Click below to listen to this post about being lovable – or not – on the Candidly Kendra podcast:
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
When I was still a child my parents would tease each other with the poem “How Do I Love Thee (Sonnet 43)” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. My mom would start by quoting the first line as an ode to her love for my dad. Next, invariably, he would pick up the recitation with his own loose interpretation of the poem. He’d screw up his face as though he were thinking as hard as he could manage and start counting with his fingers, “Well, let’s see …one… And maybe… two.. And three! Three ways!”
My memory of my parents playful poetic performances sprang to mind years later when I found my own great love, Steve (now my husband). As we grew closer over the course of 5 years of dating I wanted to understand his feelings for me. What does he see in me? What does he love about me?
So, not one to idly wonder, I asked.
What do you love about me?
I wanted a numbered list.
- I love how beautiful you are. I love your hair. I love your eyes. I love your smile.
- I love your sense of humor.
- I love how you love God.
- I love how you bite your nails when you’re nervous. (Note: he would literally never say that.)
- I love the way you brighten up a room.
But Steve, God bless him, is never one to tell me what I want to hear.
Instead, he took a page from God’s book (literally) and said, “I love you because I love you.”
Except…what if that’s the best love poem a girl could ever hear?
God’s love for us is cemented in his own unchangeable nature.
I Love You Because I Love You
When Steve said that to me, I wasn’t impressed. I wanted to be so amazing in every way that he couldn’t help but love me. I wanted to be irresistible because of the nature of who I am.
But what if I lost that? What if the beautiful things about who I am were somehow lost? What if I cease to be lovable down the road, after a long and miserable day at work, after a huge fight over something stupid, after I snap at one of the kids for no good reason, after my mom dies and I’m mired in sadness.
What if my light goes out? Will you love me then?
You see, two days ago I was telling my friend about the sadness I’ve been feeling after the loss of my mom, and she wanted me to know that she had noticed my difficulties, and said, “You haven’t been the same for the past few months.”
And boy, her statement threw me. I found myself wondering, “What if everything lovable about me has been lost? What if the greatest thing I had to offer the world is the brightness I brought to a room? And what if that’s gone?”
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And that’s the moment that I knew that God loves us in the best way possible. Deuteronomy 7:6-8 shows us that God loves us because he chooses to love us. It is God’s way of saying, “I love you because I love you, so I saved you.”
“The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
We can never earn his love, and still he loves us. His love for us in set in the foundation of his character, not ours. He is unchanging, and his love is cemented in his own unchangeable nature.
The painful things in this life will change me, there is no doubt. But they can’t change God’s love for me.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 NIV