God thought about us, on this spectacular speck in the galaxy, before we were born, before our parents were born, before anyone was born. Before we thought about God, God had already thought about us. Before we raised our heads in his direction, he’d been gazing at us. Before we lifted our hands to him, he’d stretched his fingers down to us. Before we bowed the knee, he’d bent his ear; before we expressed hope, he’d left heaven; before we dared to say sorry, he’d died to save us.
Before anyone proceeds towards a relationship with God, God starts the process. He leads us to himself – we who cannot search for him; we who cannot even accidentally bump into him. God is the God of the previous, who finishes before we start, who says ‘hello’ to us when we’re hiding from him – when we don’t even know he’s there.
Not only that, but he chooses to be our friend at unimaginable cost to himself, giving us what we need – but could never deserve. And he arranged it through the humiliation of becoming a created being, the scandal of being treated as a nobody, experiencing the outrage of a painful cross, the shame of bearing the punishment for our sins – the degrading of God is more than I can understand.
When a baby is born, it enjoys the dedicated attention of a number of people including hospital staff, the parents, siblings, grandparents, friends – even the family dog. Through it all, the child is blissfully unaware that it has become the centre of a new world – ushered into life with lavish love. When we became Christians, we also entered a new world – a world where we became the special object of God’s attention.
In a world of easy promises and empty pledges, it’s easy to be sceptical about guarantees that seem too good to be true. And God’s grace is one of those guarantees that seems too good to be true – but it’s true…because we are God’s children.
When our children were young, we went for walks in the country. On one of these treks, we crossed a stream that was too wide for their little legs. Although they had boundless energy, they lacked ability; they wanted to get to the other side but the water was wide; they saw the other side but their focus was on the gap; but it was easy for me – and because I carried them across, it was easy for them too.
And God provides strength for our struggles, wisdom for our wilderness, love for our loneliness, friendship for our fear, forgiveness for our failure, hope for our heartache, joy for our journey and grace to reach the goal. After all, he’s the divine giver – of himself.