I've been singing about Jesus loving me since I was a little girl in Sunday School, wearing my fancy dress and pinchy shoes.
Thing is, I don't think I've ever truly believed it.
My thought process has always gone something like this:
Sure, God loves me...but so what? God loves everyone, so, well, He sorta has to love me. Right? It doesn't really mean anything.
I don't know how this mindset developed, but it's been there as long as I can remember. God loves me, but only because He loves everyone.
Maybe belief didn't come easy to me because this love wasn't something I could work for. In every other area of my life, I was expected to stand out. From doing the readings in church at five years old to graduating top of my class in high school, there was no room for "good enough". There wasn't even room for doing your best...only for doing the best. Go for gold or don't go at all. Classic overachievers.
But with God, things just didn't work that way. Which is not to say the expectation wasn't there - I had all the right Sunday School answers, sung in the junior choir, helped light the candles, assisted with the Eucharist, knew how to be the shining example of a "good Christian girl". But still - still - God loved everyone. There was no teacher's pet with God, and I knew it.
So sure God loved me, but it wasn't because of my worth or efforts or good behaviour. He just loved me because He loved everyone. He loved me because he didn't really have a choice in the matter. He just kinda had to love me.
I was thinking about this again recently, comparing it to the idea that God loves me the way I love my children (only more perfectly, more wholly, more completely). I love all of my children, from my firstborn to my unborn. I guess, like God, I kinda have to. They're my kids.
But oh, I love them. I love them passionately. I love them so much it hurts sometimes. I watch them sleep, mesmerized by their perfect beauty. I find such joy in watching them grow and discover and become their own people. I truly adore them. I love all of them.
But I also love each of them.
My love for my oldest does not overshadow my love for my youngest. My love for the toddler does not diminish my love for the boy. My love for the baby growing in my womb does not negate the individual love I have for my birthed children. I love my four year old. I love my two year old. I love my unborn child. I love each of them, and I love all of them.
Could it be so with God?
Could it be that God truly loves each of us, just as surely as He loves all of us?
I hesitate to accept this. Goodness knows there is enough individualism within the Western church, too little understanding of the collective, of the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. But even so, does my unique, individual love for each of my children at all take away from the idea that we are one collective family? It doesn't, so perhaps I could accept this too, this unique love from my Heavenly Father that is not made meaningless by his equal love for the rest of his human creations.
It only took me a quarter of a century, but I think I can finally believe it: God really does love me.
And He loves you, too.