Parents have love-catch-phrases. They are the things we say when we tuck our kids in at night. You know - "I love you to the moon and back." Or, "I love you with my whole heart."
"I love you every single second."
That's the one I tell them when the love is bubbling in my guts and I have to clench my teeth and my fists to keep from squeezing them too tightly, like Lennie Small.
This is what I told Henry this afternoon when he woke up all groggy and snuggly. I smushed my face against his precious, smushy face and I whispered, "I love you every single second. There has never been a second of your entire life that you have not been loved. Every second that I've known about you, I've loved you."
For a moment I despaired, hard. I wished that I had infinite time and infinite resources and that I could love all the babies. I wished that I could hold them all, skin-to-skin, and sing to them and read to them and kiss them and fix all their hurts, physical and otherwise, and tell them that I LOVED them, and that they were important and special to me. I thought, "There are children that have not been loved every single second."
But something in my chest caught, snagged. I couldn't finish that thought, because I knew it wasn't true.
There has never been a child that wasn't loved every single second.
I almost didn't write this post because I was afraid that it would sound like I was glossing over the NECESSITY of earthly, human love. I assure you I am not. I want to love all the babies because it matters, I know this in my bones, and much of my giving is directed toward that end - children getting loved well.
But because of what I believe to be true about God, I cannot say that there has ever been a human being that God didn't love every single second. That He didn't yearn for. There has never been a person that was excluded when He said that He longs to be gracious to you. There has never been a person that God did not die to save.
This shapes the way I understand the world and they way I interact with all people, but I don't want to direct this thought OUT today, I want to direct in.
You have been loved every single second.
There is no season of hate or anger or disbelief that made God stop wanting you. You cannot be mean enough to make Him give up on you. You are not trapped; He will let you go, but He will watch you walk away with great pain, loving you every single second.
In your darkest days, in your deep, endless depression, in your worst, most offensive thoughts, you are loved.
Maybe you are an addict and you've known it for a while, and your nights keep getting darker and your mornings more uncertain. Or maybe you are doing a thing that you swore you would NEVER DO. Maybe you haven't changed your mind about it, you still hate it, but you're doing it anyway, which makes you hate yourself.
You are loved in the middle of that mess. EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.
If you are absolutely OVER IT, and life has become, as dear Anne Lamott says, "just too life-y," you might be unhappy, unhealthy, unhopeful, and scared to death - but you are not unloved. You can be un-everything else, but you are not un-loved.
You have been loved every day, every hour, every minute, every second. You have been loved every heartbeat of your entire life.
When you were abandoned here, you were not abandoned there. I cannot unpack the problem of evil here, or even fully in my own mind, but I can tell you this: you were not delivered from all pain, but you were loved through all of the pain. Every ounce. You were loved every second.
God compares his love to parent-love. He compares his arms to the wings of a mother bird, drawing her babies in close to her bosom, warm and safe. He says he could no sooner forget you than a mother could forget the baby at her breast. He says "I have loved you with AN EVERLASTING LOVE." He says that he wants to give you good things, like Dads want to give their little boys and little girls good things, only better, because God is better than human dads times a billion.
The love that I have for my children is fierce, rabid, overwhelming, and immobilizing. I love them in a way that doesn't even make sense. But even that love is tempered by my own selfishness and humanity - by my need for sleep and food to be a pleasant human being. My great big love for my kids is tempered by my impatience and my lack of empathy.
But God's parent-love is not constrained by those things. His love is constrained by nothing. His love is unhindered and unstoppable and unfathomable.
The great joy of my life is being this boy's safe place, the arms that comfort. I love him, and I could never be close enough for long enough to breathe him in the way I want to. I love him every single second. This child of mine is loved EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND.
And so are you.