Do you truly love me? (John 21:15, 16, 17)
The first time he saw her was across a bonfire at a friend’s house after a football game. She was there with a friend of a friend and caught his eye right off the bat. As a matter of fact, he just couldn’t take his eyes off of her. It wasn’t just because she was beautiful—which she absolutely was—but it was so much more than that. It was more of a quality about her: the way she smiled, the way she laughed, the way she carried herself. She had it, whatever it was. And whatever it was, it came from somewhere deep within her; almost as if there was an inner well bubbling up from her very heart and soul. He could see it in everything she did: in the way she listened, and in the way she talked, and in the way she cared for people—treating them as if they were the only person in the world at that moment. There was just something about her; a depth and beauty that he had never seen in anyone else.
It took him about thirty minutes, but he finally worked up the nerve to go over and talk to her. And when he did, it was like talking to someone he had known all of his life, the conversation was so easy and comfortable—so good. He got her number and asked if he could give her a call sometime, and when she said yes something leapt deep within him. Well one call led to another, and another, and before he knew it he had asked her out. Their first date was the most amazing he’d ever had, not so much because of what they did, but because of the way she seemed to bring out the very best in him. It was almost like he had come home, to a home he had never known before but had been searching for his entire life. In fact the only word that could come close to describing the way she made him feel was full; she just brought him to life inside.
Well one date turned into three, and then to five, and before he knew it they had been dating for six months. It was different than any relationship he’d ever had. They talked for hours at a time about things that really mattered; no games, no pretense, no drama. And the most amazing thing was that they were also able to just be together without feeling the need to talk at all; comfortable with just being together in silence. He had never felt that way with anyone before—much less a girl. This relationship was just different, in the very best sense of the word.
One night, as winter was turning to spring, they were lying on the trampoline in her back yard looking up at the stars and enjoying just being together, when she asked him a question: “What do you think it means to be in love?” The question surprised him with its innocence and honesty. It wasn’t something that he had not wondered about himself from time to time; especially since he had met her. For a moment he was silent, not really knowing what to say, until he uttered the classic male response, “Uh, I don’t know.” He then quickly recovered by adding, “What does it mean to you?” She thought for a moment, looking far off into the stars, and said, “I think it means that you are willing to give that person, and that person alone, all of you, every bit of yourself, your whole heart—no holding back. When I tell someone I love them it means that I am committing my entire heart, soul, and life to them completely…forever. And if they want to be with me, if they are really in love with me, I expect them to do the same.”
As she spoke, he knew at his core that what she was saying was right and true, it was the kind of love he most deeply longed for and dreamt about, but something about it scared him to death. Was he really capable of loving someone like that? Did he really have what it takes? Was he willing to enter into that type of relationship with someone…forever? Something in him desperately wanted to believe he could, and something in him wanted to run away.
Then she turned to him with one of the purest and most innocent looks he had ever seen; so pure and innocent that he knew he was not worthy of it. And as her eyes looked deeply into his, she uttered the words, “I love you.” He was in complete shock. She immediately put her hands to his lips and said, “Don’t say a word. I don’t want you to say anything right now. I just wanted you to know how I feel.”
A few minutes later he was in his car on the way home, trying to process all that had just happened. It was so confusing, so scary. He didn’t know what to say or what to do, so he made his typical decision…he did nothing. He didn’t text. He didn’t call. He didn’t go to see her. He was paralyzed. Before he knew it a week had gone by and he still hadn’t communicated with her at all. He just didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing.
It had now been two weeks since the conversation on the trampoline, and he was out with some friends at an outdoor concert downtown, when he ran into an old girlfriend. In fact, she was the girl he had been dating before he went to that fateful bonfire. This old girlfriend was nothing particularly special. He didn’t love her. He never had, but she was easy—comfortable to be around and never really demanding anything of him. From the day he broke up with her she had wanted to get back together; always promising him that if he would start seeing her again she would not require or expect anything of him. In fact, she would allow him to go wherever he wanted and do whatever he desired…even go out with other girls. She just wanted to get back together; and told him that again on this night. So now he had a decision to make: to go with the one that brought him to life like no one ever had but demanded all of his love in return, or go with the one that he didn’t love, but was easy to date and demanded nothing from him.
A couple more weeks went by and he was sitting at the mall thinking about all that had happened over the past eight months, when suddenly he got a text from her. It said: “i still luv u. i can forgive and forget the past, but nothing has changed. i still want all of you, or nothing at all. As soon as he finished reading the text he looked up and there she was, standing right in front of him. She looked deeply into his eyes and asked him THE question, “Do you love me?”
I would love to tell you what he said to her, but I can’t. Only you can do that, because he is you. That’s what a parable is all about—you and God. The God who is wildly and passionately in love with you, the God that made you for relationship with himself, stands before you this day and asks you that very same question. Do you truly love me? You are my Beloved, am I yours? His love is totally free, but loving him back requires all of your heart and soul. What is your answer?