I have just returned from two marvelous weeks with my grandsons. They are sweet and loving. The youngest will give those big sloppy wet kisses that only babies can give, but by far the best are the hugs when he snuggles his face into your neck and gives a small sigh. Mmm, just like when he was a little baby.
My older grandson is so very loving. He delights in giving kisses and hugs, and is at that stage when he puts his arms out wide and says, “I love you this much.”
One of his favorite shows is, Guess how much I love you, the story of little nut-brown hare, and his adventures with his meadowland friends. At the end of each episode the little nut-brown hare and his father play the game of guess how much I love you. The responses are dependent upon the activities of the day–as much as all the blossoms on all the trees; as much as all the footprints we made in the snow; all the way to the moon and back; all the way to the stars and back–and then they usually add, “and more.”
My grandson loves to repeat those sayings, especially to the moon and back, and to the stars and back. His love is big and expansive. Most endearing however is how he has grasped the concept of MORE. Sometimes he puts his arms straight out to his side and says, “I love you this much.”, then he gets a concerned look on his face and adds, “but my arms aren’t long enough.”
During those two weeks of love and hugs and kisses I have reflected on the love that God has for us. When we think about how much God loves us, it is far more than a matter of to the stars and back, or even to the very edges of the universe and back. God’s love is so much bigger than that. God loves us with all the love of heaven, all the love of eternity, all the love that is contained in his heart. He proved that love by sending his son to live and to die for the forgiveness of our sins and the assurance of our eternal life. God’s arms are long enough to demonstrate to us all the love that is in his heart. That love is spoken of in the following hymn:
‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.
For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man’s mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.
The love of God is the hallmark of our life, and the beginning of our learning to love with the heart of God. After all the only appropriate response to love is love. The only response to a generous outpouring of love is a generous outpouring of love. I wonder, have we ever paused to reflect upon how much we love God? Have we ever wondered how we demonstrate the greatness of God’s love?
I know that sometimes I struggle to love with the love of God. There are people in the world, and sadly in the church that I have a great deal of difficulty loving. Whenever I am extremely frustrated in my relationship with those people I have to remind myself that God sent Jesus to die for this person. And there are times when I have difficulty loving the people whom I love most dearly, and I have to remind myself that even God is frustrated with me because my behavior is not always a reflection of the love that he has given to me.
For that reason there is a prayer that I return to from time to time, praying it as a reminder that I am called to be a reflection of God’s love in this world. This prayer is contained in the book, “Love, a guide for prayer” by Jacqueline Bergan and Marie Schwan. This is a prayer that needs to be prayed as it is written, using the spacing and tabbing as rest stops to allow the prayer to enter deeply into your heart. May it help you in your journey of love as it is helping my in my journey of love.
Lord my God, when your love spilled over into creation,
you thought of me.
from love, of love, for love.
Let my heart, O God, always
and enjoy your goodness in all of creation.
Direct all that is in me toward your praise.
Teach me reverence for every person, all things.
Energize me in your service.
may nothing ever distract me from your love…
neither health nor sickness
wealth nor poverty
honor nor dishonor
long life nor short life.
May I never seek nor choose to be other
than you intend or wish. Amen.