Kurt is somewhere around middle age. He has been married to his sweetheart for 22 years. They have three amazing children doing the mission and married thing. Though Kurt was aware of his SSA from his teens he didn’t start looking at this challenge until the age of 44. He thought he was in the middle year of his life and wanted the second half to be very different than the first half. Kurt acknowledges working through his challenges around SSA was the thing that brought into consciousness and out of the fog of a very limited life. SSA to Kurt has become more of parable that contains amazing truths just waiting to be discovered and not something to keep beating his head against.
In Romans 8:38-39 we read “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.”
I don’t know about you but I don’t need thrones etc, to make me feel separated from the love of God. Something as small as a flat tire can do that for me.
A few months ago I had this overwhelming desire to understand what it means to know God loves me. I have always had a nagging belief deep down that God loves others more than he loves me. I would just have to look around and see the blessings seemingly flowing in abundance to others and the scarcity of blessings I have felt as evidence of God loving others more than me.
I realized what I felt in reference to being loved by God was more of a belief than a knowledge. The problem with beliefs is they come from others and always have an element of doubt attached to them. So when times get rough for me, the doubts inherent in my belief can cause me to doubt God loves me, making me feel abandoned by Him. So I began praying for knowledge of God’s love rather than just a belief.
As I pondered this, I had some early memories opened up to me. I remembered as a shy little boy watching the kids playing out in the playground and wishing that I was as special as the kids I was watching. They seemed to have it all, talents, friends, admirers, good looks, etc. I don’t know when I made the connection, but somewhere along the way I began to believe that being special equaled being loved. So I began to believe that only those anointed as “special” could be wanted, desired, seen, and loved. Believing that I could never be equal with others, I had to rank others as more or less special than me. The less special would be ignored and the more special ultimately envied.
So this left me in a sort of a quandary in knowing God loved me. It all felt pretty conditional to me. How could I believe that God had perfect love, if it seemed to me, he played favorites? And if God played favorites, how could I really trust Him?
But I wanted to be loved and thinking that being special was the way to be loved, I needed to figure out ways to be seen as special. It seemed to me that God would have to love me if I was perfect, because wasn’t it the perfect ones he seemed to love and bless the most? The problem with being perfect is I knew I wasn’t and couldn’t be perfect, so deep down I believed that God really didn’t find me special and thus didn’t really love me.
To play the game of being special you have to give away your power to some external source. Only external sources can bestow specialness. So in order to be seen as special I sought out other opportunities to be seen as special. I sought out individuals, organizations, accomplishments, etc where I could be seen as special and thus loved. If I was rejected or didn’t measure up to these anointers of specialness I would tear myself down with toxic thoughts and emotions. I would determine I just wasn’t special enough to really be loved. It was a vicious cycle in my life, played out over and over again. For in the end in order to feel special you must have others around you that are less special. I came to understand specialness is a place of fear, and fear, not hate, is the exact opposite of love.
So what did God do to show me He loved me? He spent a year tearing away all the things that I had sought to make myself special. As you can imagine, it was a pretty wrenching experience. But it taught me one of the most important lessons of my life, “I AM NOT SPECIAL.” So what does it mean to not be special? It means that no one is more than me and that I am not less than anyone else. It means that God loves the worst sinner on this planet no less than he loves the most righteous person. Now others might believe by the world’s standards that they are special by some external quality, like possessions, talents or physical attributes, but God only looks at the inner man and not the outward man.
I came to be taught, as I pondered, that God is completely indifferent to the outward man. It would seem in nearly every case when the world anoints a person special, it turns out to be a cursing rather than a blessing. You only need to read a few autobiographies of famous movie or music stars to know that. The world’s external definition of specialness is a construct of Satan. God is about the heart. It is only in knowing that I am NOT special, that I can know that God loves me perfectly. Yes we can be highly favored of God through receiving certain blessing based on our obedience to certain commandments, but that is different from God loving anyone more than another. God as our father loves us so perfectly he always knows what the perfect gift is to give to us.
So one way God shows his perfect love is to break us free of specialness by stripping us of the things that make us feel more or less than others. That might mean struggling financially, struggling in relationships, being fired from jobs, to name a few. What a perfect wrenching gift of love this is. Until we are stripped bare, we will always see God’s love as conditional.
Understanding I am not special helped me see God’s hand in all things in my life. If we see life’s trials through the knowledge that God loves us unconditionally, then we can see purpose and hope in all things. We stop thinking we don’t have what it takes or God really doesn’t care all that much about what’s going on with us. It gives us the ultimate eternal perspective. We can sit in our liberty jails like Joseph Smith; we can sit on our dung heap scraping boils, with everything taken from us like Job and not curse God and want to die. We will know all things have meaning and purpose and are perfect gifts from a God who loves us with perfect, fierce, undeviating, and passionate love.
When I begin my day, I have two thoughts now that bring me great peace. The first one is that there is nothing that will happen today that God does not already know. The second thought is there are none of my thoughts, emotions, struggles, weaknesses, trials, etc, that I will experience in my day, that my Savior hasn’t already felt in preparation to help me through them. Before we even get up in the morning, our Godhead family has already mapped perfectly our path. I think about how exhilarating it is, when I am on the top of the mountains in my life and how God is always there to share my joy, but I also know and feel my Savior walking with me in the valley of the shadow of death. I understand more fully how God’s chastening at times comes from a place of perfect love. Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” I also can be grateful without the same past resentment, the weaknesses I’ve been given, and I’ve been given some doozies! My perspective is that everything that occurs in my life is created by a loving father for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to give me the ultimate gift my father can give me and that is exaltation.
How freeing it is to know that God loves me. It changes my entire perspective about everything. It even helps me see with more calmness and peace the trials that those I love are going through. It gives me a clearer perspective when I make mistakes and how God uses those mistakes to move me eternally along.
So what is God’s perfect antidote to specialness? What is the perfect gift that our Heavenly Father offers to each of his children to counter specialnesses pernicious effects? It is of course the gift of charity. Moroni 7:47, 45-46 reads, “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. And charity suffereth long and is kind, and envieth not, [charity vaunteth not itself], and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing.”