Many, Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is no one to compare with You.
- Psalm 40:5
“My prayer is not for them [the twelve] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message...
- John 17:20
So an interesting thing has been happening in the Miller household lately. Our kids have discovered a bunch of old photo albums of Bethany and I when we were younger, and they even found a stack of Bethany's childhood journals (like, multiple filled books) written by an opinionated 12 year old girl who was NONE TOO HAPPY that her dad told her to go to bed early so that HE COULD WATCH SEINFELD.
Our kids are fascinated by these images and stories of a time when we existed before they did. It gives them fresh insight and perspective to know us, but see that our lives didn't always revolve around them. We had our own journey, and we had our own relationship. They became a beautiful part of that, yes, but it was a continuation of something that was already there.
But the real moment of the week was when my now twelve year old Judah stumbled upon a special page in one of my wife's preteen journals.
"No one but my child can read this and they have to be twelve! "
Then a bit further down...
"Dear child, I love you so much even though you're not born yet!"
[We need to pause here and acknowledge that this is not normal behavior for the rest of us who never even gave a thought to the possibility of future kids when we were 6th graders. Don't let the overachieving mothers in the bunch bring the rest of us to shame.]
Of course, it went on to complain about bellbottoms and such. But what a fascinating experience for my kids, to know that they were being thought about.... loved, even. Before they existed.
It was one thing for my preteens to learn about Bethany's past and see how they fit into the story. But it was a whole new level to read with their own eyes that she was thinking about them and loving them 25 years ago.
Sometimes I think we forget how much the big picture can shape us as disciples of Jesus. We can get caught up in the nitty gritty of our faith, forgetting the overarching narrative: That God's story is continuing to unfold from the moment of creation until now, and it is motivated by an intensely personal love for all humanity that comes from the very heart of God.
I love noticing how we fit into a story that began before us. We read about God creating his own people through Abraham, faithfully leading them out of slavery, teaching them new ways to live and relate to God. Then Jesus reveals God fully, clearing up any questions about what God's heart is like, and forms the church, founded on the power of love, grace and resurrection.
And we're told that in the middle of this huge story, we are being thought of personally. God gives us thought and attention. Jesus specifically prays for those people who, thousands of years later, would do their best to be faithful to his mission of redemptive love. We, the people who didn't exist yet. He prayed for you. For me. He loved us, before we even came to be. Because that's what God is. That's what Jesus is.
It's big, it's broad. It goes beyond interpreting what this or that one verse means, or figuring out the differences in theology or if you should homeschool your children or not or whether you should give to panhandlers on the street or just support local nonprofit homeless services....
When we know we're loved, when we see the whole story... those other conversations will fit into place. There is a Jewish proverb, “Before every person there marches an angel proclaiming, ‘Behold, the image of God.’"
When we live in that reality of ourselves and others, the things that will emerge from our spirits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Love received helps love to be given.
Today, don't forget the big picture. You've been journaled about, years before you took shape, and loved, even then.
Jesus, help me live in the knowledge of how dearly loved I am, and give the same beautiful worth to my neighbor.