I Love You This Much

There was a billboard at the interstate exit for my church. It was just recently replaced with an ad for a fastfood restaurant. For the last six months or so, everytime I exited, I would pull up to the stop sign at the access road, look right to check for sparse traffic, and then glace straight up into the eyes of Jesus on this billboard. The image was a closeup of Jesus on the cross at his eye level, with his arms straigtened out into the fore and back ground along the cross beam. The only words on the sign said, “I love you this much.”

[image: Billboard]

I get it. Like a child or parent says to the other as they open their arms wide as possible, “I love you this much”. Cute.

— I love you this much.

And you loved the whole world.

— I love you this much.

A big group hug. Yeah, I get it.

— I love you this much.

I see the deeper meaning. You loved the whole world enough to die for us all, for our sins.

— I love you this much.

Yeah, yeah, I get it.

— I love you this much.

You loved me, little ol’ me, that much…?

— I love you this much.

You died for me? For me!

— I love you this much.

(sigh…)

— I love you this much.

Thank you, but I did not ask you to die for me.

— I love you this much.

I feel guilty that you did.

— I love you this much.

It’s not fair.

— I love you this much.

I did not ask for this.

— I love you this much.

I do not deserve it.

— I love you this much.

But why, Jesus? Why?

— I love you this much.

(silence)

— I love you this much.

Thank you. But…

— I love you this much.

What if I don’t want to accept your gift?

— I love you this much.

What if I rebel and choose to do things my way?

— I love you this much.

Okay.

— I love you this much.

Okay! I think I am beginning to see.

— I love you this much.

It doesn’t matter whether I accept your gift or not, you are still going to love me anyway.

— I love you this much.

But what about all the pain and suffering you had to go through?

— I love you this much.

What about all the pain and sorrow in the world? What about my suffering and sorrow?

— I love you this much.

(silence)

— I love you this much.

And my joy and happiness? And my friends’, the world…?

— I love you this much.

And your joy and happiness?

— I love you this much.

I don’t understand.

— I love you this much.

(long silence)

— I love you this much.

So, if I accept your gift…?

— I love you this much.

How or what can I possibly do? What can I give back in return?

— I love you this much.

You gave everything for me. You gave all of yourself. You emptied yourself completely, selflessly, for me.

— I love you this much.

How can I return that kind of love?

— I love you this much.

I’m too selfish, too petty, too weak.

— I love you this much.

I don’t know. I don’t understand. It’s too much.

— I love you this much.

There is nothing I can do to repay it, to repay you.

— I love you this much.

I could never have paid the price in the first place. It was too much, too much for me, too much for all us. I could never have built the bridge to…

— I love you this much.

You paid the price. You built the bridge. You are the bridge, the way.

— I love you this much.

I am overwhelmed at it all, at you…

— I love you this much.

You are relentless…

— I love you this much.

Relentless love…

— I love you this much.

Okay. How do I cross the bridge? How do I find my way?

— I love you this much.

How do I surrender?

— I love you this much.

How do I love you? How do I say, “Thank you”?

— I love you this much.

How do I say, “I love you this much”?

— I love you this much.

(silence)

— I love you Mark, this much…