A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of my 54-year-old cousin, Rodney Winkle, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.  He was an outstanding person who lived a full life, participating in many good and charitable activities and organizations.  His oldest daughter gave a moving eulogy, and one of the memories she recounted was that he would always say to her and her sister, “I love you unconditionally forever.”  These words soon became so familiar to them that he created an acronym (ILYUF) to use in text messages and on greeting cards.  Both of his daughters conveyed the security they felt growing up, knowing that whatever they did (right or wrong), their dad’s love for them would never change.

That feeling of unconditional acceptance and love is one that isn’t often a part of most families.  Many go through life believing that they have to perform to earn the love and approval of their peers, their families, and even God.

This idea that we have to do something or behave a certain way to be loved by God makes us almost superstitious, thinking that whenever we happen to suffer, we must have displeased God in some way, and we’re being punished for it.   Ancient Greek and Roman religions had a similar view, where sacrifices were made to keep their capricious gods appeased or run the risk of enduring their wrath.  These views, unfortunately, have tainted our Christian belief about the Triune God and have needlessly heaped a heavy burden of guilt on us all.

What if God were really like a loving father, one who said and wrote, “ILYUF,” on hearts and cards and text messages?  Jesus shares a story in Luke 15:11-24 that illustrates the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father for each one of us.  A father had two sons, and the younger son wanted his inheritance right away.  He took his inheritance and wasted it in a foreign land. When he was desperately hungry, he decided to go back to his father, ask his forgiveness, and go to work for him as a hired hand.  But the father had been watching and waiting for him:

                “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him.  His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.  The son started his speech…but the father wasn’t listening.  He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick.  Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him.  Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it.  We’re going to feast!  …My son is here- given up for dead and now alive!  Given up for lost and now found!'” (Luke 15:20-24, The Message).

The story shows that the son didn’t have to confess, repent, or offer to do anything to be welcomed with open arms by his father.  All he had to do was accept the lavish, unconditional love (ILYUF) given to him by his father.  That’s true for us, too.

I like this new acronym ILYUF (thank you, Rod Winkle).  I plan to use it to remind my family and friends that no matter what, I will always love them.  That’s a tall order, given that I’m fallible and so is everyone else.  But it’s also a reminder to me that I am accepted and loved by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that every day the Triune God is whispering in a myriad of ways, “ILYUF.”

~by Nan Kuhlman

10 comments so far

  1. Jane Hinrichs on

    AMEN. Thank you for the reminder Nan.

  2. Nan Kuhlman on

    Thanks for your kind words, Jane.

  3. Carol on

    Thank you so much Nan. My son Joel dates Angie and this story was shared by her. What a wonderful testimony of God;s unconditional love. You shared this message in a special way. Thank you!

  4. Nan Kuhlman on


    Thanks for your comment. I thought the acronym ILYUF was a powerful reminder for us all – I just had to share it!


  5. Missy Moore on

    Nan, thank you so much for writing this. In times when I ask “why” did this happen to my father, I can look to examples like this of how he has truly affected others, even after death. I did not anticipate that sharing the “ILYUF” story in my eulogy would affect as many people as it has, but I’m so glad it did! My sister, Angie, and I are so lucky to have had a so wonderful, in ways Christ-like, earthly father! Thanks again.

    • Nan Kuhlman on


      Your eulogy was beautiful and perfect in every way, and I was privileged to see in it an analogy which helps us understand the depth of love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have for each and every person, whether they acknowledge it or not. Since all love starts with the Triune God, any love that we express toward others is an evidence of Christ working in us and through us. Your dad’s “ILYUF” simply gave us a modern twist on a very old truth, one that’s easy to lose sight of when the “whys” don’t get answered right away and life doesn’t make sense. You, your mom, Angie, and the rest of the family remain in my prayers.


  6. Jeannine on

    Absolutely beautiful, Nan – fantastic post.

    Missy, I’m so sorry for your loss and for the shock that must have been.

  7. quinersdiner on

    My condolences on your loss. I found this site because I was writing on the Prodigal Son on my blog. You have brought the loving beauty of this parable to our doorsteps with your fresh take on it. Thank-you.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.


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