I don’t know what this will mean to anybody, but I have walked with the Lord my whole life, and just recently, my whole world has been changed. Maybe somebody else needs to hear it, too…
My whole life I have had a pretty obedient spirit. When it came to my walk with God, my declaration was , “I just want to do what God wants me to do. Tell me, and I will do it! I will go, God! Just like Isaiah!” And I meant it with all that was within me. But eventually, I found myself in a storm. Lots of storms, actually, with no direction. And in the storms, I would cry out, “God! Why are you letting this happen!? Am I not doing what you want? Am I not doing it correctly? Tell me what you want me to do? I just want to do what you want me to do!” And over and over I cried this, until finally, painfully, the truth burst from me, “Tell me what You want me to do so that I can do it…
so that YOU will LOVE ME.…”
Wait…. what? How long have I believed that? See, I grew up in a really great environment. I had parents that were intentional, who were quick to tell me that they loved me. I had grandparents who would sing and pray with me, Sunday school teachers who taught me about God’s love, loyal friends who cared about me…. and yet somehow, I grew up feeling like not enough. Loved, certainly, but maybe I would be loved more if I was smarter, or thinner, or funnier, or more obedient. And this smallish flaw in my worldview created what I think was a giant crack in my understanding of who God is, and who I am. Could it really be that all of my life, I have believed that God would only love me if I did what He said? Yep, that sounds like me and MY God. I believed that MY God loves me in a kind of far-away way. He is disappointed in me when I do things wrong, and He loves me more when I am doing all of the Right things with all of the Right attitudes…but that is NOT the God of the Bible. God the Reedemer, He loves us while “we are still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) The Light of the World, He loves us “in our weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) When we fall short, He is not surprised, and His love “does not fail.” (Psalm 136) He loves us like the Father of a prodigal child – while we are away from Him, He prays and waits, and the moment we come walking up the road to Him, He runs, (trecho: runs flat out, to get there as fast as possible!!) and sweeps us into a hug. (Luke 15) He loves me already – I don’t have to earn anything….
Really, being a parent has helped me so much in understanding God’s great love for me. I heard a speaker a few months ago who really helped it all click into place. He shared the story of his little daughter, who intensely favored her mother and would fight against her daddy. And this young man heard God tell him that every night, he was to tuck his daughter into bed and sing to her, even though she would fight and scream for her mom and push him away. For over a year, this dad did that every night, lying with her for hours until she would calm down. And one night, finally, she didn’t fight, and as she grew sleepy, she said, “Daddy, tonight I chose you to put me to sleep. I choose you.” And this man just fell apart. His intense joy was overwhelming and in that instant he understood the way God loves us . He felt the way He waits for us to choose Him, to understand His love for us, even in our tantrums, even in our sin. And as he shared that testimony, suddenly I knew, too.
God LOVES me. He loves ME. He doesn’t love my servant heart, He doesn’t love my obedience, He doesn’t love me because I study my Bible or pray… He loves me for who I am, because He is my Dad, and He loves me and He just wants me to let Him love me. My obedience shows my love to Him – “if you love Me, you’ll obey My commandments.” (John 14:15) but it doesn’t earn anything at all from him. That dad in the story didn’t love his daughter more when she fought or didn’t fight, although their relationship was sweeter when she didn’t. The father of the prodigal didn’t love his son more when he was back home than when he was gone, there was just a greater joy. God’s love for me is the same from before I chose to follow Him, to when I am doing all the right things at all the right times, to when I am Jonah running away in a boat, to when I am the prodigal, humbly coming back. His love is the same. I am the same to Him. He loves me.
And He loves you, right where you are. You don’t need to have it all together. Discern what God wants from you, and do your best. Remember that He made you – He knows you, He knows your weaknesses. He is ever patient and ever loving. He loves you – right now, the same as He will tomorrow and the same as yesterday. Maybe that isn’t profound – it certainly isn’t news – but realizing what that meant has given me freedom I never knew I didn’t have. My striving spirit – silenced. Quieted by the great peace that He is enough, and I am not, and He loves me.