Do You Know Just How Much God Loves You?
By Rachel Forton
One of the surprising truths of my life is that an ex-boyfriend taught me about God’s love during our break-up. He had written me a letter apologizing for his (truly awful) behavior to me toward the end of our relationship. In the letter, he wrote that I “taught him what it means to be loved unconditionally, relentlessly, and undeservedly.” I realized that this is how God loves me. God doesn’t just love “the world” or “humanity” in some impersonal way. He personally loves me, completely and wholly, regardless of my choices and actions. Now, following God does come with conditions; but God’s love does not. Is that hard to believe? For many Catholics, it is. Here is some encouragement on your journey to accepting God’s unconditional, relentless, undeserved love for you.
Continually Created in Love
The familiar story of creation in Genesis tells us that God created the world and saw that it was good. Each animal, plant, living thing on the Earth was good. The first people created by God were also called good. Have you ever considered that God sees you as good, too? That He created you in love?
I am going through training to become an Ignatian spiritual director. One of the many enlightening ideas I’ve learned in this training is that we are continually being created by God. Creation is not a story of the past; God did not set the world into motion and then leave it alone. He is constantly willing our existence, constantly creating the world anew. We exist only because He causes our existence at each moment. This is true on a personal level. You exist right now because God is creating you right now. You are His masterpiece, being painted on at this very moment. He is gazing at you with love and delight.
One evening on my college campus, I was walking back to my dorm through freshly fallen snow. I looked up at the sky and was struck with the thought that God was looking at me exactly as I was looking at that snow. I was marveling at its sparkling newness and purity. God was marveling at me in the same way. I knew I wasn’t pure and unblemished, yet I felt that God saw me that way – He saw me exactly the way He saw me on my first day of life. I was His beautiful creation, loved in that moment as much as an innocent, miraculous newborn baby. That was my first true experience of being loved unconditionally and undeservedly by God, experiencing the loving gaze of my Creator.
The Freedom of Being Loved Unconditionally, Relentlessly, and Undeservedly
Several years ago, I made a vocation discernment retreat with the Benedictine Sisters in Rock Island, Illinois. Each day, I met with a compassionate, wise Sister for spiritual direction. She helped me to listen intently to God’s message for me throughout the retreat. Still in college, I was thinking a lot about what God wanted from me. Should I enter religious life? Should I get married and have a family? Should I go out into the world as a missionary? On the second-to-last day of retreat, God still hadn’t told me what He wanted me to do. I gave Him four days of silent retreat, couldn’t He have told me my whole life’s plan?!
What I heard instead was the most important message I have ever received: “There is nothing about you that I do not love.” The thought occurred to me so unexpectedly and clearly that there was no doubt in my mind of it being from God. And somehow, that phrasing allowed me to really receive God’s unconditional, relentless, undeserved love for me. There is not one single thing about me that God does not love. The joy of receiving that truth was overwhelming. I wanted to run through the silent retreat and shout it out to each person: “There is nothing about you that God does not love!” I wanted to call every single person in my phone to tell them this “newfound” truth!
Suddenly the whole world of possibilities was opened to me. My deepest desires were known and loved by God. He would not ask me to ignore them, to reject them, to conceal them. He would not ask me to be someone different. He loved every single part of me. He loved my desire to be a mother and a wife, which I had been doubting and suppressing. He loved my desire for mission, which I believed to be incompatible with family life. I am still waiting to see how those desires will play out as my husband and I grow our family and settle into parenthood. But I have no fears or doubts about God’s plan for my life, because I know that God loves me unconditionally, relentlessly, and undeservedly.
God’s Words of Love for You
When you need to be reminded of God’s love – so, perhaps, every day of your life – you might want to read the following Scriptures. Read them slowly and ask God to open your heart to the truth that He speaks them to you, about you. Pray with the entire passage. I have plucked out a line or two from each one to give you an idea as to their content.
Psalm 139: “Truly You have formed me in my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb. I give You thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works…” (13-14)
Isaiah 40: “Like a shepherd He feeds His flock; in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” (11)
Isaiah 43: “I have called you by name: you are mine… You are precious in My eyes and glorious…” (1, 4)
Jeremiah 29: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call Me, when you go to pray to Me, I will listen to you.” (11-12)
Luke 12: 22-34: “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storeroom nor barn; yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than they!” (24)
Luke 15:11-32: “And he arose and went to his father. But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him.” (20)
Romans 5:1-11: “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (8-9)
Romans 8:31-39: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (38-39)
Rachel Forton holds an undergraduate degree in Public Relations and Religious Studies, with a minor in Catholic Studies, from Loras College. She serves as the Communications Coordinator for Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL (www.jesuitretreat.org) and is currently undergoing Ignatian Spiritual Direction Training there. She has a passion for helping others find God in all things. Rachel lives with her husband and young daughter just outside Chicago.