“Who loves you Judah?” the father asked his 20 month old son as he tucked him into his crib.

“G-ma, Poppy, Granny… and Ella,” Judah exclaimed with glee as he remembered the face of his six- year-old cousin Ella, whom he had met only four hours earlier that day at the family reunion.

Learning who loves us is the first theological lesson of our lives. Before I could walk I learned that Mina loved me. Her feisty and no-nonsense personality enveloped me and though she was technically a “step” grandmother, the bond between us could not have been stronger had we shared the same blood. She died when I was in the 4th grade but I remember her so vividly, it’s as if we shared a banana split at the corner drug store just yesterday.

Mae-D loved me too. On the days that she cleaned our home, we began the day with a game of hide and seek. And no one, including my mother who is the best cook in the world, can make a grilled cheese sandwich to rival Mae-D’s. When I felt sad or sick or tired, Mae-D rocked me to sleep in the creaky black wooden rocker. My mother always said that the two people who influenced my personality the most were Mae-D and Mina.

What I didn’t know then, was that they were teaching me about God, about knowing that I was capable of receiving love. Not the kind of love that you earn or deserve. Simply the kind of love that comes as a free and undeserved gift. Who taught you about love, grace, faith? With whom did you first experience the delight of being beloved by another person?

When I went to seminary I found out that academics often refer to the Bible as “salvation history” because it is filled with stories about how generations of families experienced a love that saved them. But each of us also has our own salvation history; that is our own personal experience of discovering that the great mystery we called God, loves us to pieces. And the even bigger miracle is that we are set free to reveal that love to the people around us.

Grace and peace,