The Thursday I arrived in Breckenridge for a weekend retreat with the women of our new church, I received the news that one of my uncles, who had been battling cancer the past six months, went to be with the Lord. Needless to say it was not the start to the weekend I had hoped for (but it was a GREAT weekend!). Four days later I was on a plane en route to Idaho to meet my parents there and celebrate my uncle’s life.
I’ve been trying to figure out quite how to explain the experience. Athough both my parents were both born and raised in Idaho, we only lived there when I was three. After that, we’d visit when we could in the summer, and periodically for family reunions or just because. Lately its only been for funerals… something that is never easy. Yet one thing I have learned over the years is that any occasion in the Welch family is always a time to reconnect, no matter what the reason. You see, my dad’s father was one of ten children, and with him having 20 first cousins growing up.. I had a lot of people I called uncle – and a lot of cousins myself!
Every year we would come back to Idaho, my folks would have to repeat the family tree to my brother and I so that we would know who was related to who. We were always “Denny’s kids” and “the ones that don’t live in Idaho” – and everyone would nod knowingly and go “oh yeah! Ok. Great to see you again, how have you been??” Try as we might, we never could do without this re-orientation for some of the family.
That was not the case with this uncle. I remember him well, for a number of reasons, some of which I won’t go into here. But suffice to say, he always was glad to see us, welcomed us over and made us feel like we never left. As I sat with my folks in the hotel over breakfast, I learned stories of he and my dad when they were boys that I never heard. Oh goodness were they boys! God bless their mothers and the cops in their town. Its amazing they made it to adulthood.
As I listened to the stories people shared at the memorial, I heart so many more stories of how my Uncle Dick would make people laugh, offer them a beer, and just talk, for hours. He helped people get jobs where he worked at Albertsons. He never seemed to make a big deal of mistakes – even when the young man who would one day be his future son in law crashed into his beloved 53! He clearly cared more about people than things – an attitude that I heard that in every story, and saw in every picture.
One of the things everyone agreed upon was that his most-used phrase was “YOU are my favorite!” Some heard it every day. Some probably heard it once and never knew he called everyone that. But it was clear that he wanted the people in his life to know that they MEANT something to him, whether they were related or not, whether they were old or young, whether they worked for him or not. I even remember him saying that to me once – looking me straight in the eyes – when we visited in the summer. I am sure it made me beam when I was little.
It makes me think of how God sees us. We have the most difficult time understanding how God can care for, much less pay attention to every single person on the planet, and so its all too easy for us to maybe brush him off or acknowledge his existence, but never really accept the fact that God says the same to us: YOU ARE MY FAVORITE.
We satisfy ourselves with global or communal “God loves us” but clearly keep our hearts in check, for fear that if we really believe what God is saying is true, it will undo us, and we aren’t sure we can handle the deep love He longs to show.
What would happen if you took that chance? If you stood or sat still for just a moment, and let the God who created you look you in the eye and say “I LOVE YOU“. No ifs, and, or buts about it.
We are often afraid we are not enough, it’s too late, He wouln’t want us, there are too many other big things in the world for Him to worry about. But He’s God. Don’t you think he knows how to pay attention to all that? Stop using “other people being worse off” as an excuse to avoid letting Him love you. Of course there are worse things in the world. You letting God love you won’t stop wars and genocide and murder and all the horrible things we all mourn about. But it will change how you see yourself. It will change your ability to love. It will give you the strength you need to stop wars right there in your family, in your workplace, in your relationships.
Jeremiah 31:3 tells us that God has loved you with an everlasting love, that he draws you with kindness that you have never known. Jesus is the living, flesh and blood proof of this truth. If you have never actually READ of this love, I challenge you to do just that. Set aside your biases and maybe all the ways faith has been misrepresented to you, and look at Jesus. In him, God has loved us more than we will ever know.
Set aside fear. He’s ready for you to hear how much of a favorite you really are!