Yesterday in conversation with a friend I realized that I never actually wrote down a major thought that I have been ruminating on for the past few months. “It’s in my blog”, I told him. “I wrote about it…” Apparently not. Though I have touched on it here. But here is the thought it all of its splendor.

We as human beings have many needs, physical and emotional. Being the intelligent and adaptable creatures that we are, we have learned to meet most of those needs. But two stand out as the most pressing, and the most unfulfilled. We have an insatiable need for attention. And we desperately yearn to be loved.

Ours is a culture of talking. Of yelling, and of sharing ideas and of shoving them down people’s throats and of forcing them on our neighbors. In a culture where a person eagerly pays $100 for a 45-minute counseling session (where he does most of the talking, and the counselor, mercifully, listens), we have an overabundance of talkers and a paucity of listeners. And even if you have a close friend who will listen, or a family member who cares to hear you out, you know that your speaking time is limited to a few minutes, ten at best, before the listener begins to interject, make unsolicited recommendations, offer unwanted consolation, or just starts talking about him or herself. There is internal pressure to condense what you want to say to a few minutes or a few short, well-planned sentences. The luxury of being actively listened to is reserved for the psychologically disturbed.

In Ecclesiastes the writer says that God “set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecc. 3:11). I think God has also embedded in us the need for attention – a need that only He can fulfill.

To think, we can be in dialogue with Him for hours, and he won’t yawn! He can just listen, and we can feel at peace knowing (and having received his reassurance) that he actually cares. Not only does he care, but on his end this is what he wants from us: just to talk to him; to tell him about our day, about our dreams and frustrations and concerns. God is the perfect listener who values our words not because of what we say, but because He loves us and wants us to be in contact with him. But woe to us. Instead of talking to him, we cling to others whose needs are also not being met, we force people to listen, we throw our pearls to pigs.

Arguably this need for attention is just a part of the larger, more pressing need to be loved (just as the giving of attention is one of the expressions of love).

The need to be loved is immense. We desire to be doted on. We want to be thought of as precious. We yearn for the unconditional love that the best of parents can give. As serious and well-adjusted adults by day, we dream at night of being wrapped in the arms of our mothers, of hiding under the strong wing of our fathers. In our inner core we are vulnerable and needy, and, in love, very short-changed. Though we have devised many palliatives, only God can love us the way we need to be loved. Because He made us to be loved by Him.

I often wonder about what unconditional love really looks like. Once when describing a complex situation that I was involved in to a friend, I was struggling for words with which to show that I may have been at fault. He noticed this and said, “Whatever you tell me, I’m already on your side.” I think unconditional love looks kind of like that. There is no way to undo it. When I talk to my parents I find that they always take my side, even if I am in the wrong. It’s as if their love for me clouds their better judgment. With the Lord it is also like this, only better.

A while ago I was struggling to talk to Him, feeling guilty for something that I had done and unable to access him because I thought that he wouldn’t talk to me while I was “living in sin”. Then I thought about Jesus and it struck me: I’m not guilty. Then I thought about Satan as the accuser (Rev. 12:10). He is the one who wants to bind us in the prison of guilt, and in this day and age, he is quite successful. Guilt renders us helpless: we cannot toss a plastic bottle in the trash, we cannot splurge on a colorful knickknack, and we surely cannot each a slice of chocolate cheesecake without feeling the guilt. But in God’s eyes, we are not guilty! Otherwise Christ’s death on the cross is rendered meaningless. Yes, God cannot tolerate sin. And yet He does not see us as sinful, depraved and tarnished, but, as a loving parent, he sees us as the beloved children and beams at us. He sees us as he created us. And he created us to be loved.

But he does not just love us, he is enamored with each one of us. You know the type of love where you collect little bits of the person you cherish, and you store them in the scrap books and hard drives of your mind: a raised eye-brow, rolled up socks, a hand gesture, a timbre of voice. It is almost obsessive. No, it IS obsessive. Shamelessly so. You try to guess what they’re thinking about. You know what they need before they need it. This condition of being hopelessly in love is a reflection, an iteration, of God’s love for us. How vividly this is seen in Psalm 139:

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain….

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body…

In his epistle John says that “God is love”. This phrase has been proliferated and profaned to no end, yet its significance should not be overlooked. This is extremely important. I see this statement as a venn diagram where God is the larger circle, and love is the smaller circle fully enclosed within the larger one.

God is not only love, but all love is God. Love an expression of God. And although God is much more, the core of Him is love. Fortunately for us, love is non-denominational. It cannot be claimed by the Presbyterians, or by Protestants, or by Christians alone. It does not belong to the realm of the religious. Anyone who has ever loved has been in the immediate presence of God. John writes about it like this: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (The short chapter of 1 John 4 should really be read in its entirety). And how many of us haven’t loved that special love – purely, selflessly, madly? And so we have all known Him, as he yearned for us to know him and feel him. Maybe we just haven’t all known that it was Him…

A final attribute of His love. The Lord wants it to be personal. He will not force it, rather, he awaits for it in humility. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we’ll eat together (as friends)”. This is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings! The Creator of the universe is standing outside your door. He is right there, knocking, and he wants to come over and eat with you. You just have to go and open the door.