I remember the first time I consciously experienced divine love. It made me so buoyant, I thought helium filled my heart. Just like that, on a dime, an aggressive, adolescent nature turned patient. Arguing with my brothers or parents seemed out of the question. Suddenly, sincerely…others—all others—became delightfully, curiously interesting. For days afterward, I smiled at everyone at my high school and thought positively about the strangest of strangers. Not only was I happier, but my friends and family were happier when they were around me.
It didn’t last of course. Not quite. Serenity and invincibility have a shelf life on earth. But even after the floating stopped, I was different. I felt better; so much better. Why? Because I knew. I knew through my bones and into my cells that God loved me. Real, genuine, plain, imperfect me. I was accepted. I was cherished. I was worthy. As is.
If it’s true that misery is the result of loving the wrong things, then joy must be the reward for loving good things, and I was now naturally, gloriously in love with GOOD THINGS. When I felt sure, for the first time, that God, The-Greatest-of-Good Things, loved me, I became far more confident, courageous, and compassionate. Permanently, Obedience to God, parents, and other authority deserving my respect, became an easy joy instead of a burden. I felt wholehearted. No fear. No shame. Just love.
Though everyone could see the evidence of the experience in my behavior and demeanor, I couldn’t share it. Even if I had had someone to tell, my 16-year-old self did not have the vocabulary. I don’t have an adequate one even now.
I also remember shortly after that life-changing moment in my junior year, seeing a documentary that included interviews with people who had had near-death experiences. Each one specifically recalled the love of God, and said, in so many words (because they didn’t have the vocabulary either) that if you took all the love in your life and multiplied it by a million, you wouldn’t come close to the love that they felt (in near-death). Remembering my brief experience floating on the hand of God, I marveled: what would that be like…times a million???
A sage man who talks as if he knows the answer has said:
“Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.” He also said: “God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.” ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Perhaps it is inconceivable to us as mortals. Perhaps we cannot grasp how love could be so perfect, so infinite, so abiding.
Or can we?
Today is Father’s Day, and as I think on the well-intentioned, beautiful men in my life, many of whom are holding babies in their arms or children on their laps right now, and others who have wrinkles on their brow from worrying over their adolescent or grown children…
whose knees creak and hips hurt when then kneel to pray over grandchildren…
whose shirt collars are worn and whose shoes need new soles…
whose wallets and bank accounts hover near empty most of the time though they work long hours, day in and day out…
whose hearts are heavy and whose bodies are tired from carrying the ultimate responsibility for the health and well-being of several others beyond themselves…
who try so hard to please their bosses, their co-workers, their wives, their children, and yet get so little affirmation or encouragement…
…not from the world–and often not even from the ones they work so hard for.
They keep loving us.
Our fathers love us.
Mortal fathers are imperfect to be sure, but it is a rare child on this earth whose father would not die for them if necessary. Most fathers waste and wear out their lives “loving” as men love; by teaching, providing, playing, and protecting.
When we think of a good father then, we can start to comprehend, in the smallest degree, the love of God.
“If ever human love was tender, and self-sacrificing, and devoted; if ever it could bear and forbear; if ever it could suffer gladly for its loved ones; if ever it was willing to pour itself out in a lavish abandonment for the comfort or pleasure of its objects; then infinitely more is Divine love tender, and self-sacrificing, and devoted, and glad to bear and forbear, and to suffer, and to lavish its best of gifts and blessings upon the objects of its love. Put together all the tenderest love your know, the deepest love you have ever felt, and the strongest that has ever been poured out upon you, and heap upon it all the love of all the loving human hearts in the world, and then multiply it by infinity, and you will begin, perhaps, to have some glimpse of what the love of God is.” ~H.W. Smith
Happy Father’s Day.
Even if your own experience with a father has been an imperfect one, use this day to consider, to believe, how much you are loved.
By a heavenly Father.
Because feeling that love can change everything. Times a million.