One distinguishing mark of the love of God, in the small pristine moments when we become aware, is that it always comes to us as something of a surprise. God’s love is so different from any other love we have known. And it’s certainly different from how we love. His love is the only love in the universe that is not rooted in wanting us to fulfill a need in Him. God has no ego needs - and that means He is free to love in a completely unique way. That’s why Jesus prayed that the love He had known with the Father might be experienced by His friends, His disciples, and us, when we come to know Him as Lord and Saviour (John 17:26). The love that exists between the members of the Trinity is better and totally different than anything we have known.
Another surprise is how God’s love steps past our special talents and our hard work and reaches into the broken, messy places of our soul. The children’s book, “Awful Abigail and Why She Changed” speaks to this aspect of God’s love. Abigail, an Innkeeper’s daughter, earns her name by being the kind of little girl who gets into everyone’s hair. One night she is sent to her room, where she watches from her balcony as Mary and Joseph arrive and inquire about staying in her father’s Inn. Once everyone is in bed, Awful Abigail follows a faint light that leads her to the manger. She opens the door and sees Jesus, and the story ends with this wonderful line: “Somehow she knew a dream had come true, and Someone who loved her had found her.”
All of us know moments - or parts of ourselves - we think of as “awful.” No one would want us if s/he knew of this weakness, this sin, this failure. But God is not put off by the messy, broken, sinful, awful aspects of our lives. He pursues us right into the middle of the mess. He does not leave us alone to sanitize the contents - which we are incapable of doing anyway. The real question to ask ourselves is whether we can let ourselves be loved by Him in the “awful” moments of our lives - because the hesitancy is ours, not His.
In the book of Hosea, God talks of wooing Israel, His adulterous bride, into the wilderness. There He will “speak tenderly to her,” and there He will give her vineyards and “a door of hope.” There she will come to know Him not as her owner but - much more intimately - as her husband (see Hosea 2:14-16). The very nature of the relationship will change. And so it is for each of us. The tender, loving words of Jesus, spoken in the wilderness places of our lives, bring us home and bind us to Him as the great Lover of our souls.