Leaven Blog

Because he first loved us

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

I have an odd little habit of collecting rocks shaped like hearts. Whenever I see one, I think it is a little sign from God letting me know he loves me.

And so, of course, I have to pick it up. 

When I die, my children will find little heart rocks hidden in pockets and purses and cubbies all around my house.

I’ve got so many, I started painting them and leaving them in parks for other people to find.

I guess God knows I need that constant reassurance because, quite frankly, his love is too extraordinary for me to grasp. 

Sometimes when I’m in church, I imagine what it would be like if a dove flew down from the ceiling and landed on my shoulder. 

Then a bright light shown down on me and a booming voice shouted, “You are my beloved daughter, with you I am well pleased.”

Just like Jesus at his baptism

Would I then realize that God’s love is unfettered and extended equally to tax collectors, prostitutes, hapless fishermen and me?

Recently, I interviewed Father Anthony Oulette, the archdiocese liaison for Charismatic Renewal, and he said something that struck home for me.

He said he wished people could be open to a paradigm change in how we perceive God’s love. 

“It’s not that we have loved God,” he said. “But that He has loved us.

“We do not do works so that we can be loved; we do our work and our actions based upon being loved.”

That made me think of Jesus’ great commandment to love God, and love others.

There’s a reason one comes before the other.

In order to love others, we must first love God — and in order to love God, we must first accept how deeply He loves us.

St. John the apostle tells us this. 

“God is love,” he says.“We loved Him because He first loved us” (Jn 4:15).  

St. John’s word for God’s love is “agape” — a love that is benevolent and altruistic.

In his June 14, 2017 general audience, Pope Francis reiterated John’s message.

“God’s first step towards us is that of an anticipated and unconditional love,” he said. “God loves first.

“God does not love us because there is some reason that causes love. God loves us because He Himself is love, and love tends to spread and give by its nature.”

I’ve decided my New Year’s resolution will be to try that paradigm change Father Ouellette suggested.

Instead of working so hard to love God, I will put my effort toward accepting his immense and unconditional love for me.

Every day I will try to be aware of the Holy Spirit on my shoulder, the light of God on my face, and his voice in my heart calling me his beloved.

This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Maybe it will be the beginning of something wonderful for me.

Once I understand God’s word of love in my heart, perhaps I can be his translator and spread that love to others.

And then maybe God will start finding heart-shaped rocks in heaven.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

Leave a Comment