Perhaps it's one of my best friend's weddings that inspired this post. Watching her exchange vows of love and commitment to the man of her dreams. Maybe it's the result of watching too many chick-flicks in this lull of post-graduation unemployment. Or maybe because it's what my soul was designed to hear and therefore I seek it out on my own.
"I love you."
It may be one of the most powerful and sought-after sentences in human existence. And yet, one that I felt like I had never directly heard from God myself. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say I don't feel like God loves me. Rather, I long to hear from his lips that short but sweet sentence.
There's a scene in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility at the climax of the film where Rosemary, the younger and reckless of the two sisters portrayed in the novel, is devastated because the man she loved has married another (See? I have been watching too many chick-flicks...). Amidst Rosemary's heartbroken anguish, her older sister Marianne asks her younger sister if he had ever told her he actually loved her. Through tears Rosemary says "Yes... no. Never absolutely. It was implied everyday but never declared."
Sometimes that's how I feel about how God's love for me: that he has done all these things, that he died for the world to be reconciled to him, that he formed us in our mothers' womb, that he rescued us from sin, that he protects us, defends us, guides us, gives us his Spirit-- but where in the Bible does he actually utter the words "I love you"?
So I went on a hunt for those words in the Bible and it turns out they exist. Maybe there is more than just this one appearance, but the only one I've been able to find so far is in Isaiah 43.
The book of Isaiah was written to the people of Judah, who had long given up on God's fulfillment of his promise to Abraham-- to bless the nations through him. Many of the chapters in the book of Isaiah reveal God's passionate, reckless love for his people and his jealous character for the ones he loves. In chapter 43 is God declaring himself as Israel's one and only Savior. As a declaration of passion and abandon for his own glory, it may be my new favorite chapter of the Bible.
"But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, you Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you..." (v. 1-4)
I love you.
I LOVE you.
I, love YOU.
Does this sound blasphemous? Heretical? It did at first to me. That the God of the universe would utter such a raw and unadulterated phrase as "I love you". Who are we that he should love us?
Well there's an answer to that too. It's further down in the chapter.
"Fear not, for I am with you... everyone who is called by name name, who I created for my glory, who I formed and made."
We are his glory. Because of Christ death which resulted in the removal of our sins, we are now God's glory, Christ's inheritance, his Church and his bride. And he LOVES us. He loves us because we are his glory, which he cannot ever deny.
This shocks and awes me. I am loved. I don't have to just speculate, or interpret the gestures, but I can know because unlike Rosemary Dashwood's lover, the lover of my soul declares it boldly. This humbles and inspires praise in me. I hope it does the same for you.