We Love Him Because He Loved Us First–and Most

five children -- one a baby -- wearing matching flannel shirts

The beauty of belonging to a family

It is lunchtime at the Dagen residence. Mom has cafeteria duty. Dad is safely at work. Eight-month-old Adam, who is usually quite good but is working diligently on Tooth No. 5, is fussing as I try to feed him some lunch.

Laura, 7, and A.J., 5, who apparently think I can’t hear the child sitting 12 inches from my ear, are repeating every sound he makes, saying, “Mom, Adam is saying waaaaaaaa,” etc. And I, usually so calm, retort:

“It doesn’t sound good the first time I’m hearing it. What makes you think I want it repeated — twice?”

(Of course, they seem to need everything repeated at least twice, so maybe they think that’s what I need, too.)

Thus, I began my State of the Dagen Household Christmas letter in 1996 — and my blog post on Valentine’s Day 2023.

This is why…

As Valentine’s Day drew closer, the flip calendar on my desk reminded me of love daily, offering a Scripture verse or truth with a distinctive love theme.

One such truth took me back to Adam’s first Christmas with these words:

God knew you first, knows you best, and loves you most.

DaySpring, Shine Bright Every Day

Because in our annual Christmas letter, as I reflected on Adam’s birth and how it had affected our blended family, I had written this:

“Adam has added so much love and unity to our family — and something else for the children to fight over! Each of his siblings claims he looks like him or her and that he loves him or her more. Of course, he looks like me and loves me most.”

It still makes me laugh.

But it also reminds me how much we want to belong and be loved.

It’s about belonging

The last several weeks I’ve been listening to Bible teacher Paige Brown expound on the book of James — the letter from the brother of Jesus convicting us that faith without works is dead.

(I would say that works without faith are dead, too.)

But as Paige pressed into the truths James expressed, she leaned not into our efforts but into God’s grace, His initiation of loving us first, and the resulting desire within us to do the good works He enables us to do because we belong.

“We say we have faith,” Paige said (and I’m drawing from memory, not my notes, as I listened while I drove), “but it’s not that we have faith; faith has us. It’s not that we believe; it’s that we belong.”

But, first, the backstory

In April the year Adam was born, I had been a new mother for a year and a half — though my four older children were 11, 10, 6, and 4. You can imagine the reaction of my classmates when I went to Lamaze classes and breastfeeding training — as the mother of four children.

“I would have thought you’d have it figured out by now,” one of my classmates had told me.

If only! But two deaths had made me a first-time as well as a fifth-time mother. I had no idea what I was doing. My husband had lost his first wife to melanoma. I had lost my first husband, Bill, to complications after ulcer surgery.

As God would have it (and I say God, rather than luck here), Steve and I had met through a mutual friend — after I’d prayed for him and his four children for a year, and he’d stalked me via the newspaper where I wrote.

We married — for forever — mere months after we’d met. It was neither magical nor miraculous, but it included joy in the midst of what Steve billed “an excellent opportunity for personal growth.”

It so was.

The brother who belongs

I never adopted the children legally, but I adopted them as my own in my heart. I never considered them stepchildren. They called me “mom” and Adam their brother.

Because Adam’s birth cemented our family together.

We had loved; with his birth, we now belonged together.

Recently, we lost my mother-in-love, the biological grandmother of my oldest four children, and grandmother in every other way to Adam. But when Grammy died, Adam wasn’t listed in the obituary or will.

My youngest son, our cement, no longer felt he belonged.

His uncle addressed it in his eulogy. He spoke directly to Adam and told him his mother considered Adam her grandchild, but legalities in the details prevailed.

Until my oldest four children — the offspring of another mother — received their part of the inheritance. Of their own volition, they each decided to share some of their portion to give my fifth child an equal part.

Because they realize love means more than law and while blood may be thicker than water, loving relationship trumps it all.

The real belonging

By law, Adam didn’t belong. By love, he did. Perhaps because — even as a baby — he loved them first. Perhaps he did love them most.

By law, we don’t belong to Christ. Because of His love — and He loved us first — we do.

And we share in His inheritance.

The disciple John wrote this in his letter titled 1 John:

We love because he first loved us.

(1 John 4:19, ESV)

(Almost as easy to memorize as “Jesus wept.”)

Indeed, God knew us first — and best — and loves us the most. He demonstrated His love for us by sending His son.

My love for Steve and his four children resulted in a union and produced a beautiful baby. We each claimed to be the one Adam loved the most; certainly my oldest four children have demonstrated they love their brother — by doing their utmost for him now.

As they did in the Christmas photo above.

My caption for the photo accompanying my Christmas letter in 1996 was this: Stephen, A.J., Ben with Adam, who is contentedly sucking on a leaf, and Laura. The older four are quite willing to wear matching clothes this year — as long as they get to look like Adam!

Ah! May we try to look like Jesus today.

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4 responses to “We Love Him Because He Loved Us First–and Most”

  1. Joan Troyer Avatar
    Joan Troyer

    Beautiful!! You tie it all together so beautifully ❤️

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sara Avatar

      Thank you, Joan!


      1. Mary Griffis Avatar
        Mary Griffis

        Great Story! I can’t believe how much they have grown. I found our old picture book from when AJ was in my 5th Grade class at GCA! Have a blessed day!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sara Avatar

        Thanks, Mary! I can’t believe how much they’ve grown either. Just tonight, my oldest called as he picked up his son from daycare. “No, that’s my mama,” my son said when Harrison asked if it was his mom. Oh, how my heart warmed to hear those words. I feel blessed, indeed, to claim these as my own — and hear them claim me, too. Now, if they all claim my heavenly Father as their own, what joy shall be mine! I do feel blessed. I hope you do, too. God is good.


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