I’ve had all these things in my head for the last two weeks, but haven’t been able to figure out how to write it all out. Of course being doped up on Benadryl and Zyrtec all weekend probably didn’t help matters.
Anyway, I’m just going to type it all out on the computer and resist my urge to delete the entire thing for fear that it will only make sense to me and the rest of you will read it while shaking your head and thinking “What?”.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched Steven Curtis Chapman and his family being interviewed on “Good Morning America” and “Larry King Live”.
Honestly, part of me didn’t want to watch because the whole story has just broken my heart. The tragic death of a five-year-old girl hits really close to home when you’re the mother of a five-year-old girl.
But I watched anyway.
One thing that came up in both interviews that brought tears to my eyes each time I heard it was when Steven Curtis Chapman said someone later told him that as he was being driven away in the car to get to the hospital where his daughter had just been Life-flighted he rolled down the window and yelled to his devastated son, “Will Franklin! Your father loves you!”
I cried because it is such an incredible picture of how much a parent loves a child. That even in the midst of all that tragedy, he made sure his son knew that he was loved.
But even more than that, I cried because, for the first time, I realized that is how God loves me. How many times have I been crushed by my fears, my failures, my disappointments? How many times have I doubted, questioned, and wondered why things aren’t working out the way I want them to?
He whispered to my heart and let me know that in all those times, when I have been at my lowest points and at my highest points, He has looked at me and said, “Melanie! Your father loves you!”
This shouldn’t be a new revelation to me. But it was.
When I think back to my childhood, I don’t remember hearing much about God’s grace. I’m not saying it wasn’t being taught, it just never really sunk in. Maybe I heard one too many flannel-board Sunday school stories about Sodom and Gomorrah.
Whatever the case, I have struggled with grasping God’s mercy and grace. I struggle with how He can love me so much when I so often feel like I’ve failed. And at the heart of that is a trust issue. Do I trust that His love is stronger than my failures? Can His grace cover my flaws? Do I trust that He wants to pour out blessings on me that I don’t deserve, but He gives them anyway because that’s how much He loves me?
Two days after I watched the Chapman interview, I went in Borders to buy a new book for our beach trip. I looked around and had a couple of different choices in my hand, but then I saw “The Shack” on a display shelf. I knew it was the book I was supposed to buy.
I’d heard great things about it, but had purposely not read it because I knew the story begins with a tragedy involving a young girl. I just didn’t know if I could stand to read it.
I mean, I am the same person who spent the first six months of her daughter’s life watching only two things, “I Love the 70’s” on Vh-1 and “Little Women”. It was all my raw heart could bear.
So I put down my copy of “Such a Pretty Fat” by Jen Lancaster (which I still really want to read by the way) and bought “The Shack”.
It was the right choice. I couldn’t put it down.
At one point early on in the book, the main character experiences his first real encounter with God. And at that moment God picks him up, spins him around like a little child while shouting his name “Mackenzie Allen Phillips!”.
After I read it I couldn’t get the image out of my head that God sees me that way, that He feels that way about me. That I am His child and He longs to hold me close the same way I long to hold Caroline close and cherish every single ounce of her, but even more so.
I’ve read Psalm 139 countless times. I know He knows my thoughts, I know He knows my words before they are on my tongue, I know He knows the numbers of hairs on my head (not as high a number as it used to be), and I know His thoughts of me outnumber the grains of sand.
I know it because I’ve heard it all my life. But I felt like in the days following the Chapman interview and reading “The Shack”, He began to really reveal to me the depths of His love for me. Not for all mankind, not for every creation, but, specifically, for me.
At church the following Sunday, I was standing during praise and worship and I felt God say to me, “I know your name. I know everything about you and I adore you. No matter what.” It’s like I could hear Him saying my name. My full name, over and over again.
Just as I was feeling that in my heart, our pastor began to speak. Guess what he said? “God knows your name. He knows everything about you.” And as he spoke those words, the worship team began to lead us in a song I’d never heard before
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call
Is it just me or do you think God is trying to tell me something? His love for the world isn’t general. It’s not an all-encompassing “I love my creation” thing. It’s specific.
Specifically for me. Specifically for you.
In spite of who we are, in spite of how we fail, in spite of all our weaknesses.
Because, here’s the thing. He made us. He knows us. None of our shortcomings and moral failures surprise Him. God doesn’t sit in heaven saying, “Wow. I did not see that coming.”
He sits in heaven, with a deep longing to take us in His arms, spin us around and say “Melanie! Your Father loves you!”
Except He would call you by your name, not mine. Because He’s God.
And He knows your name.
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:16