Jesus loves me. This, I know. For the Bible tells me so.
It's the refrain of so many a Christian childhood. Even a non-Christian childhood if you grew up in an era like I did where we weren't a Christian family, but we were a "good" family, and that meant that I went to Christian preschool. Where I learned, of course, that Jesus loves me. This, I know. And it can be so easy for us to want to go back to something so simple, something that seems so pure and so uncomplicated.
But as I listened to these words again this morning on an early morning run (they show up in part of my playlist, okay?), it struck me how little hope there is in these words. How...empty they easily become. And how so many Christians never grow past them - and don't think they should.
When we say Jesus loves me. This, I know, we are making a statement about a truth. About an idea. It is a fact of the matter - Jesus loves me. This is a true statement. But when life gets difficult and push comes to shove and your whole world is falling apart and you're sitting there saying to yourself, "But Jesus loves me," does it feel like that love is true? In the hard times, does knowing that Jesus loves you really soothe your aching heart at all? After awhile, if you keep telling yourself that Jesus loves you just because you know it happens to be a fact, it's easy to start disbelieving the whole thing. Or resenting Him. Because this doesn't feel like love. That's what makes it so easy to walk away when your faith has never grown past this simple refrain.
So as I listened to these words, I started thinking about how I might rewrite them to better demonstrate what faith is supposed to grow like. Because the fact of Jesus's love is a great starting point, but we need more. It's spiritual milk, but we were made for a feast. And I think that what I've come up with is at least two more verses, at least two significant changes to these simple words that must occur over time as we grow or, quite frankly, we're not growing and we will never have a faith that truly sustains us.
The next verse must be, Jesus loves me. Him, I know. We have to come to a faith that gets to know this Jesus who loves us. That gets to walk beside Him in the Gospels, learns the cadences of His steps, hears the sound of His voice. We have to break bread with Him and fry fish on the seashore and listen to His heart as He speaks words of truth and love. We cannot settle for a faith that simply knows that we are loved; we have to grow into a faith that knows deeply our Lover. We have to get, through study and discipleship and discipline and wild, passionate pursuit to a place where we can just as confidently sing, Jesus loves me. Him, I know.
From there, we just deepen the relationship. We just anchor it so securely in our hearts that it becomes our grounding point, the one thing we are sure of no matter what storms come our way. It becomes the thing that sets us down, that stands us up, that puts us firmly into a place where hope is not only possible, it is real. And I don't mean hope as in the wishing for something that might one day happen if we're lucky. I'm talking real hope - that confident assurance that God is real, God is good, God loves us, and He is working all things together for His glory. At this point, our refrain has got to be Jesus loves me. Of this, I'm sure. There is nothing in this world that is going to shake my knowing of that.
It's only at this point that the love of God is meaningful. It's only here that it makes an actual difference in our lives - when we are sure of it, by knowing Him, and not just reassured of it by believing some precept about it. All of a sudden, when push comes to shove and our whole world is falling apart, we are sure of the love of Jesus because we've grown through knowing about His love to knowing Him to being certain that He is love and that His love is real...and that matters. That makes a huge difference. It helps us, having walked with Him and come to know Him, to hear His heartbeat in our ache and to have something real to hold onto.
Jesus loves me. This, I know. But that's only the beginning. A real, dynamic, vital faith must grow from there until we reach the place where we can sing all three verses:
Jesus loves me. This, I know.
Jesus loves me. Him, I know.
Jesus loves me.
Of this, I'm sure.