An Advent Series: Love
By Pastor Ken Van Vliet
Last month, Kelsey asked if I would consider writing a ‘love letter’ to the congregation as the final installment of our advent story blog. I have to admit, her request made me a bit squeamish. Not because I don’t love you. I do. Deeply. It’s not even that my Dutch heritage and the words “I love you” can sometimes be oxymoronic. My struggle lies in the fact that the word love is terribly confusing and convoluted these days. The fact that I can write I love you today and tell my mother that I love her potato salad tomorrow proves my point. So in order that you do not think you are on the same par as my mother’s potato salad when I say ‘I love you,’ (which is more of a compliment than you might think…) let me tell you what I really mean.
For me, saying ‘I love you’ means I am for you and for your best. As your pastor, one of my deepest desires is for you to fully live into the unique, incredible expression of Christ that God has created you to be. It’s the same thing I want for myself, my family, and all those who are close to me. It’s also something that requires a great deal of intention and effort. That’s probably why you feel me poking and prodding you in that direction. It is one of the ways I express my love for you. Our broken and sinful patterns are the primary barriers that prevent us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus came to give, and I am saddened when we choose to ignore them. That only causes pain to ourselves and to others, so I am passionate that we tend to the internal work each of us must tend to. Even my life verse, Galatians 2:20, is oriented in that direction. At the same time, please know, I do not believe those broken and sinful patterns are the truest thing about you. What is most true about you is that you are a beloved child of God. Right here and right now, you are fully loved, fully approved of, fully delighted in, fully accepted by, and fully enfolded into the Trinity. There is nothing you have done or nothing you can do that would ever change that. Constantly reminding you of that reality is another way I express my love for you. It is one of the most powerful ways I can be for you and for your best.
While I fully believe your belovedness is the most true thing about you, I am also aware that I have a tendency to lean harder on the poking and prodding than I do on reminding you of your belovedness. It’s part of my own broken story. My wife and kids can probably testify to that! So I am going to commit to loving you better in the coming year by putting the emphasis where God puts it; You are beloved far more than you are broken. And when I get that mixed up, (which I will) my greatest hope is that I have helped you find the tools to bump into the one who never gets it mixed up. That’s Jesus. You see, in the end, that is the way I can love you best. I can help you bump into Jesus.
He is the best love letter I could ever give to you.
I love you.