When we “love God because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), it enables us to fulfill the greatest commandment—to “love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mk. 12:30-31). However, even when we know this in our mind, we may not feel God’s love in our heart. Why? Often, it is because we didn’t receive enough love, affection, belonging, and guidance growing up.
During a counseling session, when we are trying to help a client identify the barriers to experiencing God’s love, we often ask, “When you were growing up, how did you know that your mom and dad loved you?” Many times we hear something like, “I don’t know. I just knew that they did.”
So, if you believe that, “Of course my parents loved me,” then answer the questions below and write down specific memories about your home when you were growing up. Ask the Holy Spirit (the Counselor) to empower you to see the truth (as he sees it) more deeply and more completely.
I remember feeling loved by my dad/mom when . . . I remember feeling very special and valued as their son/daughter when . . . Dad/mom told me they were proud of me and believed in me when . . . My family celebrated having me in the family by . . .
Let us ask you a few more questions. Did your father and mother say, “I love you” and show appropriate physical affection toward you frequently? Did they spend time with you and show interest in you on a regular basis? Did they brag about you to others, sharing their pride in you? Did they acknowledge your hurt and tears when you faced disappointments, rejection, or shame? Did they discipline you in love versus punish you in anger? Maybe the best question for you to answer is this: Would you want your own child, grandchild, or godchild to grow up in your family in your place?
Now ponder the Father’s true love for you. Pause and take in what God did first—just for you. “I choose God, because he first chose me.” “I desire him, because Father God first desired me.” “I pursue God, because God first pursued me.” “I delight in him, because my heavenly Father first delighted in me.” I adore God, because he first adored me—He is crazy about me.” “I am passionate about the Father, Son, and Spirit because they were first passionate about me. They celebrated the day I was born.” As you internalize the Father’s heart of love for you, turn the page back to your primary caregivers.
Can you describe their feelings toward you using the same words God uses—desiring, pursuing, adoring, celebrating, passionate? Whenever you received less than your loving Father said you deserved, he will help you acknowledge the losses of your past. He wants you to be healed—not so you can experience the painful memories, but so you can finally live them through and be set free.
Prayer: Father, thank you for loving, pursuing and delighting in me, your creation—even before I turned my heart towards you. I want to have a deeper revelation of your personal love for me. Continue to reveal those places in me that need your healing touch. Please take my hand and walk with me as I open the rooms I closed off a long time ago. Awaken my heart again to feel the magnitude of your love, “just for me.” Amen.