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He loves me. He loves me not.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us”

1 John 4:10a

I recently uncovered an old diary from my childhood. This Winnie the Pooh themed journal with lock and key was filled with 10 year old heart vomit. What did a girl in the 5th grade know about love anyway?

I wasn’t at all surprised by the name that filled almost every page; my childhood crush. Honestly, more like an obsession. I knew in my tiny little adolescent heart that we would get married someday. At 33 years old, I laugh so hard at the inner-mini-me! I was a hopeless romantic even then.

Needless to say, my dream did not come true (thank God). The memories of “the cute, tall, light-skinned boy” are tucked away in the pages of this diary. It made me think back to the days in grade school when we would torture flowers and pluck off their petals in hopes the final leaf would indicate, “he loves me!”

Does anyone else remember those days?

As a child, we get so many messages about love. Through our interactions with our caregivers, the media, or friends, we begin to create our own internal definition of love. That subjective definition then becomes the lens through which we perceive our relationships and connections with others. It’s accompanied by conditional love, quid pro quo relationships, and unintentional contracts with the father of lies.

Growing up, I believed that I had to do in order to be loved; and unfortunately, that lie followed me into adult relationships and into my relationship with God. In addition, my upbringing conditioned me to waver between wanting to be close to someone and fear of getting hurt or abandoned because that was my experience as a child.

I find myself, even now, questioning God’s love for me. I find myself doing more for God versus being with God. I find myself questioning my own worth and value as a daughter, friend, and partner. Everything I learned about love whether in the school-yard or the dinner table, contradicts the truth that flows in God’s love letter: the Bible. The truth that God loves me no matter what I do or don’t do. God loves me despite me not even knowing how to love myself. God loves me without conditions. God loves me more than any other being on earth. God loves me simply because.

1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Nothing we do for God, not even loving Him in return, affects the magnitude of His love for us.

Not that we loved Him, but that He loved us. Period.

I realize that my questioning of God’s love is really me questioning my own belief about my worth to be loved. “God, am I enough for you to love me” is at the core of my question. And He says, “I have written your name on the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16a). You are my beloved, cherished one. You are worth more than the sparrows. I have perfect love to give you. I love you so much that I sent my one and only son to die for your sins so that you may have eternal life with me in Heaven. I love you. Just because you are Mine.”

When I look back at my journals as an adult, God’s name is written throughout those pages. Knowing God is love and having His heart revealed no longer makes all the “love me nots” a source of pain, but a sign that His love is far better. God is love and he loves you.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for being my perfect love. Thank you for sacrificing your son to die for me. I can never repay you, and I thank you that you love me anyway. I thank you that you don’t love how man loves, but your love is a divine, everlasting, unwavering love. Teach me Lord how to receive and accept your love in its abundance. Father, heal me from any places of my heart that have been wounded. Renew what I thought about love and show me what love truly is. Thank you for loving me in spite of me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by: Ashley K. Stovall

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