I grew up hearing about the love of God. Fatherly Love. Love that runs deep and stretches wide. Love that conquers death. Love that offers hope and life and peace in abundance. As an adult, I read about the Love that calls me Child in the leather-bound bible beside my bed. I know I am His daughter. A daughter of the King. But how well do I know Him, really know Him, as my Father? My friend, Kristin Brown, has a way with words. And she has a heart that longs to know God more and more. Let her story remind you that you are treasured by the Father who ripped open the heavens to communicate His great Love for you.
By Kristin Brown
It was ten years ago, when my oldest daughter was but six months old, that I began the journey of knowing the love of the Father. We were at Maranatha Bible Conference, a family camp along the shores of Lake Michigan that my mother’s side of the family has been going to for almost 30 years now. The missionary focus that year was Mission India and the speaker was John DeVries, the kind of man who just radiated the love of God like no one I had ever seen. He instructed us to pray the Word of God and gave us an assignment that week to use the passage of 1 John 3:1 and each day take only a couple words and pray that God would reveal them to us in a great way. Unbeknownst to me, in the instruction to pray the Word of God slowly and thoughtfully, he was teaching me the ancient discipline of lectio divina.
The cares on my heart were heavy that year as I had been struggling through what exactly God’s love meant to me. I had been the good girl all my life. I had loved Jesus since I could remember and always sought to please him in everything I did. I never went through a rebellious stage like so many of my friends and family members did. One would think that the love of God was easy for me to understand. But it wasn’t. I looked at those who had suffered from their poor decisions in the past, running away from God, but who had come to know Him in a dynamic way and I saw the way they knew, really knew, the amazing love of God. And I envied them for it. My husband has an amazing salvation story. He knew the depths that the love of Christ had reached out to him and he got it. I, on the other hand, would think about Jesus’ words in Luke chapter 7, where Jesus had just been anointed by a sinful woman and Simon the Pharisee was outraged. Jesus said, “her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47) I would think of these words and figure I had been forgiven little, because of my good life, and therefore, I was only to know little of the love of God.
It was the third day into our lectio divina that year at Maranatha and my husband encouraged me to go off and have a quiet time, alone. I found myself strolling through the sand dunes until I sat down beside tall grass, overlooking the blue waters of Lake Michigan. I opened my Bible and turned to 1 John 3:1
“Behold what kind of love the Father has given us, in order that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1
The words for the day were “the Father” and so I prayed simply, “Show me the Father.” I waited for a while and prayed and listened and then felt compelled to continue in my reading of the book of Luke. (I was actually straying from the assignment, but it was truly God-ordained.) I was in Luke chapter 8 and I read the story about Jairus’s daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. I cannot explain what happened to me in that moment as I was reading that passage those 10 years ago, but my perspective on the love of the Father was altered forever. I wrote out the story of the woman’s healing contrasted with the little girl’s healing and they couldn’t have been more different from each other. The woman was publicly healed, while the girl was raised to life in secret. The one was a shameful figure in society, while the other was cherished in a good-standing home. But they were both in desperate need of Jesus. The one had suffered continually and the other had died suddenly. And then I saw it. Jesus called them both his children. He called the first daughter and the second he called his child. And I beheld that I was, in some mysterious sense, the little girl who had been raised to life! My story of salvation wasn’t flashy or full of addiction and wildness. My story wasn’t the woman with the issue of blood, the despised one who had a hard time comprehending that someone could love her. No. I was the little girl, the privileged one who was so close to love that she had missed it completely. I was dead, dead in my self-sufficiency and my pride (Oh My pride!), dead in my ingratitude and complacency. And here, this Jesus touched my hands and called to me, “My child, arise!”
When John urges us to behold the lavish love of the Father in 1 John chapter 3, he is commanding us to do something seemingly impossible. As the commentator MacLaren states, “We can no more ‘behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us’ than we can look with undimmed eyes right into the middle of the sun.” And yet, “Behold the love!” cries John, the man who referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. God, in His mercy has made His love known to us in the person of Jesus. There is no other way to become sons and daughters of the King of all creation, but to look to the cross of Christ, the most extravagant gift of love ever given, and to continue to look to the cross all of the days of our lives.
Photos by Liz Denton
Behold the love! It is greater than anything we can comprehend and yet we are commanded to behold it still. This is the love that makes the prodigal and the Pharisee brothers and the prostitute and the prideful sisters. It makes us children of God.
Check out Kristin's blog, Life Portraits: in pursuit of the beauty,