, and risky. I allowed the fear of rejection to build an impenetrable fortress around my heart, keeping everyone at arm's length, especially my father.

We lived most of the rest of his life with love gone much unsaid until God took hold of my heart about nine years ago. That's when God pried open my soul and revealed to me my earthly father through His eyes. For the very first time, I was able to accept him for who God created him to be, and honor his traits in me without shame. But it wasn't enough to only ponder these revelations. God challenged me to forgive my father face-to-face and to speak my love out loud to him (talk about fear and risk!). God worked on me for seven months before I gained the courage to risk it all and face my father. And I'm glad I did.

While God had restored my love for my earthly father, that love was far from that innocent, untainted love between a father and his daughter. My heart yearned for that which was lost from my childhood; a type of love that now only God himself could restore, for my earthly father passed away last winter. My father and I had left no words unsaid and he knew I loved him and forgave him. I thought his passing had restored all lost love between us and ended my father journey, but recently God taught me differently; that I could not possibly know what a father's love looked like (or felt like) without experiencing it first.
Recently, I stood amongst a few others while the leader of the small group climbed upon a chair next to me, placing me in the posture of a young girl and her father. He then recited my personalized Scripture as though God were reading it himself:

"I cherish you with an unending, undying love. I pull you near and hold you close with my absolute, dependable kindness. Though your world is shaken and the familiar be removed, still my love for you remains - my boundless, unending, immovable love. My covenant, my word, my promise of peace also remains, for I AM tender, gentle and compassionate towards you, always." (Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 54:10 personalized)

In that moment I felt four-years-old again, standing beside my earthly father, protected and encircled in his love. God stirred my heart like never before, lavishing His love on me in such a way that words cannot adequately explain. Not only was it a time of restorative love of an earthly experience from my childhood, but more so a God-gift and spiritual breakthrough of experiencing the depth of God's love for me as my heavenly Father.

Jesus said, "A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV). In the past, I've read how Jesus loved and tried to love as he did, but I could not offer the full extent of his love until I experienced it firsthand. This teaching by Mark Fee in his First Loved to Love seminar blew me away. I'd spent decades trying to love my father as Jesus had taught me, but I hadn't experienced that type of father-daughter love from my heavenly Father at all. I hadn't even asked for it.

The exercise that helped me experience God's love firsthand that day was by personalizing a love Scripture, like the one above. I then read it aloud several times, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal God's heart for me through the Scripture. I recorded our silent conversation and meditate on it daily. I've found it more effective when my husband reads it to me. 

All these years I thought I knew what loved looked like, but God is showing me so much more. He is showing me how high, how wide, how deep is His love for me.

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