We hear those words on TV soap operas, spoken as a perfunctory response to the other voice saying “I love you”. This latter affirmation was first spoken to me when I was courting (going steady is the current term). I knew my parents loved me – without telling me so. I was fed, clothed, nursed, protected, cared for – the unspoken conclusion was, words were not needed. I later learnt that Yorkshire people have a penchant for being phlegmatic – ‘having a stolid unemotional disposition’. My parents never read, or even heard of Dr Spock’s advice, ‘Tell your children you love them’.
Reflect for a moment on your own life experience. When did you first receive this verbal assurance? Some of you reading this are enjoying the company of a spouse and children. Have you verbally expressed your love lately? We assume they know? Why do we take so much for granted?
It may be your children have moved out and you no longer have a companion, but the hunger to hear those three words of affirmation and affection, “I love you”, gnaws at your stomach. You ‘tear up’ when recalling the last time you heard them. How long has it been?
Words, music, memories, pictures can all pluck the emotional string in our heart. It is a God given faculty of our being. God made us in love for love. ‘You shall love…..” is the very first, the prime, commandment given to us. Love is the primal quality of God which all the prophets reminded the people of. In their book love was the blanket covering for every other virtue, and the governing factor of all their relationships.
Hosea learnt of the relentless quality of God’s love for his people through his own experience of love for a promiscuous, unfaithful wife. Jeremiah’s message from God for the faithless, feckless people was “”I have never quit loving you, and never will….. Expect love, love and even more love. (31.3-) TM. If we want to know how God loves us, John writes: ’This is how God has shown his love to us, he sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. (1Jn.4:9).
Mark tells us of the reaction of Jesus to a young man seeking a fuller life, ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him’ (10:21) NIV. When Jesus speaks to his disciples about love he says ‘Love each other, as I have loved you’ (Jn.15:12) NIV. He goes on to say he had loved them as God, the Father, loved him. The quality of his love was nonverbal, shown (proved) in his willingness to give himself in service and die – forgiving those who put him to death.
Do you find it difficult to believe the Un-nameable, Invisible God loves you? Has the reality of his love for you really dawned on you personally? No matter how many sermons you’ve heard, services attended, books read, activities engage in, trying hard to be “a good Christian” – do you know this love at the centre of yourself, your ‘inner room’? Karl Barth, the great German theologian, who authored a barrow load of theological books on the supremacy of God and the authority of scripture, was once asked if he could express in one simple sentence the substance of his writing, he answered “Yes. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.
When visiting a seaside resort in Yorkshire you could (probably still can) buy a ‘stick of rock’, a sweet, mint, flavoured candy roll from six to ten inches in length. No matter how long you sucked it, or wherever you cut into it, imprinted, often in red, was the name of the resort. Like that rock, imprinted in my DNA, is the caption “Made by God”. Stop there. Read that allowed, slowly.
I wonder if you have heard the true story of Giuseppe an Italian tailor who fell deeply in love with Maria, one of the town’s beauties. From their meeting she knew of his deep feelings for her. She, however, fell under the spell of another suitor, son of a wealthy family. Their plans to wed were announced and Giuseppe offered to design and make her wedding dress. On the day of the wedding his home stood empty. The couple were married and emigrated to a new life in America.
Years passed. Her husband fell ill and died then hard times befell her. The time came for her daughter to be confirmed. Taking her beautiful white, satin wedding dress Maria cut into it to make her daughter a dress suitable for the occasion. Breaking open the hem she found a slip of paper with faded handwriting “I shall always love you”. Stunned, she recalled his devotion. Wondering if he was still alive she decided to write. No reply came. Weeks later there was a knock on her apartment door. Opening it – to her utter astonishment, there stood Giuseppe, now grey haired. Gently reaching for her hand she heard the softly spoken words, “It is still true Maria”.
Woven into the fabric of your life are the words, spoken earlier, “I have never stopped loving you and never will….Expect love, love and more love.” In brief – “Love you more!” He made you. He comes to you. He reaches for you. Be still now and let him love you.