As I sit down to write this blog, I have just finished rocking my 11 month old daughter to sleep. Sometimes when I rock her, it is a very calm, somewhat easy process. She lets me hold her in my arms, not fighting my hold on her and eventually will fall sleep with no struggle at all. She feels and knows my hold on her and eventually gives in to the safety and security I provide. Once she allows that to happen, she is able to peacefully fall asleep, usually within 10 minutes. However, tonight was not one of those nights. This time, she fought my hold on her and was constantly trying to change positions. She cried and cried while I tried to hold her, fighting the hold I had on her and the safety and security I was providing. She kept on trying to move and was continually fighting with me and the sleep she desperately needed. It was a constant battle for at least 30 minutes until she eventually began to tire and slowly began to realize that she was safe, she was secure, and that she was loved by me. Once this happened, she was out light a light and fell into a deep sleep enough that I could lay her down for the night.

So why in a men’s blog would I share this story? Well, it goes back to the question I posed in my title. Am I LOVED or am I DISQUALIFIED? As the father of five daughters, yes I said that right, five daughters, and a husband to my beautiful wife, I am constantly being asked this question by them, may not always verbally, but in their interactions with me. Whether they voice it or not, this is the core question that is asked of all women. Am I LOVED and am I worth fighting for? Even though I have attempted to answer these questions myself, whether it is thru verbal affirmation, physical touch, physical presence, or spiritual leadership, I am aware of the fact that this question can only be answered perfectly by their Heavenly Father, through an understanding of how He sees them, how He adores them, and how He loves them. In fact He has loved them before they were ever born and that there is nothing that they could do that would ever change how He feels about them. In the same way that there is nothing my 11 month old daughter could do, or my wife could do, my love for them would never change no matter how much they fought against that thought or chose to believe that about themselves.

So how does this apply to men? I am glad you asked. As I look back at my own life and the lives of so many men I have had the privilege to interact with and minister to, this is a question they struggle with as well. Before they can ask the question, “Do I have what it takes?” they must come to grips with the fact and believe in their hearts that they are loved unconditionally first. Their value is not in their job, not in how much they make, not in sports, not in their intelligence, and not in their leadership position in church. God’s love for them is not based on anything they can do but is only based on God’s love for them.

Even more disheartening is the number of men who believe that they are DISQUALIFIED from ever being loved by God because of their past. They don’t believe that God’s grace and mercy can extend to them. This is a devastating lie that Satan has thrown at men with the goal of keeping distant from God and in bondage to their past. Think about this vicious cycle for just a minute…I don’t feel or believe that God loves me unconditionally so I have to earn it through my actions — my actions fall short and I sin (which we all do every day) — I  believe that God can’t love me because of my sin — I feel shame and guilt and despair and believe that I can’t approach God — which leads to — I don’t feel or believe that God love me unconditionally…Do you see the vicious cycle that men can get caught up in and stay on forever, all because of a lie that Satan has convinced us to believe?

For me, this was the exhausting cycle and process I found myself on for 40 years of life. This constant need to EARN God’s love but then constantly falling short and feeling DISQUALIFIED. You can only imagine how this cycle became even more life threatening when I was the first person in my family who went through a divorce, made even worse by the fact that I was unfaithful in the process. The shame and the guilt I felt was almost unbearable to the point that I considered taking my life because of the hopelessness I was feeling.  It was at this rock bottom place that I remember saying and believing with Satan that I was unforgivable and unlovable. How could God love someone like me? I believed the lie that I had DISQUALIFIED myself.

But thankfully the story does not end there…through the course of the last seven years, God has used a loving and supportive family, a group of strong Christian brothers, and an encouraging counselor to slowly help me realize that I am LOVED, that I am FORGIVEN, and that there is NOTHING I did in the past, NOTHING I can do in the present, and NOTHING I could do in the future that would change how God feels about me. He LOVED me in my past, he LOVES me in my present, and He will LOVE me in my future.

As we head into the next weeks leading up Valentine’s Day, there is going to be a lot of conversations about love. It is my prayer men, that just as you can hopefully say YES to the question of your wife when she asks you, AM I LOVED?, that you will be able to believe in your heart that your Heavenly Father is saying the same YES to you of the same question, AM I LOVED?, and NO to the question of AM I DISQUALIFIED?

If you can’t take my word for it, at least take God’s word for it by reading the following passage from Romans 8. As you read it men, let these words sink into your heart in the same way my daughter sank into my arms tonight when she fully realized how much she was LOVED and that there is nothing she could do to ever change how I feel about her. Your Heavenly Father is saying this same thing to you, YOU ARE LOVED AND YOU ARE NOT DISQUALIFIED!

Romans 8:35-39 The Message (MSG)

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

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