I fell in love with God in a microbiology lab.

It happened while I was peering at a cell.
cellMore than three decades later, I can’t remember the precise function of the Golgi apparatus or the endoplasmic reticulum. But I remember how overwhelmed I felt at the combined presence of such intricacy. To think that packed away in nucleated cells were these tiny organelles so complex, so perfectly fit for their function!

Nothing I’d ever heard in my sporadic church attendance had rid me of doubt. But looking through the electron microscope, I no longer questioned the existence of God. I believed beyond a doubt that the world had a Designer.

And since product reflects producer, how could I not love the One who engineered life with such precision and poetry?

For the next year, my time in the lab and my walks in the woods were a love affair with God the Creator. The expanse of the heavens–the complexity of the microscopic–truly declared the glory of God. The skies proclaimed the work of His hands (Ps. 19:1).

And I was enamored.

Then I began attending church.

That’s what you’re supposed to do if you love God, right? But there I discovered I wasn’t following “the rules.” I hadn’t confessed my sins and asked for forgiveness. I hadn’t tithed, read my Bible, or established a quiet time of prayer. Even worse, I hadn’t given up drinking or cursing or sex.

So I set out to abide by the rules–some Biblical, some religious. Over the next twenty years, I sat in Sunday school classes where I heard versions of the following:

If you do A + B + C (+ D + E+ F (and don’t forget G + H + I)), then you will please God and your life will be blessed.

But I had a problem. The “then” part of the equation never seemed to add up for me. My husband lost his job, debt piled up, miscarriages came, and our son grew long hair and pierced his nose.

According to church teachers, that meant I must have left out a step or two. Or skimped on one or more of them. Or maybe I didn’t have enough faith, or I hadn’t prayed hard enough. Or maybe–and this one always stung–maybe I hadn’t dealt with the sin in my life.

Maybe I wasn’t good enough to make God happy enough to love me.

So I tried harder… and failed worse. I began to think that God and I were engaged in a Whac-A-Mole game: He, the supernatural wielder of the sledgehammer. Me, the doomed mole. Every time I poked my head out, He whacked me with another failure.

I lost the love I once felt for Him and forgot what it felt like to be loved by Him.

I missed the joy of our love. And I wanted it back.

To find it again , I turned to His word and began to search for evidence of God’s character and love.

It was all there!

As I traced the history of His love and faithfulness to His people–and began recording the history of His love and faithfulness in my own life–I learned to see God as holy and just, compassionate and forgiving, healing and protective. He cares for us and watches over us. He sings over us!

And He loves us profoundly enough to die for us.

I am grateful for and humbled by this pure, noble love.

As I let it wash over me, it erased the image I’d held of God as master of the Whac-A-Mole game. I could now picture myself sitting on His knee as He graced His throne, accepting my adoration with a smile, perhaps thinking it was childlike and sweet. His love felt parental. The fatherly, affectionate-pat-on-the-head kind of love. Or the motherly, wrap-me-in-her-arms-and-kiss-my-boo-boo kind of love.    

I don’t think those images are wrong. Or bad. In fact, because of my childhood, I needed to know that kind of love. Perhaps you do, too.

But God also calls us His bride. Through that name, God wants us to understand new facets and depths of His love.

He wants us to know that He is head over heels in love with us.

Think about a bride: she’s cherished, treasured, delighted in, doted on, fancied, adored by her bridegroom. That’s how God feels about me, His bride!

That’s how He feels about you, too!

How did you fall in love with God? Have you ever fallen out of love with Him? How did you recover your love? I’d love to hear your love stories!