Summary: God's love has made us His children, and it will make us like His Son.
One thing I learned about Jan: She never felt the need to control others. I don’t mean by that that she had no boundaries or no expectations of us. She wanted us to be our best selves. But she didn’t see the need to coerce us. She didn’t need us to be a certain way for her to be happy.
For example, she did not anger easily. But she was comfortable with others being angry if they needed to be. It didn’t make her anxious. She could be with you no matter what your mood, and she could accept you just the way you were.
This is a helpful trait in someone who does psychotherapy, and that’s what Jan did. At least, that was one of her callings. She counseled others who were struggling with life’s burdens. And what a gift she was to so many. Jan knew how to listen – not just to what you were saying but also to what you were not saying, to what, perhaps, you couldn’t bring yourself to say. She could map the human heart with all its fears and desires, with all its hope and despair. And her presence gave others comfort.
She could also help you to sort through things in your mind, see connections, draw your own conclusions about what to do, and then motivate you with the resolve you would need to act on your intentions.
It is, as I say, a great gift. And who knows how many people Jan encouraged and strengthened through the exercise of this gift?
But, of course, that’s not all there was to Jan’s life. She served her country in the United States Air Force. She read incessantly. She maintained friendships with a lot of people. She had a wonderful family. She worked as a travel agent, a job that took her on many trips to faraway and exciting places, including Mexico, the Caribbean, and even Singapore.
She did all these things, but what identified her more than all the rest is that she was – I should say, is – a child of God. If you also are a child of God, you know that this is a thing of wonder. It takes your breath away. In his first of three letters, the Apostle John wrote about our identity as God’s children, and what he said was this:
See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
There are three things in John’s statement that give us comfort at a time like this – and, really, at any time.
The first and most important of the three is that our relationship to God begins with the Father’s heart. “See what love the Father has given us,” John says, “that we should be called the children of God.” The long and the short of it is that we are God’s children – not because of anything we have done – but because of what God has done for us.
And what has he done for us? He has set his love upon us. Before we could ever love him – or ever would love him – he loved us. Later in his letter, John says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9f.).
Now, that word propitiation may sound strange to your ears, but what it means is that Jesus, the very Son of God, went to the cross in your place and mine – and, of course, in Jan’s place – and settled accounts with the justice of God. God is righteous and holy, and he cannot simply let our sins go by with a wink of the eye. His holiness has been violated, and his justice must be satisfied. And Christ’s death did just that. It satisfied the righteous requirements of the law, so that, if you and I put our faith in Christ – as Jan did – we are accepted in the sight of God.
Now, the initiative for all of this was in the Father’s heart. All this was borne of love. That’s why John can say, “See what kind of love the Father has given us.” There is no other love like this. It is far beyond our capacity to comprehend. The hymnwriter once wrote: