When I was a kid, my paternal grandparents would often come stay with us in the winter. They were from North Dakota so the winter weather was much fairer in Washington. At least that is why we were always told they came. I didn’t believe it for a moment though. It had to be for much more noble reasons than weather. Regardless of the reason, I certainly have fond memories of grandma and grandpa. But, I must say, grandpa’s anecdotal “yep, yep, yep, ya bet yer boots” paled in comparison to grandma’s “Ich liebe dich.” Those words directed at me are three little words that I will never forget. And, when I say, “never forget,” I mean so much more than in a dictionary sense. I mean I will never forget the way they were spoken, the heart with which they were spoken with, and the voice that spoke them.
Yes, I will never forget all that this German “I love you” encapsulated. Quite honestly, I could have been across the other side of the room, house, or likely even asleep and I would have known just who spoke them and why. Grandma knew me deeply and she loved me deeply and for that I am blessed. Not for anything I did, even though grandma’s “ich liebe dich” was most always met with a “ich liebe dich ouch” (I love you too). Unless, that is, I was playing “asleep” in her lap. Grandma just loved me and I knew it—I know her “voice.” It was the voice that came from an anointling who deeply loved and when she spoke, grandkids flocked like sheep to a good shepherd. I know I did because I knew that voice of love and it awoke in me a desire, not just to be loved, but to love. It was a voice that I know required nothing, but gave everything. It was a voice that inspired me to love in return with everything a little boy could. All that grandma had to do was share these three little words and I know there was much right with the world.
My grandma’s ability to love was not about her though, it was about Jesus and she would have been the first to tell you that. Her voice of love and safety was merely an echo of Jesus’ deep, deep love for his little ones.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd and his sheep know his voice. It is the voice of love, of care, of defending, of laying down his life. It is the voice of goodness and when his sheep hear it, they flock like grandkids to the “I love you” of a grandmother who was just a mere inkling of Jesus and his great love.