Somewhere over the years in my Christian life, I got this notion that I had to earn God’s love. Maybe you did, too. You thought that the more time you spent with Him in your devotions, the more service ministries you participated in, the more you gave of yourself to God—the more favorably He would look upon you.
I didn’t expect to get to Heaven by my good works, knowing they were all filthy rags in His sight. But I did expect God to somehow be more pleased, love me more, and view me with more graces if I chose to live for Him.
Little by little, this image of God has cracked. Through various means, this idolatrous god I had erected in my mind has, I hope, been replaced with the God found in the pages of Scripture.
The most significant tool in chipping away this false ideology has been my encounter with love that is free—my husband’s love for me.
“You mean you’re not upset with me?” I asked him after doing something I’m sure he didn’t like.
“I’m always happy with you,” he said.
How could it be? I couldn’t get over that kind of acceptance. The sort of love that looks past offenses to a deeper truth and takes its cues from the love God has for us.
When he said, “I forgive you,” he meant it, I learned. He didn’t bring it up, didn’t harass me about it five weeks from the words being uttered. It was gone. His was the sort of forgiveness stemming from the deep forgiveness God mercifully pours upon us—not because of who we are but because of what His Son did.
“You mean you still love me?” I would ask him after being married the first year and then the second and the third. I had somehow wondered if a growth in love were possible or if love would wear off, like it seemed it did from my limited observation. I thought love would get dimmer, grow less intense, be less obvious as the years passed.
But I found that the kind of love I had when I married him—the love that believed he was God’s will for me and that cared for him on a certain level—has deepened, intensified, and grown richer every day.
He is always happy to see me when he gets home from work, and he never fails to welcome me home if I get back later than he does. I found that if I wanted the sort of negative opinion I was looking for about an outfit, I couldn’t get it from him, because he always had a compliment for me.
Last night he reminded me, “God’s love for us is free. That’s how my love is for you. It’s not based on anything you do.”
Because I love my husband, I want to please him.
Because I love my God, I want to please Him.
But it’s not in pleasing Him that love is earned. That love is free. What a liberating thought—not a licentious liberation—but one that cries out, “Freely ye have received, freely give!”
As my husband has demonstrated God’s love to me in our seven years of marriage, so I have learned about the God of love and my relationship with Him. In turn, that vast ocean of love—limitless, boundless, free—has deepened my relationship with others, so that, by God’s amazing grace, I can love others and keep learning how to do so with the sort of free love given to me by God.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God,
and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God;
he that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love”—I John 4:7-8.