Our family was under stress. My husband had just retired. We were getting our house ready to sell by cleaning, fixing, packing and throwing away. We were also looking for a new place to live in another town. It wasn’t going well. Most of the places we asked to see were selling before we could make an appointment. Our current house had a string of unexpected things to fix. It had all taken its toll.
Our mood changed from expectant to surly. We weren’t exactly fighting, but our tone must have been off because our granddaughter, Arianna, quietly handed each of us a handmade construction paper heart with the word love written in crayon.
She instructed us to put them in our pocket so we would remember to love each other.
We quietly said, “Oh, honey, we still love each other.”
She wasn’t convinced and her silence brought conviction. We had forgotten that circumstances and things are not what make a happy life. Our love for each other was much more important. Love must be lived out in words and actions and ours had not lined up with what we claimed.
I’m not used to being put in my place by a seven year old, but God will use whatever is available to get through to hard hearts, and Arianna was available.
We accepted the hearts and obediently put them in our pockets.
Our house eventually sold, we found a new one, and survived the move.
I would be lying if I said our surly days were over, but Arianna had helped us to be a little softer and kinder to each other. And every time I think of the paper heart for my pocket I breathe a prayer of thanks to a good God who blessed us with a granddaughter who knows exactly how to speak the truth in love.
Here it is the start of another year. There is hope for a fresh start, a new beginning. To do better at life than I did last year. But there are old doubts. Can I really begin again? Can God possibly love and forgive me after what I’ve done?
The simple truth is…”If God doesn’t speak to me in my darkest sin, He doesn’t speak to me at all.” Either he is a God who loves even the most vile sinner and longs for them to turn to him or he doesn’t care for any sinner and will condemn us all to hell.
His love is way beyond anything we can imagine and so we imagine his love is like ours. “Fragile, weak and conditional.”
We love those who are kind to us. God loves those who hate him.
We love those who are worthy of our love. None of us are worthy of God’s love.
We love those who we have the energy to love. God loves with a passion that takes our breath away. It is an unending wellspring of love for the people he has created for one purpose only…to love and serve Him.
And yet we put limits on the limitless God. We say, “I have gone too far. He can’t possibly forgive this offense. I have sinned too often. He will not forgive me yet again.”
But we forget that he is the good shepherd who leaves the 99 righteous persons to seek and save the lost one. (Luke 15:4-7)
We forget that he loved people like David who were guilty of sexual immorality, betrayal and murder.
We forget he loved the extremely wicked city of Ninevah enough to send a reluctant prophet to preach them the gospel. Jonah tried to get out of the assignment, but God insisted, and the entire city from least to greatest had the nerve to repent. (Jonah 3:1-10)
Such a heart of forgiveness this God has. So at the beginning of this year I bring my past failures to him. I seek His power in changing who I am. I determine to set my eyes on my only hope. The grace and forgiveness of a God who loves me in spite of who I am.