Conversatio Divina

Love Letter Sixty-Two: 1 John

Larry Crabb

I Want To Know the Real Truth about Who You Are

Father, it happened again earlier this morning. Driving to my favorite coffee shop, I suddenly began talking out loud about Your love. Tears started rolling down my face, and I sang, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” over and over again. I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t stop singing. Father, what’s happening to me? What have you been  asking Me for these past few weeks?

I’ve wanted to know, to really know that You love me. I believe it, but I long to experience Your love in a way I never have.

Don’t quench My Spirit. Receive Him. He’s offering you fellowship with My Son and Me.

Father, that’s what I want more than anything. But I don’t get it—how can I feel so spiritually in tune one moment, as I did this morning, and so out of tune the next? Yesterday morning I woke up feeling flat, utterly indifferent to the story You’re telling. My doctor called the afternoon before, two days ago. I had to face again how desperately and foolishly dependent I am on broken wells not leaking. His call made it clear, my broken wells are broken. They’re guaranteed to leak no matter how hard I try to patch them up.

I felt empty. The life I was holding onto drained out of me. And I felt irritable, inconvenienced. Some nasty procedures are in the cards. And some big plans are now in limbo. Mostly, though, I felt shaken and sad, very sad. The possibilities are unpleasant, for me certainly, but more for my wife and family.

The next morning, I couldn’t get You in sight. I was more aware of my plans and me than of Your plans and You. The party we’ve been talking about as we worked our way through Your first sixty-one letters seemed a long way off, as if it belonged to another world, a world I couldn’t see.

I was with a close friend when the doctor’s call came. I got pretty emotional, more scared than anything else. When my friend asked what was going on in me, an unexpected word flew into my mind: important. In that moment, the word felt alive. I felt alive. I sensed something deeply good was about to happen, that something important was moving ahead in Your story. But the next morning, the sense of importance had faded.

And then it came back, suddenly. I was driving to that same coffee shop, thinking about what You’re saying in 1 John: that I could actually have fellowship with You; koinonia is the Greek word You used. I heard You telling me that we share things together. Something wonderful happened, almost exactly what happened again this morning. I began to cry. I heard myself shouting, “I’m part of Your story!”

And just like this morning, I couldn’t stop crying. And I kept on shouting, “How could someone like me have anything in common with Someone like You? How could a forgiven but still empty well-digger, a saved but still whiny comfort-seeker, a regenerate but still insistent blessing-demander like me be part of a story like Yours? And how on earth—or in heaven, for that matter—could it ever happen that someone like You would want to make Your home in someone like me, then actually do it, and then like it?”

Father, I’ve never felt more sinful and unworthy and, at the same time, more loved and alive. I was alive with awe and joy.

I love watching My Spirit work. He’s always up to something good.

But Father, the joy has faded. I’ve just felt visited by Your Spirit two mornings in a row. But whatever happened then isn’t happening now. And I’m left wondering who I am. Am I still the self-obsessed, whiny person I know myself to be? Or am I Your deeply loved, Spirit-filled child who, like Your Son, longs to stay close to You and to keep on telling Your story no matter what happens? Father, who am I? Where am I?”

You’re on the journey. You’re My little child, walking the narrow road that My Son promised leads to life. You’re about to learn what you’ve dimly known before: that when the narrow road gets especially narrow, My Spirit has a unique opportunity to do important work. You may laugh with joy. You may cry in hope.

He worked deeply in My friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he was in a Nazi prison camp awaiting a hangman’s noose. In a poem called “Who Am I?” My faithful child recorded what happened when his narrow road became crushingly narrow. Dietrich felt himself to be “struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing” his throat. “Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance”—he would never marry or again see his fiancée. And he felt “weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, New York: Macmillian Publishing Company, 1971, 347, 348.

But even as he felt that way, Dietrich was seen by others as a man stepping from his “cell’s confinement, calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country home”; as a man who spoke to his captors “freely and friendly and clearly” as though the guards were his “to command”; as a man who bore “the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, as one accustomed to win.”

I wept as I listened to My suffering child agonize over the same questions you’re now asking: “Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?”

But I listened with joy as My Spirit led Dietrich through the narrowness of confusion into the open country of certainty. He reached deep into Dietrich’s heart as He is now reaching deep into yours. under His influence, Dietrich wrote, “Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.”Letters and Papers from Prison, 348.

This is what I want you to hear as you read My sixty-second love letter: You are Mine. The life that defines My Son now defines you. You are alive in Me. You are alive to Me. You are alive with Me. Inexpressible joy is yours for the asking… on My Spirit’s timetable.

Father, I tasted that joy the last two mornings in my car. But it was only a taste. Why are moments like that so elusive, so fleeting?

Never deny My Spirit’s sovereignty. The divine wind of joy blows as He chooses. And never deny your responsibility. You exist in My light. You don’t always walk in My light. To walk in My light requires that you pay more attention to your failure to love than   to the pain you feel when others fail to love you. When the light of how My Son and I relate in perfect love reveals the dark stains in how you relate, confess your failure to Me immediately. Agree with Me that how you’re relating is awful, vile, despicable; that you hate it as I do. When you confess your sins, I will not only forgive the relational failures you see, but I will also clean up everything you have yet to see that keeps you feeling at a distance from Me (1 John 1:5–9). If you understand relational sin, confession will become a daily exercise.

The dance of love, the life of joy that My Son and My Spirit celebrate with Me has appeared to you. The way We love has been made visible in My Son. He became human to reveal what divine life looks like in a created being. And He died to forgive you for how far short you fall of perfect love and to share the life of perfect love with you. When He returned to Me, He sent Our Spirit to pour that life into you. And that has happened (1 John 1:1–4; 2:20, 27). The tastes of Our love come as My Son decides. The power to love is always in you.

Father, the way I relate still falls so far short of the way You relate. And yet I believe I have Your Son’s life in me. It gets discouraging.

Discouragement, when it drives you to Me in broken confession rather than away from Me in wounded pride, brings the realism of humility. You are never without sin. Whether you recognize it or not, there is never a moment when you relate as perfectly as My Son. One day you will. until then, humility will free you to live  in awe of My endless supply of grace. And the worship that awe inspires will release more of My Son’s life to flow out of you into others, even into those who have hurt you, though never as badly as you have hurt Me (1 John 1:10; 2:1–12).

You are alive in Me, as a fully forgiven and fully loved child who can rest in his Father’s arms. You are alive to Me, as a mature person, a wise father who knows who I am as an eternally happy community of Three Persons whose love has devised a foolproof plan to bring you to Our party. And you are alive with Me, as a young man who is loved enough, wise enough, and therefore strong enough to overcome the evil one, to trust Me by never—at least, not for long—leaving the narrow road to life no matter how narrow it becomes (1 John 2:12–14).

But you must be on your guard. There are teachers in the church today who resist the truth that the power to love comes only through My crucified Son (1 John 2:18–19; 4:1–6). They focus more on what I have called you to do than on who I have created you to be and who you now are because of My Son. In John’s day, a teacher named Cerinthus, with whom John would have nothing to do, taught wicked nonsense: that the divine Christ came on the human Jesus at His baptism, but left Him when He went to the cross. The effect of such teaching is to deny that My divine life is now in you, that you are forgiven for loving poorly and are now empowered to love well. The death of a mere man could never accomplish what I accomplished through the death of My fully divine and fully human Son.

Reject such lies. Celebrate the cross.

Know that My seed, My relational energy, is now in you. You’re still quite capable of living like the devil. Adam’s seed is still in you, the self-centered, fleshly energy that continues to argue that living for your own well-being at the expense of others is justified and sometimes necessary.

But you are not the devil’s child. You are not a citizen of this world. You are not a slave to your flesh. You are Mine! You are loved as a child. You are wise as a father. You are strong as a youth.

Father, what happened in the car these past two mornings? Did Your Spirit fall on me? Was I freshly baptized with Your Spirit?

My Spirit longs to drench you with the water of life, to fill you with gladness even when the narrowness of the narrow road is acutely felt. I want you to know truth with doctrinal accuracy, but also, as My Puritan children put it, with experimental passion.

Listen to John Owen, a brilliant thinker with a passionate heart, as he speaks of the joy you experienced those two mornings in your car: “Of this joy there is no account to be given but that the Spirit worketh it when and how He will.” He had divine joy in mind, the kind with which My Spirit “infuseth the soul, prevailing against all fears and sorrows, filling it with gladness…  and sometimes with unspeakable raptures.”

Father, something important is happening. It’s not that I felt joy. And it has nothing to do with whether I’m healthy or sick. I’m seeing more clearly than ever that there is a well that doesn’t leak, that Your Spirit, the dance of perfect love, is in me. I can have fellowship with You. I can join the eternal dance right now, no matter what happens. I am Yours! Therefore, I can love.

You may lose sight of what you’re now seeing. I don’t want that to happen. I wrote My next letter to help you stay on the narrow road when it gets especially narrow and you feel empty and scared. Immerse yourself in truth. Remain open to the experimental knowledge of truth. You are alive in ways you have yet to realize. Keep reading.

This article is an excerpt from 66 love Letters by Larry Crabb, published by Thomas Nelson (January 2010) and is published with permission. for information on Dr. Crabb or additional resources please visit


Dr. Larry Crabb is a psychologist, author, spiritual director, and founder of Newway Ministries. he currently serves as distinguished scholar in residence at Colorado Christian University and spiritual director for the American Association of Christian Counselors. Among his more than twenty books are Inside Out, Shattered Dreams, The Pressure’s Off, Soul Talk, and The PAPA Prayer. His most recent book, 66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God That Invites You into His Story, came out in January 2010.