“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)
In the spring of 1989 I accepted a challenge and made my way to Chicago, Illinois, to attend a writer’s conference. I traveled alone, knew no one attending the event, and was simply compelled to go in order to learn something about the daunting task of writing. Up to that point, I had only published articles for my college newspaper and arrived feeling like an awkward kindergartener on her first day of school.
Though it has been almost twenty-nine years since I attended this workshop, the memory of what occurred has never dimmed. The women I met did not care that I was not a brilliant writer or a published author or that I barely had an idea of what the whole writing process involved. It didn’t matter. All throughout that week, in the dorms and the cafeteria, in between classes and long after the lectures were finished for the day, I experienced an unconditional love and acceptance in a way I never had up to this point in my life. In some magical, miraculous way the Lord opened up the hearts of the women attending this event, and they welcomed me in as if I was someone of great importance to them. I was loved simply because I was present. I experienced a deep awareness that I was valuable even though I had nothing of value to offer.
As I read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians I hear a similar refrain running through the opening passages. God is pouring out blessings, favors, and riches on his people and expressing that we are a treasure to him. But none of his incredible blessings are based on our worth or on what we have done to earn his admiration. The Lord values us and lavishes us with his extraordinary gifts based solely on his unconditional love for us.
The world sends us the clear message that if we try really hard, strive for significance, and make something of ourselves, then perhaps in time, we will be lucky enough to be rewarded. The world will applaud us after we have made it big, if we have delighted them in some clever way. But God never responds like that.
God’s love for us is based on his character and not on ours. From God’s perspective, we are his favorite even when we have not done anything that favorable. God’s acceptance of us does not stem from our being acceptable, but from his enormous love for an imperfect people. Being the most brilliant author, he’s recorded his message in sixty-six books to make certain we get his point perfectly.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell