When I (Mark) first began to experience God’s love by making time to come to Him to be loved, I mainly experienced His love through words alone. But then came a time in the life of our church when we were going through Gary Chapman’s book on the five love languages. When I started reflecting on those five love languages—time, touch, gifts, words, and acts of service; only one of which consisted of words—I wondered how a person whose love language was not words experienced God’s love.
I thought again of the disciples who certainly experienced Jesus’ and the Father’s love through time, touch, gifts and acts of service. The amazing thing about our triune God is that He is one God but separate persons, and somehow the Father and the Son are able by the Spirit to also be present within us. This means that when we love others and when we experience love from others it is not only our love we give or their love that we receive, it’s also the love of the Father and the love of Jesus who live in us.
When I think about the loving interactions I have with people, I write them down so I can deeply experience the love of the Father. I tend to call this the process of recognizing “Jesus with skin on,” or what we now refer to as “God Sightings.” There are three components to engaging with the “God Sighting” practice: (1) remembering, (2) hearing the Lord say to you “How much more I…” or “That is My love for you and so much more”, and (3) meditating on the experience. We go into much more detail about this practice in our weekend and retreat experiences, but here I thought a story of an encounter I had would explain it best…
There was a time in my previous church where I and a group of others would go throughout our city of about 30,000 every other Friday night and clean the bathrooms of business owners. It was so much fun (really)! We would ask the owners if we could clean their bathrooms and of course they would look at us like we were insane. We simply told them we wanted to demonstrate God’s love to them in a practical way, and if they had any concerns with their business or their family we would also like to pray for them.
One evening we went to the police station and introduced ourselves to the attendant. A policeman approached the glass at the front desk and I said, “Hi my name is Mark and we are here to clean your bathrooms.” And he said, “You’re who?” And then he yells “Lieutenant! There’s a preacher here and he wants to clean our bathrooms!” You can imagine how crazy everyone thought we were. But the lieutenant invited us in and asked us why we were doing this. So we told him—we just wanted to demonstrate God’s love in a practical way. We also told him we were praying for businesses as we were walking through the city and we wanted to do that for him as well. “Really? That’s amazing!” he said, and then he listened and asked questions for the next 40 minutes, radiating delight in what we were doing. “I just can’t believe you are doing this for our town,” he said, “this is just amazing!”
Well the next morning in my time with the Lord, I remembered this moment. I wrote down in my journal, “Father, thank you so much for Lieutenant Steve. Thank you for his desire to know what we were doing and, even more, thank you for his enthusiasm and his gratitude and just his thrill in what we were doing.” And then I wrote a response from the Lord: “Mark, if Lieutenant Steve, who doesn’t even know you from Adam, could feel that much delight and that much pleasure in what you are doing, how much more, how much more do I your Father in heaven absolutely delight in what you are doing out there to demonstrate my love for people. And oh, how I delight in you!”
As I was remembering this and hearing the Father speak, I could see Lieutenant Steve’s face, I could see his warmth, his smile, I could see and hear his tone of voice and as I was thinking about this I would just meditate and allow it to not just be Lieutenant Steve anymore but the Father and Jesus being that excited about me and what I was doing. After that I felt like I needed to tell the Lieutenant how he meant so much to me, so I wrote out a little card and mailed it to him thanking him for his kindness and for inviting us in.
Two weeks later, I went back to the police station to follow up and try again. Steve saw me and invited me in just like the time before and we sat down to talk. After a while I said, “Hey Steve, did you happen to get that note that I sent you?” He paused and then reached into his pocket and pulled out the note I had sent two weeks earlier. “You bet I did,” he said. And then he said, “No one has ever said anything that nice to me before.” So I told him why I had sent it. I told him about my God Sighting; I told him how I had seen God through him. Tears came to his eyes. “You saw God through me?”, he asked. “You experienced God through me?” It just blew him away! That night, and for the next several years we became really good friends. He would come to church now and then, and his whole relationship with the Lord had radically changed. It was amazing!
As we look for ways to love and begin to see loving interactions from others as God’s love for us, we begin to develop a deeper sense of knowing and experiencing His love. And as we do so we then can turn around and love as He has loved us. Thank you, our great and loving God!