You may remember, dear reader, one post in which I wrote that God loves because He loves. He loves because that is Who He is. He cannot not love. He is love.
In a sense, this realization was freeing for me because it took me out of the equation. I didn’t have to earn God’s love, and I couldn’t lose God’s love. He is the great I AM, and who He is is love. So He has always loved, does love, and will always love–completely independent of me or you or anything we do or don’t do.
On the other hand, though, this reinforced my idea that because God loves because of who He is, he does not love me for me. He loves all of humanity generally, I thought, and of course he loves me, but he loves me as one of many. I’ve always pictured myself as one of the 99 sheep whom the Good Shepherd left behind while He went to look for the lost one. Even when I, as a child, had been told that even if I were the only person on earth, God would still have come incarnate to die for me, I responded with, “well, how do we know?” I thought I was loved but not particularly loved, if that makes any sense.
Fast forward to a healing retreat I went on last fall. It was put on by the John Paul II Healing Center, and it was the first of such retreats I have ever been on. But having had my second parent die that year, I was quite aware that I need some inner healing. So I went and tried to be open to whatever God wanted to do for me.
One exercise the speaker had us do was to imagine ourselves face to face with Jesus. “What do you want to tell Him?” the speaker asked. “What do you want from Him?” And out of the depths of my heart came this latent yearning to be loved singularly by God, to be dear to Him because of who I am. So I told Jesus, who was standing there in my imagination, that I desire to be loved not just because that’s who He is but like I am the only soul. “So you see,” I concluded sorrowfully, “what I want is simply not possible.”
And I truly believed it wasn’t. How could He love me as though I were the only one when in fact He has created innumerable souls?
The question Jesus-in-my-imagination asked me in response made me laugh out loud. “Well,” said He, “who is here with us right now?” No one, of course. I had been imagining just Jesus and me. But the point was driven home. He has gifted each of us with an imagination, an inner working of our soul, and He meets us there personally.
He continued. “You believe in the mystery of the Incarnation,” He said, “and the mystery of the Trinity. Can you not believe in the mystery that I love each soul singularly and uniquely?”
It blew me away. I don’t believe that I had a vision of Jesus per se, but I do believe He spoke to me in my imagination and in my soul. Here I had rationally been denying the possibility of knowing for sure that God loves me singularly. I had felt like I don’t really matter because I am one of so many. And I had been shown that it is a mystery that God has a unique love for each one of us. It is a mystery, but it is true.
Five days after the retreat, a friend and I drove up to hear a talk by Father Jacques Philippe. I knew little about him except a vague familiarity with his name. A friend had insisted that I not miss the opportunity to hear him speak, and as I listened to him, I understood why. He exudes humility, simplicity, wisdom, and joy. Without knowing anything about him, I felt immediately like I was in the presence of a saint.
Father Philippe, speaking in French with the aid of an interpreter, suddenly diverged from his topic of true freedom to talk about God’s love. He loves each of us uniquely and singularly, he said. “God loves all,” he said, “but he prefers each. It is a great mystery, but it is true.” I had never read anything by Father Philippe, and here he was speaking about God’s singular love for each one of us in the very same words I had heard in my soul.
Do you think God loves each of us — you! — personally yet? How could he proclaim it more clearly? He is shouting his singular love for me (and for you!) from the rooftops! He is declaring to my soul — and to yours! — I love you. I prefer you. It is a mystery that this should be so with each soul, but it is true. I desire you, I thirst for you, I love to talk with you, I love to be with you, I love it when you talk with me, I delight in you. You are my unique beloved. You are my singular beloved.
Maybe you too have struggled to believe that God loves you particularly. I’m telling you this: God has a unique, particular love for you. He prefers you. It is a mystery, but it is true.
Copyright 2019 Amanda Woodiel