I never say “I love you” to God. Not anymore.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Jesus. The Christian faith has been part of my life from the beginning. I’ve always understood that prayer means talking to God and I have always considered prayer to be a good thing. Sometimes when I prayed, I felt that someone heard those prayers. Other times, however, prayer has simply been an exercise in faith. As it says in Hebrews, “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Even as a child, I believed that God heard and answered my prayers and that He is on my side. Belief seemed the best of all the options available.
As I got older, and life seemed more complicated, it often felt as if I were chasing God…trying to please Him, get His attention, earn His love and favor. As I understood the ways of the world better, grace made less and less sense. Being a “good” Christian required work and the following of formulas- a process at which I never felt terribly successful. Being a person naturally skeptical of authority and prone to in-depth analysis, I questioned and fought and studied my way to a shaky obedience and a lukewarm truce with religion as I understood it.
Then, in my early 30s, I fell in love with the Bible. Through a series of “coincidences,” I found myself involved in a series of studies written especially for women in which we were encouraged to “taste and see.” Surrounded by other women and hungry for a deeper experience of God, I dug in, ‘tasted,” and found something very, very good. I’ve written about this a great deal over the years, but suffice it to say that I also fell in love with God in a whole new way.
Here is what I heard that changed my life: every time I had ever thought of God, it was because He had thought of me first. Even though I believed I was chasing Him, it was actually Him that was chasing me. Being part of my life was always His idea. The bible was the story of God seeking to draw His people to Himself and, like the people in those stories, God’s fingerprints were ALL over my story, my life, my journey. He had been there all along. He was CRAZY about me and would stop at nothing to woo me, love me, cherish me and pour His spirit into me. His plan to bring about His Kingdom on earth would not be complete without me. His Spirit of strength, peace and power was available to me every moment, not because I had earned it, but as a gift from One who loved me completely.
This realization changed everything. I quit chasing Him and allowed Him to “catch” me. It has made all the difference.
Some months ago, I heard something new that has helped me remember these truths on a daily, moment by moment basis. A teacher I respect shared that she doesn’t say “I love you” to God in her prayers anymore, even though she knows and believes that we are called to worship, love and adore Him when we talk to Him. She instead says these words:
God, I love you TOO
Too…also…as well. I acknowledge that You love me, Lord, and I love You too.
Now, I begin and end all my prayers with the words “I love you too.” As I go through my days, I often whisper “I love you too, God” as a reminder of His presence. He is here, with me, in this present moment, in my every breath, because He desires to be and not because I chased Him down and talked Him into it. This practice centers me in the right order of things and reminds me of the meaning of Grace. This practice doesn’t change God, it changes me.
Here is what I know to be true: if you are reading these words, God is chasing you too. Someone out there needs to know that today is the day to stop chasing after the God that is right behind you waiting for you to stop and turn around. And say these words:
I love you too.
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