Six years ago I wrote about hearing from God. Call me crazy if you would like, but I honestly felt like God spoke to me.
Just to recap, briefly: I was arguing with God over some stuff one of my then 7th graders was going through. I was angry at God. I didn’t like that God would let some of the horrible, miserable things happen to him that happened to him. I didn’t think God was Goding very well. As I think about this specific circumstance and this specific prayer, 6 years later it still animates me. It is awful.
As I was rehearsing my amazing speech for this argument that was really going to cut God down, I was going to say that not a single good thing has happened in this kid’s life. And I’m not making this up, God answered my made up argument right then and there with a: “I sent him you.”
The implication was immediately crystal clear: “I know you love him and care about what’s happened to him. That’s because I loved him first.”
This is how I know this was God speaking and not just me: six years later I’m still unpacking the truth of that.
It was God’s four word answer that reminded me that my ability to love anyone is wholly dependent on God loving them, too. Sure, in the abstract sense, if God didn’t love, there would be no capacity for love in the world. But in the concrete sense, too: God loved this kid enough to bring him to a wholly imperfect but radically loving youth group that truly loves and cares for the least of the least.
God could have done differently. God could have said it was too much to bother with, and I would have never know him, and all this concern for him would have never existed.
This idea, which I will summarize as follows:
I Loved First. -God
This idea has sustained me. When I got a whole bunch of kids who have been abused and neglected and bullied and shamed and literally destroyed and I don’t know what to do about any of it because I’m just some guy and this is all new to me, I whisper to myself: “He loved them first.”
When a parent blasted me because they thought I hadn’t done enough to reach their student when I lost count of the sleep I had lost thinking of their student and wondering what God wanted me to do, God loved them first.
When one of my students took his own life shortly after graduating high school because life is too hard: God loved him first.
When I don’t know what to do, why I do this, or what the point is. God loved them first, and if the only thing I can do with my time is not say it but demonstrate it in the lives of other people (especially the anawim–the poor, marginalized, broken, lost, desperate), then I will give my life for that.
When I’m mad at myself, and I’m frustrated that I fucked up again. That I was given an opportunity and I blew it. Or I made much of myself when I had the perfect time to make much of Jesus. Or that I got stuck in the same stupid sin that I always do. God loved me first. And He loves me best.
God always makes the first move in our direction: God loves first.