Last time I introduced you to Herbert’s poem “Love (III),” and invited you into it—to meet the loving Jesus Christ who Herbert would like to introduce you to.
Here I want to draw a few principles from it about God and God’s love. These four principles don’t exhaust the treasure to be found in the poem, but they do help distill its essence.
Hopefully, in doing so, you can carry these principles into your entire life—certainly your worship and prayer life, but not only there! God wants your entire life, from waking to sleeping, to be permeated by his love.
So here we go:
1. God welcomes you.
Have you ever felt unwelcome? Maybe in someone’s home you got that sense that they weren’t especially charmed to have you around. Maybe in conversation you’ve gotten the sense that someone is tired of listening to you and would rather get on with life.
Honestly, it’s an awful feeling to be unwelcome in the presence of others.
God isn’t like that. God is pleased you showed up. He’s happy to have you around. He wants you in his home. He wants to listen to you. Not only that, he is well-pleased by it. God is just that hospitable and loving. There is not a single guest that he isn’t joyful to have in his household, no voice that he gets bored with hearing.
2. God is attentive to you. He is “quick-eyed.”
Have you ever felt a sudden shame come over you and you don’t know why? Or, maybe somebody has said something that triggered you, and you have no idea where it came from. Maybe sometimes you just feel sad and depressed, and there’s no explanation for it. Maybe you just keep making the same mistakes in life, and you can’t for the life of you figure out why or how to change.
God is attentive to all that. He notices.
A lot of the time we have no idea where our actions and feelings are coming from. Maybe it all stems from the fact that Dad had a bad habit of ignoring you. Maybe it stems from something you can’t even remember anymore, even if you knew what it was, like that one time those people you thought were your friends purposefully ditched you. These sorts of things can have lasting effects on your self-esteem, the emotions you feel, and the decisions you make in your life.
Well, God knows and sees all of it. He knows that the reason you feel sad sometimes is because Dad never gave you any attention, or he knows that you have a hard time being close with friends because of that one time everyone made you feel worthless by ditching you.
He knows where it’s coming from, even if you don’t. He knows all the movements of your soul. And even more, he desires to work through those things with you.
Like the “I” in this poem, Love knows the shame that her soul feels from the first second she enters in, and is dedicated to unfolding it, bringing it to light, healing it.
3. God is patient.
It’s easy to get tired of people’s issues and shortcomings. Haven’t you ever felt like you just wish someone would get over it already? Sometimes we want to just fix people’s problems for them because we’re tired of hearing about it. It’s annoying uncomfortable to keep hearing the same people complain about their life when the solution seems so simple.
Usually, however, this attitude just makes people feel unheard and misunderstood. Usually, it will lead people to stop confiding in you if you just want to fix them.
God isn’t like that. He is overwhelmingly patient and understanding of your shortcomings. He’s never going to tell you to just get over it. Instead, he’s going to lovingly wait for you and help you through it. He’s going to wait for the right moment and ask you the right questions you need to hear.
4. God’s love cannot be earned or paid for.
This is the great scandal. In short, you can’t do anything to make God love you. He already loves you overwhelmingly. That’s what kind of God this is. He carefully crafted you, everything about you, and you are lovely to him. Haven’t you ever made something—a piece of art maybe or some sort of handiwork—and you are just so proud of how it came out? That’s how God feels about you.
And yet, sometimes we distort what infinite beauty God gave us.
We usually throw away things when they get ruined.
God isn’t like that.
God’s love for his artwork (you) is a love that goes to whatever lengths necessary to make it like new. At your very worst, the worst you could ever imagine yourself becoming, God still loves you. His answer to you, at rock bottom, is Yes, I want this one, I love this one. I will give everything to have this one back.
You cannot earn that love. You cannot pay for that love. It is just there. Receive it.
Can you believe that there is One so loving as this?