God Loves You First

One of the people that has nourished my soul over the years is Henri Nouwen. He was a Catholic Priest who authored more than 39 books on the spiritual life. I subscribe to an email list that delivers devotionals based on his writings to my inbox once a week.
This past week’s installment touched my heart. His words about how hard it is to trust that God loves him first irregardless of what he does or accomplishes is something that each one of us experiences. We live in a world that places value on accomplishment, success, and hard work. Each of these things can bring good things to our lives. However, when we allow them to filter into our life with God, we begin to believe that we have to earn God’s love.
Nouwen writes, “Do I really believe that I am loved first, independent of what I do or what I accomplish? This is an important question, because, as long as I think that what I most need I have to earn, deserve, and collect by hard work, I will never get what I most need and desire, which is a love that cannot be earned, but that is freely given” (Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent, email, Henri Nouwen Society).
We need unconditional love and any attempt to “get” this kind of love prevents us from receiving it. Nouwen says that the only thing for us to do is to renounce the thoughts that we have to do something and become willing to receive what God freely offers.
I know that it is hard to let go of the thoughts that we have to do something to earn God’s love, especially when we talk a lot about practicing the disciplines of the faith. We need to remember that the disciplines of prayer, study, and worship, are not about earning God’s love but rather they place us into the attitude of receptivity for the love of God already given.
This Lent, may you truly come to believe that you are loved and precious in God’s sight simply because you belong to God.
Grace and peace to you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee