Several years ago, on Good Friday, our pastor announced that our church would be open all day for anyone who would like to spend time in quiet prayer and meditation. I had not taken advantage of this before and decided that this would be the time to do it. I wish I could say my prayer life is characterized by strength and consistency, but in fact it is more likely to be weak and sporadic. So I determined that I would plan to go to the church, spend time in prayer and wait. More than talking to God I wanted to hear from God. I planned to wait as long as necessary.
The church was dim, with music playing softly and communion was available to anyone who chose to partake. There were only a few others there when I arrived. I found a place by myself and sat quietly to pray. In my mind I moved through my normal ritual of prayer. (Do you have that too? A customary way of beginning and moving through the things you want to say to God.) As I made my way through this routine, I told God that I wanted to hear from Him. I was willing to stay as long as necessary and to listen to whatever He wanted to say. More than ever I just wanted to hear from God. It wasn’t a matter of proving my faith, but a matter of wanting to hear and experience something from God – something fresh, something reassuring.
I confess that as I sat there — silent, waiting — the voices in my head continued to run on. (Why are there so many voices in my head? So many thoughts and ideas running in various directions.) As each one spoke up I chose to quiet it, to gently sweep it aside for another time. This was a time for listening only. As the minutes passed the voices grew fewer and quieter, until finally — silence. I don’t know how long I sat in the silence of my mind – the time was not important. The being available and the being open to God is what was important.
And then it happened. He spoke. He spoke as clearly to me as though He was sitting in the next chair. His voice was audible to my heart. He said, “You are loved.” Just that quickly. Just that simply. Just that beautifully. You cannot imagine what it was like (or perhaps you can). “You are loved” He said. What assurance. What comfort. What peace and warmth flowed into my heart. Here I was, ready to hear anything He had to say. And He chose to say, “You are loved.” He didn’t say, “You are a sinner”, though I am. He didn’t list the areas of my life that need to be worked on, cleaned up or improved. He didn’t scold me for my weak and inconsistent prayer life. He could have said all these things and more. But in my most available moment to hear from Him, He chose to tell me that I am loved. Even as I write this it brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.
So why do I bring this up now? In fact, it is the Christmas season, not Easter. We are hurrying around with all the details we require of ourselves during the holidays while trying to remember the reason for the season. We can all recite John 3:16 – God gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life. But don’t forget how that verse begins – For God so loved the world. Jesus came because God loves me. I am loved. Everything He has done is because He loves. Everything He will do is because He loves.
You are loved.