We celebrated my daughter's twelfth birthday this week. Her older sister and I ran around earlier in the day to pick up the last of her gifts. To surprise my birthday girl, I pulled her out of school early for a fun afternoon. We spent the time together doing what she liked before going to her favorite restaurant for dinner.
As I tucked her into bed that night, she whispered in my ear, "Momma, that was the best birthday ever. I feel very loved."
Things have been tight financially. She did not get the two items on her birthday list that she had wanted the most. I cringed inside the evening before her birthday as I explained that she would not be receiving everything she wanted. I didn't want to see the disappointment in her eyes. As a mother, that hurts. She sat there quietly and absorbed the information.
So when I heard her voice in my ear that evening of her birthday, I was a little stunned that she had been so pleased - that she had even counted this day as the best yet. I asked her why.
"Because I know you love me by all that you did for me today."
"But honey," I reminded her, "you didn't get what you really wanted."
With great innocent wisdom, she said, "I thought those things were what I wanted, but I couldn't have had a better day than the birthday I just had. I know you love me."
I went away thinking about this, feeling a sudden rush of unbidden emotion that came rushing to the surface as I walked toward my own bedroom for the night.
Isn't knowing and feeling that we are loved what every human heart longs for most desperately? We can think a new car or house, a job promotion or an exotic vacation, being debt free or not having to live paycheck to paycheck is what we really want.
Somehow, our Jesus can supersede what we thought we wanted to make us happy by sending us the soul understanding that we are loved passionately by Him. How gracious the gift of disappointment is when He comes in and, in a way that makes us know that He cares intimately about what is going on in our lives, He reveals that His presence is what we are seeking the most. What we thought we needed to make us happy is revealed for the sham that it is.
Just like my daughter had thought that two material gifts would equal deep joy on her birthday, I have thought similarly. And then Jesus so gently and lovingly shows me that my joy is found in no one or nothing else but Him. I am gradually coming to realize that no matter if I am ever blessed with those situations or possessions that bring me temporary joy, He has given me what I truly wanted the most.
And the down-to-my-core knowledge that He loves me!
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)