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A husband and wife sat together at the kitchen table in awkward silence.  They had decided, having trouble getting along lately, that perhaps they should share with one another the frustrations they had with each other by each making a list.  After some quiet thought and pencil scratching it was time to share their complaints.  The husband read his wife’s first. A long list of his faults filled the page, and then another page. But when his wife’s turn to read came, she read only a few lines and then began to weep. Her husband had written one phrase over and over again until the entire page was covered, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” Her anger and dissatisfaction melted in the face of his profession of love.

One of my teenage daughters is going through a phase when she wants to pull away from her dad and I.  I understand and know it’s normal but it’s been hard for me.  All her life she’s been such a “lover”, a hugger, generous with compliments and i love yous.  She used to write stories for school about how I was the most beautiful mommy and her daddy was her hero.  She used to give us “bombs”:  a hug in which she jumped up on us and tightly wrapped her arms and legs around us.  She used to change the words of songs to sing about us and how much she loved us, how wonderful we were – making me laugh ’til I cried.   I don’t recall these things fondly because they boosted my ego, but because it was her love coming through loud and strong in ways only the she could show.  Even until last year or so she wanted me to tuck her in and hug her goodnight.  We’d pray together, sometimes laugh and goof around before bed.

Right now the hugs or even touches aren’t wanted.  As she goes to bed, she hollers “goodnight” through a closed door.  In tougher moments, she’s even said she doesn’t want to be with us and a few times, has expressed her anger with harsher words.  It hurts.  I’ve been grieving the loss of the warm fuzzy days with her, when she was so close, affectionate, and fiercely loyal.  She used to act as if nothing could tear her away from me and that she’d even fight for me if I happened to be attacked by ninjas or something.   I try not to take things personally because I know this is a phase, but I won’t deny crying myself to sleep a few nights here and there in the last few months.  Even in the worst moments between us I love her.  I can’t help it.  I love her so much I would do anything to protect her, to help her, even in the face of insults or rejection.  I love her.  I keep telling her and hope she hears me right now.  I try to show her even if she doesn’t seem to accept it or want it.   (There are moments that peek through when I see the real “her” – don’t you think badly of my girl)

I’ve said before how incredible an illustration it is to me – how being a parent has shown me like nothing else what God’s love for us as our Heavenly Father must be.  The intense sense of protectiveness, the longing for returned love and affection, the hurt I feel when one of my girls pulls away or refuses to listen that I experience must be multiplied a zillion times in God’s heart as He parents us.  I think that because I know His capacity to love is immeasurably bigger than mine, and I think mine is pretty big!

I see that unconditional, almost unbelievable love in the story Jesus told of the prodigal son and his father who, even though treated disrespectfully by his greedy, selfish boy, stands waiting and watching for that boy to come home.  Not only did he greet the son with embraces and tears of joy when he finally came to his senses and came home, he RAN to meet him as if he had thought of nothing else since the boy left home.

I can picture that type of love in the face of Jesus as he stood in the presence of the disbelieving pharisees and Jews, mourning over their stony hearts and refusal to accept Him or His love for them.    “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God’s news! How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let me.”  Matthew 23:37  The Msg

In the story “Cross and the Switchblade” Pastor David Wilkerson tells of his efforts to reach out to a gang leader in New York City named Nicky and show God’s love.  His efforts were met with resistance to say the least and even hatred.  Nicky, being convicted I’m sure, would demand that he stop and eventually threatened to kill him.  David responded, “You could cut me up into a thousand pieces and lay them in the street, and every piece will still love you.”  Not long after, Nicky gave in to this amazing love – God’s love channeled through David.

Jesus essentially said the same thing to all of mankind.  I can imagine hearing the sad, choked voice of Jesus at Calvary, as he looked down at those who had sent him to that excruciating end, “You can crucify me, nail me to a tree, but every drop of blood will say ‘I love you'”.  He even asked God to forgive his accusers while still hanging on the cross.

Father, forgive me.  Forgive me for the times “I know not” – or realize not – what I’m doing to you.  Forgive me for hurting you or pulling away sometimes, for not listening or refusing to draw near when you call my name.   Thank you for loving me even when I’m the most unlovable.

Has there been someone in your life lately that is hard to love? The Bible says that if we have God’s love in our hearts, we will love.   We will love in the face of hurt, in the face of injustice, in the face of rejection or insults.  We will love with tenacity and faithfulness.  No matter what, we will say with our lives, “I love you.”

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. Matthew 5:43-46  The Msg

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.   God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  I John 4:7-9  NLT