It underlies most every struggle. The struggle to trust, to forgive, to love. The struggle to work hard and be honest and learn to rest.
It’s the one question we all ask, and the answer is the one thing of any value that we can give to each other.
“Am I loved?”
When we listen for it, we hear the question lurking beneath most interactions.
- I finally find the courage to ask for help only to hear, through the hesitation in her voice, “I have to think about whether you’re worth 90 seconds of my time.” (. . . which, as it turns out, wasn’t at all what she was thinking!)
- I struggle to forgive the loss of a possession though I would have put that same value in the Sunday offering plate without a second thought. I can’t understand my struggle until I realize I believe that my things matter little to her because I matter little. I step back and hear God speak again the words, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give [my Son] in exchange for you. . .” Then it becomes easier to separate the small worth of the item from my own deep value. Then I can forgive the one who also needs to hear that she, and our friendship, are much more precious to me than a few $20 bills.
- Right back in the garden, wasn’t this the hiss of doubt that led to our fall into sin? “God’s holding back his best. He doesn’t really love you. . . .”
So when someone responds to my timid question, “Do you have time?” with the smiling, grace-filled “I have all the time you need” I hear beneath it the words that make me whole, “You are precious. You are loved. I value you enough to invest in you.” Perhaps it’s in these small love-gifts clothed in the concreteness of minutes and smiles and a helping hand that we become most like our God who loves with flesh and time and an open heart and table.
And maybe, too, this is the reason for the long sleepless hours when God doesn’t give any new insight and we don’t accomplish anything but are just quiet together. Maybe when he seems not to answer prayers for insight or energy or success He is instead whispering the answer to our deeper cry, “Do you love me?” In the silence of inefficient togetherness He wordlessly declares us precious, speaks His delight in just being with us, quiet and at rest in each other’s love.
I walk down the lane where He has rolled out beneath my feet a leafy red carpet, and then a gold one, and settle a little deeper into this love that makes us great, listening again to the refrain that He sings over each of us, the one that He spends patient years teaching us to hear and trust, “. . . You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4)