“(God) loves us simply because He finds joy in loving us. And no amount of our running, our disobedience, our mistakes will keep that love from us. God requires nothing from us but to turn and embrace Him.” (Susan May Warren, from The Wonder of You)
I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me” in church from before I can remember. I have always had head knowledge that God loves me, “because He’s supposed to” but I’ve also always struggled with “works.” I always felt like I had to do something in order to make God love me… or even worse, if I faced a trial in my life, it was my fault, I had made God angry and He was punishing me.
For my birthday in June 2015, I received a beautiful journal. It was purple and feminine and delicate… everything I didn’t think I was. My first thought was to pass it on to my daughter because she is everything feminine and beautiful. However, God whispered in my heart that I should keep it and use it to capture my journey of learning how to feel God’s love.
I had just returned from a Women’s Conference hosted at my church and during that two-day period, I asked God a question: “If I was an animal, what animal would You see me as?” That might seem like a very silly question to some, but I wanted to know what God thought of me and maybe I wasn’t ready to hear the answer to what kind of “human” I represented. Animal seemed a little more safe. The image that came to mind was of a deer. I have always loved deer. I find them feminine, but strong. I think they are gentle, yet protective of their young. And I happen to think they are beautiful, graceful, and petite – everything I want to be. So, when God answered with the image of a deer, I was excited. I wanted to learn more about what deer symbolized, so one night during my quiettime I decided to Google just that and one of the answers given was… unconditional love.
Unconditional love. Exactly what God has for us. Exactly what God wants me to grasp that He feels for me. What He wants us to show others in His name.
Ever since then, God will show me deer when I least expect it, but when I need it most. For instance, this summer we spent one fabulous, fun-filled week with my sister and her family in California. It was great – lots of memories, lot of laughter and as always, over way too soon. My sister had commented to me prior to our visit that one thing she missed was the lack of wildlife there – she missed the deer, raccoons, etc. that we take for granted in the midwest. However, on our way to the airport, I was looking out the window, sad that our trip was over and not sure when I would get to see her again in person, and lo and behold, on a mountain was a huge deer. I had been praying silently while trying not to cry and I believe God showed me His unconditional love in that moment, through that deer. It was even a male, “daddy” deer – antlers and all.
I’m not “there” yet. I still have many moments when I don’t feel lovable to anyone, especially my Father. When I feel like a huge disappointment or try to implement “works” so that He will love me again. But, I’m further along than I was. And, God hasn’t given up on me. He keeps showing me deer when I need that reminder the most. One particular night this past fall, our family had a tough weekend. One of those weekends where everyone was stressed out and instead of turning toward each other, we turned at each other. Instead of God showing me one deer, He gave me a family of five deer, reminding me that He loves them as much as He loves me. Unconditional love. My responsibility to show it to them as He freely shows it to me. And they don’t have to earn it any more than I do. God wants me to follow His example and simply love.
© Cheri Swalwell 2015