Some of us struggle from time to time to grasp the specificity of God's love. Sure, we acknowledge that "God is love" (1John 4:8). Our hopes are pinned on this, our ethics shaped by this. But let's press it a bit further: we may know God is love, that God loves people generally, but how sure are we that God loves us specifically? I'm talking here not about our faith, but more about our feelings (can Presbyterians do that?!). How sure are we that God loves us personally in a detailed, tailor-made, specific way?
I believe that tremendous growth in Christ occurs as we experience the "16 inch drop" from head to heart, when we go beyond knowing about God's love in our minds to feeling God's love in our hearts. Let me share one such example from my life.
Almost 20 years ago, while in my first quarter at seminary, I found myself plunged into an 18-month depression. Mine manifested itself in feelings of low self-worth, in recriminating thoughts from my past, and a gnawing guilt. As I began to see the contours of my depression, particularly my struggles with guilty feelings over my pre-Christian past (none of it terribly spectacular in hindsight, but troubling to me then, nonetheless), I found a very helpful book in the seminary library (Bruce Narramore's No Condemnation, still in print). It was one of those books that, thumbing through it in the library stacks, I knew I needed to own. I'm a marker of books and this was one which seemed perfectly suited to my needs. I asked the librarian about the book and whether it could be ordered and purchased. She believed not. I was sorely disappointed and trudged home, all the while praying and asking for God's help in my struggles. As I mounted the outdoor stairs to our second floor apartment, musing on this book, my gaze fell through the parted curtains of the unit below. Through the window, on a coffee table, beneath a light, I could see clearly a copy of Narramore's book! I rushed down the steps, knocked on the door, and my neighbor, Ron, a doctoral student in psychology, told me he had just purchased the book on special order from the seminary bookstore! I was overwhelmed and rushed to order the book myself. As I expected, it proved to be an indispensable navigational tool as I journeyed through my depression and into fresh discoveries of God's very specific love for me.
It was a powerful reminder then (and still today) of how God keeps in step with us. God knows us specifically, names us, cherishes us, and can provide for us in ways that are unique to our needs. God's love is not some generic, yellow-label, "Kirkland brand" love. God's love is not a one-size fits all kind of love. It's tailor-made. And when we experience this, "God is love" takes on a whole new meaning. How have you experienced God's specific love for you lately?