Last week I wrote about how imperfect our human love is. Perhaps this most quoted scripture of the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” But why does God love us so much?
The Apostle John gives us the answer in his first letter, I John 4:8, “God is love.” That is who God is. God does not just exhibit love. God is the standard by which all love is measured. God’s love is perfect, never failing, always given in the perfect way at the perfect time. As our creator He reaches out to His creation, which of course includes us, with that perfect love.
The best definition of this perfect love was given to us in I Corinthians 13. That is the scripture often read at weddings. As you read it you realize we only sometimes come close to showing that kind of love to God, others, and ourselves. One of the best ways to understand love is to see love in action. This story is greatly condensed from Father John Powell’s account. Father John Powell, professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy, the resident atheist with long blonde hair. Father Powell classified him under “S” for strange…very strange. Tommy constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. They lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although Tommy proved to be a serious pain in the back pew.
When Tommy came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, “Do you think I’ll ever find God?” Father Powell administered some shock therapy. “No!” he said very emphatically. “I don’t think you’ll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!” Tommy shrugged and left.
Years later Father Powell heard Tommy had terminal cancer. Soon after that Tommy came to see him. Tommy’s body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright as he shared he only would live for a few weeks. He had come to talk about God finding him. He shared these words.
“As I got sicker I really banged the bronze doors of heaven looking for God, but God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. One day I woke up, and just stopped looking or caring about God. Then I remembered something you said, ‘The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.’
So, I began with the hardest one, my dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him. He finally lowered the paper slightly and I said, ‘dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that.’ The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me. It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing, that I had waited so long. Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.
Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn’t come to me when I pleaded with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, ‘C’mon God, jump through. C’mon, I’ll give you three days, three weeks.’ Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the important thing is that He was there. He found me! You were right He found me even after I stopped looking for Him”
The full story is worth finding on the Internet. The parts I have used reveal the truth that God loves us in this and in the next perfectly, and that love can get us through anything we face in this life. Have you ever experienced God’s perfect love to get you through hard times? Are you going through a difficult time now, but God seems distant? Do you continue to call out to God believing that He will never leave you or forsake you? God loves you with a perfect love. You can always believe in that!
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, visit www.lagrangepres.org.