He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

I held a flower in one hand, plucked a petal with the other, and said, “He loves me.” I pulled another petal off and said, “He loves me not.” Pick a petal, he loves me. Pick another, he loves me not. Again and again until the last petal plucked determined whether the one I loved – loved me back.

According to Wikipedia He loves me, he loves me not is a game of French origin in which one person seeks to find out whether the object of their affection returns that affection. Though this is a childhood game, do we ever really grow out of wondering who loves us or loves us not?

There’s More To the Story

During Lent I read Henri Nouwen’s short daily readings called From Fear to Love: Lenten Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This is the last of my reflections on one of the most loved parables Jesus told. The story is about the unconditional love of a father to a son who leaves with his undue share of the father’s estate and spends it on foolish living. 

That’s only part of the story. We know the father watched and waited for his son to return. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

We know before his return, the prodigal son came to his senses. This was more than realizing his foolish behavior and terrible living conditions. I’m convinced the prodigal son remembered he was loved. This love either prompted him coming to his senses or he understood the depth of his father’s love on the way home. Either way, the prodigal son would have to learn how to be loved.

The Other Son

We know the older brother stayed home and dutifully supported his old father. We know he refused to celebrate the return of his younger brother with his father. “But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29). The older brother acted right, but in the end we learn that he was just as lost as his younger sibling. He was full of resentment which was “concealed by the appearance of a holy life” (Nouwen 13). The older son would have to learn how to be loved.

The father tells his older son, “My son you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” As Nouwen puts it, “The father welcomes his sons just as they are. His love is there for them whether they are at home or away. God is saying, ‘I have always loved you and I love you now. I want you to receive my love.'”

What If?

What if our greatest sin is not allowing ourselves to be loved? Not trusting the One who promises eternal love? What if coming to our senses means we’re willing to really know ourselves – the good, the bad, and the ugly and we’re willing to let God see them, too. What if being loved means a willingness to return again and again to God and receive forgiveness seventy times seven? What if our journey to holiness and wholeness is accepting our belovedness?

“The immense joy of the father is when the prodigal son chooses again the love that was always there, and comes home” (Nouwen 29).

We never have to pluck petals or wonder about God’s love for us. It’s always He loves me. It’s the love that is always there.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 NIV

Photo by Adalia Botha on Unsplash

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