She looked at me with those dancing eyes, her heart at the surface. She’d just whispered her secret in my ear, safe from her siblings’ hearing. “I’m His favorite,” she spilled confidence as pure as it comes. It was the first thing that had come to her mind as we were circling the table and talking about why we love Jesus. Her Daddy had told her the secret, whispered it to her heart like it was gold to be treasured deep. And it was. And just as he’d suspected, she’d taken that morsel of brightness and drawn it close, not to forget it. Now she whispered it to me, this little glimmering treasure that she’d taken so gladly into her heart.
And in that moment I did something as her mama I’d later regret. With her heart spread wide so brilliantly confident, I smiled and then stepped in to tweak her theology just a tad. I wanted her to know she was right but also wanted her to have ground to stand on and so I embellished her secret with soundness, clarifying what I wish now I would’ve waited to set straight. I explained how we’re each His favorite for how unique we all are. Each one so distinct, so marvelously special and unlike any other.
Yet as soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I could bring them back. For with them, the flash of light drained slowly from her eyes. As though trying to swallow a pill too big for her, she smiled weakly – sweetly – but the glimmer was gone from her eyes. And though I tried to win it back with more words, more explanations – I couldn’t. She didn’t need bigger theology, but for me to rejoice with her in a little seed of truth.
My little girl was on to something that I didn’t need to make mature in that moment. Her theology, though raw, was still right. Her Daddy, the forever optimist, was right to tell her. And her Mama, the realist, should’ve trusted the Lord’s lead to shape it over time. I still spill tears for my impatience to let this small seed take root before trimming away at its branches.
For I was my little girl once.
The preacher had quoted John the beloved’s claim as “the one Jesus loved” and beckoned me to know personally that I’m God’s favorite, as John knew it (Jn. 13:23; 21:20). And I shuffled in my seat, uncertain.
Me? His favorite? And how does this work? If you’re God’s favorite, then how can I also be?
But the Lord stepped in to convince me. I felt His gaze, singling me out and persuading me of His enjoyment over just little me. It was that He waited for my voice and my song, and how not a soul could take my place that arrested me. How could I give only a part of my heart to Him if He knows me and loves me this way? And in those days, a little seed took root that changed me forever.
[framed_box]There’s something of the human capacity that has to know, has to feel deeply that we’re the beloved one. We know the ache as children toward our parents and in marriage toward our spouse. We want to be known deeply and loved in that knowing. We don’t want to be average, but the favorite.
We have to know in the deep of us that He enjoys us, personally. And He made us to feel that way, for not a one of us did He create generically, and never does He love us impersonally. In fact, He never withdraws His eyes from each one of us and He is attentive to our every cry. In truth, He could not be more personal with each of us. (Job 36:7; Ps. 34:15) [/framed_box]
Therese of Lisieux said it this way:
Just as the sun shines simultaneously on the tall cedars and on each little flower as though it were alone on the earth, so our Lord is occupied particularly with each soul as though there were no others like it.
Thus, we each have to step out of that crowd of blurred faces called the Body of Christ, let His eyes rest upon us and receive His deep love toward us individually. We each must know we’re His favorite in order to break the cycle of comparisons and really run our race.
“Favorite-ness” can only come out of intimate knowledge. And when we begin to experience His deep knowing of us, and correspondingly, His tender love toward us, it’s a most powerful thing. It settles us and makes us free to really give everything in love.
[framed_box]Knowing my belovedness to God is a secret to holy abandonment that I think we often forget – a key to that givenness to Him we want to embrace. There’s something of this being loved deeply, with the kind of love that knows all your darkness and undeservings, that does the delivering up – up into the freedom of wild givenness to God and scandalous self-giving unto others.We love because we’re first loved (1 Jn. 4:19). We grow in self-giving in as much as we’ve known His self-giving toward us.[/framed_box]
And so I look back into the eyes of my little girl and tell her again that she’s Jesus’ favorite, unqualified and undiluted. And I’m asking the Lord to give this treasure to her heart all over again, that she might know and believe – deeply and personally – the way He loves her. Because theology is tweaked and tempered by the humility that comes with time and living it. Yet the miracle of the little mustard seed – of that confidence that we are cherished so deeply and so personally – we must guard it and care for it tenderly, till it becomes in us a mighty tree.