Opinion Column

God has a valentine for you

By Rev. Eric Strachan

Love isn’t something you find, it’s something that finds you. - LORETTA YOUNG

There’s a verse in the Bible that’s been translated into more than 1,100 languages. That’s right, more than 1,100 would you believe! Afrikaans, Arabic, Greek, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Korean, you name the native tongue and in all probability this verse has been translated into that language. “What’s the verse?” you may ask. Well before I tell you, let me take a moment to relate a personal story to you.

Many years ago in my early 20s I found myself sitting in a church pew. I had taken the Bible in the holder before me and was thumbing through the pages. The book was unfamiliar to me and as I thumbed through its pages suddenly I came to a stop and my eyes fell upon the words from John’s Gospel, chapter 3, verse 16. I began to read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” It was in that moment that something quite unique and mystical happened.

Sitting beside me was a little old lady. With her hair in a bun and spectacles on, this sweet saint looked at what I was reading and said with a lovely smile on her face, “Please excuse me interrupting but, this verse I think you’re looking at, John 3:16, did you know that you can put ‘your’ name in it?” “Oh yeah?” I responded inquisitively. She put her index finger on the Bible verse and then said, “Like this. For God so loved ‘Eric Strachan’ that He gave His only Son for ‘Eric Strachan’ that if ‘Eric Strachan’ would believe in Him, he would not perish, but ‘Eric Strachan’ would have eternal life.”

It was a unique moment indeed. I’ve often thought if I were to ever write a book I would call it, “Moments: Odd ones and God ones.” Well this was one of those ‘God’ ones! It was like the still small voice of God speaking into my heart and saying to me “Eric, I love you.” I don’t know about you but I never ever thought back then that words like those would ever be spoken to me, certainly not by God, Pope Francis I, yes, Billy Graham, yes, but me, no, I don’t think so. Words like these I thought were for the spiritually elite, the super saints, those who had such a holy walk, men and women of impeccable virtue! Was I in for a huge surprise. There was a twinkle in the eyes of my sweet friend as she finished reading. Her eyes left the printed page of the Bible in my hand and now she was looking at me. “He loves you Eric,” she said. That was it. The Worship Service began and ended, the sermon that day was forgotten, but dear sweet Hazel Raymer’s words to me lingered on in my memory. “Imagine,” I thought to myself, “the great God of the universe loves me, me, Eric Strachan!”

My stark unbelief of that newly revealed truth was based on a few facts, the primary one being that at that moment in my life I was in a mess, my moral performance was scoring about 1 out of 10. “Could God even love me?” I pondered, “especially with my halo so tarnished?” Apart from that, I didn’t know that God knew my name, and if He did, why

did He centre me out for special attention? After all, who was I? A mere unknown living in a world in 1968 of some 3.5 billion. I somehow suspect that some of you who are reading this today are much like I was, the very notion that He has an incredible love for you is as remote from your thinking as being on the next spacecraft bound for planet Mars. But let me burst into your world of incredulity today, in this season of love, with St. Valentines’ Day just around the corner this coming Wednesday, Feb. 14, and say to you what I think God would say if He were to send you a Valentine.

Sit back for a moment and take this all in. “My dear child, you may not know it, but I have always loved you. You were a blueprint baby, engineered in heaven, designed and fashioned by my hand. As you grew in your mother’s womb I marvelled at what I had created. Your birth was a magic moment. I followed each little baby step you took in these early years. Since you were born I have always had plans for you, plans to do you good, plans to prosper you and give you hope and a future. All I have ever wanted to do in your life was to have you experience my love, the love of the Father. That was why I created you, to love and be loved. I sent my Son Jesus to die on the Cross especially for you. I have seen ever teardrop you have shed in your moments of pain and anguish, and I have desperately wanted to wipe every one of them dry. I want you to know that I am the One who can heal your heart and bind up every wound that has ever afflicted you. Human love will never ever satisfy your deepest desires, only my love will fill the vacuum within you. Never ever think of yourself as unworthy of my love. You are worthy my child, and in this season of love I want to write three words to you, words I never want you to ever forget, ‘I love you!’ Can I say it again, ‘I love you’.”

Oh, by the way, as you finish reading this column, why don’t you fill in your name in the blanks. “For God so loved________ that He gave His only Son for________, that if__________would believe in Him__________would not perish, but __________ would have everlasting life.” That’s the most famous verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16, and guess what, it was written especially for you! 

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