And now, here we are for a second Friday in a row where I'm going to write about how desperately we need to know God's deep love for us. If we want to be a people who read His stories and see ourselves in the shoes of Israel, of God's cherished and treasured people, then we have to view ourselves as a cherished and treasured people.
And right now, most of us simply don't.
Listen, this is not because of who we are. We could go on all day about why we don't deserve the love of God, about all of our secret (and not-so-secret) sins, about all the ways that we fall short, about the second thoughts that we have in our own minds, about every time we look in the mirror and see someone staring back at us that we never wanted to be. All of that is true about us.
But what we can't do is to keep letting that keep us from also knowing how much God truly loves us.
This is the conundrum that the world's rhetoric has put us in. The same voice they use to convince us not to call ourselves Christians - because we aren't Christ - is the one they use to condemn us when we fall short. It's the voice that comes to tell us that we're getting it wrong. That we are wrong. That we're doing bad things, so we are bad. That this is not the way Christ wants us to bear His name into the world, so we are not worthy of that name. And on and on and on until it's perfectly clear that we can't even love ourselves, so how could God - a perfect, powerful, almighty God - ever love us?
Once we are not loved, it's easy to simply take a step back from all of those stories because, hey, they aren't about us. We are church folk, but we are not God's people. I cannot possibly be one of God's persons.
Then, we read the stories the way that we read them, as Egyptians or as historical observers, and it teaches us something, we think, about the nature of God, but really, all it does is put more space between us and Him. If you read the stories of the plagues and come away with a powerful, perhaps vengeful, God who exercises His authority over creation at His own choosing to prove a point about how powerful He is, you aren't learning anything about the love of God. You aren't learning about how much He loves His creation. All you're learning is how much He loves His power.
Do you see how this spirals so quickly? Do you see how easy it is for us to then get away from knowing the very heart of God that He's told us from the beginning that He's trying to show us?
It all starts with knowing who we are as beloved by Him. When the love of God is the foundation of your knowing anything at all about Him, it changes everything. It changes the way you live. It changes the way you love. It changes the way that you read His stories.
Because all of a sudden, you realize - the plagues aren't just about Egypt, and they aren't just about power. They are a story about Goshen and Israel and God's great love.
And if you missed that, go back and read them again. This time, start with this unshakable truth that is the heart of everything: for God so loved the world.