Recently my brother stopped by for a short visit. He came from North Carolina where he lives with his family and was accompanied by his son who just returned home from his mission. Their ultimate destination was Idaho where my brother would help his son get settled for a new year of university education and then return home to North Carolina.
We are a close family, but we don’t see this particular brother/uncle very often. That’s what makes it so curious that over the past little while my five year old granddaughter, Gracie, comments frequently to her mother, out of the blue, “I really love Uncle Paul. I really miss him.” Wondering if Gracie actually has any idea who she’s talking about my daughter finally had Gracie point him out to her the other day. Dragging a kitchen chair over to the fridge, she climbed up, pointed to the Christmas card photo collage of aunts and uncles and cousins stuck on the refrigerator door and said, “That’s Uncle Paul! I love him!”
On Sunday night as usual my children and grandchildren gathered at our house for Sunday dinner. Before leaving home my daughter told Gracie that Uncle Paul was coming to dinner too. Her response was, “Uncle Paul! (Gasp!) I love Uncle Paul!” My daughter laughed at her little drama queen who has only seen this uncle a handful of times in her little life and proceeded up the hill to Grandma Nan’s house.
When Paul entered the house Gracie was standing on the staircase and pretended to faint when Paul entered the room. All evening she was very attentive and as everyone departed she made sure that out of the 22 of us at dinner she said good-bye especially to her Uncle Paul. As he prepared to leave she handed him her own artistic rendering of the two of them together rolled into a scroll. She gave him a big hug, and as he exited she said with a bit of sorrow in her voice, “Grandma, I’m really gonna to miss him!”
The next day I tended Gracie for a little while and as she chattered I questioned her, “Hey Gracie, how come you love Uncle Paul so much?”
“Cuz he loves me so much,” she responded.
“How do you know he loves you?”
“Well, he always hugs me and he always smiles when he sees me.”
As she scurried off to help her brothers with their Lego creations I thought, “Nannette, you’re being taught a big lesson in love from a five year old.” Her answers to my questions reminded of the very instructive words I discovered one day in 1 John 4:19 that speak of the relationship of a group of people in ancient times with my Eldest Brother, Jesus. “We love him, because he first loved us.” In other words, their love for the Lord grew out of their knowing and experiencing His love for them.
Before discovering this verse, the only scripture I had memorized on the subject of loving the Lord was John 14:15 where Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This verse had always been a spring-board for feelings like, “Nannette, not only don’t you keep His commandments perfectly, but not doing so is actually a sign that you don’t love the Lord.” That’s a painful thought for a little girl or a grown one. But the Spirit of the Lord is an expert at cross referencing. When I finally discovered the eight words of scripture in 1 John the Lord linked them to the verse I had memorized as a child, the one I had used to beat myself up. In fact seeing these two verses side by side—“We love him, because he first loved us” and “If you love me, keep my commandments”—really got me thinking.
I don’t know if you are like me, but I always want to start with the “keep the commandments” part. Maybe I need to start with the “love.” I don’t know if you’re like me, but I always want to start with the “love Him” part, but maybe it’s more helpful to start with the “He loves me” part. Maybe when I am struggling to be obedient the most beneficial thing I can do is pray to be aware of His love for me—to see it all around me and to believe it’s real, that it’s personal and as tender as I can imagine. Then my keeping His commandments will be the fruit or the result of His love for me—His mercy, His grace, His sacrifice—His hugs and smiles undeserved. My obedience will be my loving response to His love.
That’s what Gracie was really saying. “Grandma, when I know I am loved, I love back.”
By Nannette W.
Posted Sunday, April 22, 2012
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