How Do You Know?

Several years ago, I had the most amazing counselor. At first, I just wanted to see a therapist a few times to work on one particular issue and ended up going for three years. It truly changed my life, my faith, and my relationships for the better. She had keen insight and knew how to ask the most thought-provoking questions.

I can’t even remember the circumstances now, but I remember one day she asked me, “How do you know God loves you?” The question seemed so silly. I mean, I was in seminary, so I could spout off Bible verses and theology…and I did just that. She didn’t bite.

“What I mean is, when do you feel like God loves you?”

I remember grasping for an answer, searching and finding nothing. I mean, I knew God loved me, but I just couldn’t think of a real, visceral answer for when I felt loved. I felt exposed. I was exposed. Here in the middle of my tidy theology was a gap. After so many years of following Jesus, I should’ve known on more than just an intellectual level that God loved me.

Which brings me to my coffee mug. I was Christmas shopping for a friend last month, searching for just the right gift, when I came across a coffee mug in the clearance section of the store. I love coffee mugs, but the only thing about the mug that was my style was the price tag: 75% off. I put it down and continued poking around at the clearance items, but my eye was drawn to the ugly coffee mug. I picked it up again and looked on the inside: “In everything give thanks,” and “You are loved” written in one of my favorite typefaces. [I know that’s a completely graphic design nerd thing to say, but I can’t help but recognize typefaces everywhere.] The mug started to grow on me. I wondered whether my friend would like it, but noticed a chip on the lip and put it down again. I continued to browse for gifts, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about that mug. Finally, my husband offered to buy it for me and I agreed. In spite of all the things wrong with this mug, I loved it.

But it wasn’t until a few days later that I noticed the most remarkable thing about my new mug. As I sipped hot cocoa, I realized that the text faced me when I held the handle in my left hand! It was a left-handed mug. As a left-handed person, this literally made me laugh out loud. It felt like God was sending me a message that he loved me: left-handed, font-loving, good-deal-digging, coffee-mug collecting Frances. A coffee mug seems so silly, so superfluous, but here I was holding something in my hands that spoke volumes to me. “God sees you and loves you.”

After my counselor asked when I felt God’s love all those years ago, I started searching for moments when I did. I was caught off guard and delighted by many things: morning glories in bloom, the smell of pine outside my door as I mourned the lack of a Christmas tree indoors, perfectly timed words of encouragement from friends or in a sermon, Bible passages I’d never noticed that leapt off the page at me. Extravagant, everyday grace showed up all around me. Sometimes, I’d look around and wonder if anyone else was seeing what I did. Often they weren’t. It made such moments all the more special; they were mine alone. When I found one, I made a point of recognizing such moments, breathing a prayer of thanks, and storing up those moments in my heart.

If someone were to pose the question today that my counselor did so many years ago, my go-to would still be the Bible, but not for lack of an answer anymore. Instead, I’d start there because knowing God starts there. The more I got to know Him, the more I recognized His work in my life. The more I recognized His work, the more I understood His love.

My prayer for you as you read this is that you’d know God, recognize His work, and understand His love. I pray that it would encourage, strengthen, and comfort you.

You are loved.

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