As a young adult, a significant number of my electives in my undergrad and graduate studies was dedicated to the study of anthropology, more specially, cultural anthropology. Why? Probably because I was drawn to understanding my own culture and my own experiences as a child. Cultural anthropology has always been concerned with the experience and the cultural worlds of minorities, the poor and non-literate, and of those, including children, who are so often unable to give voice to and represent their own world.
Like many in present day Canadian culture, I had suffered in the fallout of my parent’s broken marriage and subsequent divorce. Although my parents lived modestly in a small town in the midwest, the rather sudden and distinct poverty that I later experienced growing up in a single parent family (with four other siblings) was disheartening. The stigma of relative poverty and the feelings of shame I experienced were sometimes just too much to handle with any degree of self-composure. I felt angry and began to lash out at the whole world around me.
Looking back, I can vividly recall the day my mom gave me a note to inform my Grade 7 teacher to dismiss me from the classroom early. The plan was for my mom, myself, and my brother and sisters, to get on a bus destined for the big city. To the mind of a child, I was about to leave my entire world behind me, perhaps forever. Tears rolled down my cheek as the bus pulled away from the gas station. We were secretly, and silently, leaving my dad, my friends, my school, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so forth. If I can recall correctly, I think all my mom had was ten dollars, the responsibility of five children, and one contact in the big city that seemed so very far away.
It was probably the most painful moment that I had experienced in my childhood, and that particular memory has followed me for the better part of my adult life. It was almost as though the very direction of my reasonably secure life had taken a very abrupt turn and plunged off a cliff into the black darkness of the sea. The relative security I had trusted in as a child had been supplanted by a big, scary world full of danger and fear.
My mom did everything she could, given her own emotional pain and suffering, to guide us through those deep waters, especially during our early teenage years. Yet, we all seemed to have suffered so much loss. Each one of us, in turn, began to seek out friends and/or peers who were just like us. Someone who understood our troubles and sorrows. As an adult, I know now that some (perhaps many) of my choices were not the best ones. My choice(s) of friends, and some of my lifestyle choices, only led to more crisis, more problems, and increasingly serious consequences.
It was not until the age of nineteen that I came to understand, at least in principle, the love of God and His willingness to forgive me for my rebellion and self-serving lifestyle. It has taken almost a lifetime to even begin to grasp, let alone appreciate, what Jesus Christ has done for me. My words would do no justice in describing the goodness of God to you.
Yet, here I am struggling with the notion of God loving ME. Oh yes, I know God loves the whole world, all 7.5 billion inhabitants. But does He love ME? I know all the promises of God are valid for others. But are ALL the promises of God valid for ME?
These are not the questions of a self-centred egotist, but rather a sincere attempt to know that I know that GOD LOVES ME. Every part of me, the good and the not-so-good? The very secrets of my thoughts buried in the recesses of my memories? The very centre of my being, the literal heart-felt-soul of my existence? Does God love ALL OF ME without reservation or hesitation?
These are the questions I present to you, the reader. Does God love YOU?
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13 NLT
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
The choices we make today become who we are tomorrow.
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