“Good morning, Dr. Phil!” I said, silencing my clattering phone. Laughter greeted me. “I’m always amazed that you know my voice.”
“Call display helps,” I told him. But even without that, I’d know my friend and fellow scribe’s voice; the soft stretches of syllable and sharp curving of consonants that make the South African accent so charming.
We hadn’t talked for ages. We had a lot of words to spill. When I hung up forty minutes later I felt uplifted. The world didn’t look so dark. Cheer sat on my shoulder. And I felt special; as though a giant had come close, patted me on the head and asked for my company—just because he enjoyed me. I suspect everybody feels that way around Phil. That’s his gift—or one of them—and he delights in using it.
No doubt my friend’s long consulting career helped him relate well to others. But life and faith have taught him the importance of also helping people understand how precious they are—to God and to himself.
Like me, Phil has a set of nearby grandchildren. He recalled how one of his then-young granddaughters snuggled in close for a hug one day at her house. “You are so special,” he whispered into her ear.
“Oh…..?” she said, drawing out the word long. Lifting it up into a query. “Really?”
She considered that a moment. “But Grandpa, what about the rest of the people in this house?”
Her question startled him. “Well…they are special too.”
She pondered. “Oh? So that means I’m really just average, correct?” She slid off the couch to join the rest of her average family.
He chuckled at the memory, but in Phil’s voice I caught some frustration that he couldn’t help his granddaughter understand in that moment how precious she was to him.
Society teaches us early that love is something we earn. That in order to be considered special by anyone, even a grandfather, we must be or do or have something outstanding. Yet most parents and grandparents I know love their offspring for one reason only: they make up the pieces of our hearts. They belong to us.
Nothing my children or grandbeans do will make me love them less. I’ve had to discipline them. I’ve disapproved of their decisions sometimes. Agonized over their actions. But my love? That’s never on the table. They may refuse to acknowledge me as part of their life. They may ignore my wisdom. Their choices may devastate their future—on earth and for eternity. But though they shatter my heart, they can’t destroy my love.
Phil’s granddaughter is special to him because he loves her—he doesn’t love her because she’s special. Most parents and grandparents feel the same way. In a perfect way, that’s God’s love, too. And when we don’t “get it”—and most people don’t—it’s also his frustration.
God loves you, just as you are. That makes you special. Believe it.