Just a Reminder

Just a Reminder

I wonder how you feel about Lent right now. We’re about 3/4 of the way through this season leading towards Easter. Holy Week is approaching. For some of us, Lent doesn’t mean much beyond a mention or two in worship on a Sunday morning. But others are practicing various disciplines, reflection or confession, and that feels like hard work. In some parts of the country, throw a bunch of rainy, dark days on top of it, and if we’re not careful, we can turn healthy self-reflections into a self-loathing weight. We might (erroneously) focus so much on our brokenness that we forget the remedy. So this is just a reminder.

During the eleven years I pastored in Seattle, we were raising our kids through high school. During that season we had a wonderful, gentle black lab named Lucy. Like lots of labs, she had a wonderful disposition, and a friendly, soft look about her. My wife Anne and I had a little Monday (day-off) morning routine we almost always followed:  we would take Lucy for a run together and end up at a local coffee shop. Then we’d tie Lucy up outside, and go in. We would sit in a window seat with our coffee and talk for a half hour or so.  Usually in that half hour at least five or six people would walk by on the sidewalk and see Lucy sitting there–mostly staring at us sitting in the window!  You could see the thought process of the people: “Pretty dog. I always liked labs. She looks gentle. Her tail is wagging. I think I can risk it.” Then they would walk over and pet her, and she of course loved it. Five or six people. And Lucy would just sit there and soak it up. As we watched this unfold time and again, Anne said something that I liked so much, I wrote it down: “It must be nice to be the object of such affection.” The object of such affection.

One of the things I often hear from people is a question, spoken or unspoken: “Does God really love me?”  If we are honest, I think all of us wonder about this at times. Sometimes we’re just not feeling it. Sometimes we have bought into the wrong-headed idea that if the circumstances of life are not rosy, God must be angry at us. Other times, we suspect God might only care for us because he HAS to. It’s his job, right?  But who wants to be loved out of obligation? Some of us have so rarely experienced the depth of real love from people in our life, it’s hard to imagine something higher than that. These times of doubt are indiscriminate–they happen for strong Jesus followers, leaders, pastors, old, young. They just do. And sometimes they come upon the very people whom others depend on to proclaim God’s love, even in the midst of a holy season with a bright light shining at the end of the Lenten tunnel.

I don’t know what place you are in right now, but if it happens to be in or near the swirling vortex that makes you wonder about God’s love, scripture has so very many places to re-orient us to the truth. Here’s just a few, and if I might be so bold, I encourage you to sit down for a moment, and slowly read them out loud:

-Jeremiah 31:3  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

-Ephesians 2:4-5  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…”

-Romans 8:39  “(Nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-Psalm 36:5-7 “Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is Your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of Your wings.”

-Isaiah 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

-I John 4:9  “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

And if we need a visual aid…we look at the cross of Jesus, who died there for just one reason: for us (Romans 5:8).

It’s wild, I know, and hard to even believe at times, but the message is crystal clear: the object of God’s affection…is you. This is just a reminder.

Peace of Christ,

Dan Baumgartner

Dan Baumgartner is the senior pastor at The Cove in Santa Rosa CA and serves as Secretary on The Fellowship Community Board.