As February finishes out and Cornerstone Christian Counseling ends their month-long focus on love, I have been asked to write about God’s love for us. To write about the new identity available to us because of Christ’s love and sacrifice. When we got together as a team to discuss this month’s theme, we wanted to ground our human expression of love in the love we are ultimately to experience from God. It has been a blog I’ve been excited to write and one I have honestly been avoiding because of the size and weight of the topic. The truth is I had to get up at three this morning to begin writing because the last day of February has come and while I’ve done a lot of thinking, in my avoidance I have done no actual writing. As I sit down to write I am aware of the magnitude– the potential impact– of a true experience of Jesus’ love in my life and those that I hope will read this. While change, grace, and love in a general sense are available to all, each find their fulfillment and deepest impact only through our continued experience of God’s love for us. As I was thinking of the significance of having a relationship with God the following quote came to mind:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A. W. Tozer

This has long been a favorite quote of mine. I am pretty sure it has been on my Facebook page under the favorite quotes section as long as I have been on Facebook. I came across it during a formational time in my faith while studying at Moody Bible Institute. A school, an education, and a time in my life I am forever grateful for. Yet in spite of how much I am indebted to and how much I draw from this period in my life, it’s a time I have often looked back on with much question, guilt, and condemnation. So much of this point in my story still feels like a lie. You see while in Bible college, while studying the Bible, while learning about God, I never felt farther from Him. While learning what to believe about God, I never struggled more to believe in Him or to feel the impact of His love for me.

As time has moved me farther from my undergraduate experience and as I have experienced healing in my own story and have gotten to be part of the healing of others’ stories, I am learning that this quote is incomplete. It is lacking. With the utmost respect for Tozer– perhaps the most foundational Christian thinker and writer of all time– and with as much humility as I can offer, I am going to disagree. Or at least come at the subject from a very different angle. I would like to suggest that Tozer got it backwards. That he mixed up the order of the words. I would like to offer, “What comes into God’s mind when he thinks about us is the most important thing about us.” And given permission to take it a step farther and add a few more words, I would offer that when it comes to experiencing true transformation and healing in my life, “What I believe comes into God’s mind when he thinks about me is the most important thing.”

Take a moment. Let this question sit with you. Answer honestly. Right now, in this moment what do you think God thinks of you? What is His heart toward you? Give it a minute. Maybe even write it down. Some things that come to mind right now for me if I’m honest are: Procrastinator. Unworthy to write this blog. Hypocrite. Self-righteous. Striving. Fearful. Selfishly motivated. Blowing it.

Take another moment for another question. This one will likely be more difficult. Think of your worst moment. Or sets of moments here in this life. The affair. The divorce. The divorces. The addiction. The ways you’ve damaged your kids. The stealing. The sexual or physical abuse as victim or perpetrator. The pornography. The cheating. The drug use. The moment of judging others as you read this list and think “Wow, I don’t have any of those. I can’t believe people who believe in Jesus even have those things in their story.” What do you think God’s heart is toward you in these moments? Thoughts for me include: “I’m unlovable.” “If people only knew.” “I’m so broken.” “I’m such a screw-up.” “I’m hopeless.” “God could never forgive that. Forgive me.”

What I’ve come to understand over the past few years is that rather than these thoughts and feelings being from God, these are what I bring to the table. These are what I project onto God. I am coming to realize God is far more gracious and careful with my heart than I am. God is far less surprised by my screw-ups and sin as abhorrent or consistent as they may be. I am coming to see that the depth of God’s love for me is outrageous. Of course he hates all the things I listed. Of course he desires so much more for me and from me. Of course their is consequence to all of it. Painful consequence. But to think that he defines me or changes His heart towards me based off of any of them is simply untrue. Read the Bible. Read it cover to cover. Go back to the front and start again. You simply cannot find it. In fact you will find the exact opposite. One of my favorite authors wrote the following in regards to the depth of God’s love for me and for you. Be warned it’s outrageous. It’s offensive. It’s shocking. Just as all the stories in the Bible which speak about God’s love are.

Have you ever had to literally turn a lover over to a mortal enemy to allow her to find out for herself what his intentions toward her really were? Have you ever had to lie in bed knowing she was believing his lies and was having sex with him every night? Have you ever sat helplessly by in a parking lot, while your enemy and his friends took turns raping your lover even as you sat nearby, unable to win her heart enough so she would trust you to rescue her? Have you ever called this one you had loved for so long, even the day after her rape, and asked her if she was ready to come back to you only to have her say her heart was still captured by your enemy? Have you ever watched your lover’s beauty slowly diminish and fade in a haze of alcohol, drugs, occult practices, and infant sacrifice until she is no longer recognizable in body or soul? Have you ever loved one so much that you even send your only son to talk with her about your love for her, knowing that he will be killed by her? (And in spite of knowing all of this, he was willing to do it because he loved her, too, and believed you were meant for each other.)

All this and more God has endured because of his refusal to stop loving us. (John Eldredge, The Sacred Romance)

I do not know what your story is. It is unique to you. You have blown it in ways you would have never guessed. In ways you would never share. You may continue to in spite of good intentions or you may have no intention to change at all. It does not matter. God’s heart for you has not changed. He watches over you with unconditional love. Outrageous love. All-in, go-for-broke love. He loves you in this very moment as much as He could ever love you or anyone else. It is in this outrageous and truly offensive love that He invites you to love yourself, to love Him back, and to love those around you.

If you have a few more minutes, I would challenge you to listen to the following song which speaks of God’s love toward you in this very moment.