A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to go to work. It was dark outside, and I knew my shift wouldn't end until gone midnight, meaning I would probably not return to my bed until 1 in the morning. I was grumpy, to say the least. This wasn't the job I wanted, I hated working evenings and I was plagued with an ongoing feeling that all of this was pointless. I was talking to my housemate about it, who said she would pray that the shift would be like water off a duck's back, that I would remain in a bubble the entire night, that nothing would get to me. I said thank you but, to be honest, didn't have high expectations. I got on my bike, cycled through the bitter cold and braced myself for a long, hard night.
We were getting a coach to the place we were working, and I saw a crowd of people waiting outside. I went over, feeling fairly numb by this point. I saw a lot of people I'd got to know fairly well over the last few months, and I suddenly felt really happy to see them. We were soon laughing and chatting, and my attitude completely changed. We stepped onto the coach, and the warmth hit me which, compared to the cold outside, was the most comforting thing I could have received at that moment. I found a seat and settled, tucked up in my slightly stained cream jumper. It's hard to explain, but I felt so safe all of a sudden. I couldn't understand what had changed. And then I heard God's voice so clearly saying this one thing: 'Livvi, why don't you just let me love you.'
It seems odd that this was a moment that has massively impacted me, as it doesn't seem overly significant. But, in that moment, I understood it in a way I'd never understood it before. Most of my life, the words 'God loves me' would just roll off my tongue. But, then, I got it. I didn't have to be anything but someone who was loved by God. I'd done nothing to deserve it, there was nothing in me that was particularly loveable. Yet, I was loved. Loved more deeply than I could ever know, but that small moment gave me a taste of it. In the warmth of that truth, nothing else mattered.
Sheridan Voysey did our Forge teaching a few weeks ago. He spoke about the three callings of the children of God. The first was, simply, 'to be loved.' People long to be loved, long to be accepted for the person that they are, unconditionally and boundlessly. People go to ridiculous lengths to find it. They opt to change themselves to gain the love they crave, feeling they need to be more beautiful, successful or together in life, or else they will never be loved. But when sitting in that coach, I didn't feel beautiful or successful, and I certainly didn't have my life together. But I could rest, knowing that I was so tenderly loved by my maker. It was a truth I could completely rely on. In that moment, nothing else mattered.
Sheridan didn't say that our first calling was to love God, although that came in later. God didn't tell me to love him more and show that a bit more in my attitude. In fact, I didn't actually have to do anything. I could simply rest in the Lord's embrace. So often, though, I don't live like this. I become frustrated at myself when I am not as loving and patient with people as I'd like to be. But, that night, God answered the prayer of my housemate when I was too irritated to seek God's help myself. He was only too willing to pull me closer to him. I didn't have to do anything.
God is longing to show us just how vast his love is for us. He longs to have the most intimate relationship wih us. In the bitter cold, where life was feeling empty and meaningless, I stepped into the warmth of the presence of God. Nothing else mattered. When life gets stressful and hard, it's easy to forget or struggle to grasp that we are deeply loved by God. But, the truth is, we don't have to do anything. Just rest and know you are loved!
It's funny but I find it comforting everytime I put that jumper on now. It isn't neccesarily my most flattering jumper but, whenever I put it on, it reminds me, once again, that it doesn't matter what I look like, what I've done, how I've acted or how many times I've let myself down. I am loved. That's all that matters.
Tim Keller- 'This is the love you have been looking for all of your life. This is the only love that can't let you down. This is bomb-proof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love- it is this love that you are after, underneath all of your pursuits of those others.' (Encounters with Jesus)