This weekend, I was at a YAM (Young Adult Ministry) Retreat, and the theme of the camp was ‘abiding in the Father’s love’.
I came very expectant, but as the hours and days went by, I became very frustrated. To me, the retreat was speaking to those who had yet to know God as their father, or had yet to leave their destiny and lives in God’s hands. However, I felt that I already knew the calling for the season in my life, and I had encountered the Father’s love for me last year during church camp.
And so by the last day of the retreat, I was dry. To be honest, I felt like I wasn’t even thirsty. Somehow, there didn’t seem to be a hunger. I literally felt like I was in limbo. The hardest part of your relationship and journey with God is not when there are troubles, but when there are none. Many times, our relationship and communication with God is based on our need and vulnerability, and so when we feel like we’re in a good place, we don’t really know what to say to God.
Well, at least that’s how I felt.
And so, on the last day of the retreat, I was feeling rather disappointed. I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of the camp. Worship also felt withheld.
However, after the sermon, Reverend Barnabas was releasing prophetic word, and people started coming up for prayer. The music started praying and people started crying/giggling by the Holy Spirit. I could feel His presence. So there I was seated on one of the chairs in the middle of the room, and I leaned forward to pray.
And suddenly, God spoke:
‘I love you, but have you loved me?’
When I heard those words, I burst into tears. I realised that all along, I had been ravelling in my Father’s love; taking it all in, but never giving anything to Him. I thought I was okay because I knew God loved me very much. I believed that the ‘status’ of my relationship with God was defined by the knowledge that God loved me.
Yet, God was searching my heart. When exams ended, I had told myself that I was going to sit in my room overlooking the college field, and do my quiet time. But then, all those plans faded away when the excitement of post-exams started. And then when my internship came, my devotions were half-hearted because I was exhausted. My prayers were brief because the idea of maximising my sleep time was always on my mind. Throughout all this, I kept assuring myself of God’s love.
‘I love you, but have you loved me?’
The question was not ‘Do you love me?’ because I think I do. The question was ‘Have you loved me?’ because I had not shown God my love for Him lately. I had not seriously set aside time for Him. I had taken all, but given none to Him. I was selfish and my Father was longing for that reciprocity of love.
In response to that, I cried to my Father ‘Lord, I am sorry. I have been so selfish.’ Sometimes, we feel dry not because God has not been talking to us, but because we have not been giving Him time to talk to Him. And suddenly when we have a three day retreat, we unreasonably expect God to reveal Himself to us, when for a long time, we didn’t make time for Him. Had I been expressing my love for God? No, I had not. And that’s what made me cry, because I understood the sadness in my Father’s heart.
The theme ‘Abiding in the Father’s love’ is not just about receiving; it’s about reciprocity. For to abide means to dwell, and to dwell means to continue, and to continue means to reciprocate and maintain that relationship. We are not just to receive God’s love for us, but we are to love Him back. That is what it means to abide – to yearn for Him just as much as He yearns for us.
God also impressed another thing on me. I have learned that I am to trust God with my circumstances and to do His will, primarily because I know my Father loves me and He has a plan for my life. But when God asks ‘have you loved me?’, He is teaching me that I am to do His will simply because I love Him. I follow His will not because I selfishly take all the love He has lavished on me and in my life, but because I selflessly give all my love to Him.
So the answer to why we should do His will is not only because God knows what’s best for us and that He loves us, but more importantly because we love Him and will follow Him.
Well, so let me ask the same question God asked me: ‘God loves you, but have you loved Him?‘