Growing up I had the rules, but lacked the relationship. I felt like the only way to earn and stay in God’s favor was to do or not do certain things. And, I failed….constantly. Being a born pleaser, I felt like I must certainly be letting him down like all the time. I loved Him and I wanted His love, but felt unworthy because I couldn’t live up to what I thought He expected from me. Even when I did the “right” things, I didn’t understand why I had to in order to be loved. Either I was or I wasn’t, right?
My “hard to please” God eventually turned into one I gave up trying to please. I just accepted the fact that I never could. I was too sinful, too guilty, too wrong. If he loved me, it must be out of pity. It would have to be in spite of my efforts because I could never do enough or get it right.
Slowly, but ever so surely, I started feeling His love more. I began studying, searching, seeking, wondering….could it be true? He would speak to me. He would tell me it was true. But, my imperfections were the bullhorn and His voice was hard to hear. I started straining to hear His voice. I started reading books that spoke about it. Reading about and talking to people with the same issues and questions as me. People who’s lives were transformed by the love of God in spite of themselves and their actions hoping on a prayer that He could love me the same.
Guess what? He does. Now, I know that His love for me is regardless of my actions. Anything I do or don’t know in His name as a sacrifice is a beautiful thing, but I don’t HAVE to do anything for Him to love me any more than He already does each and every day. This fuels joy like I’ve never felt. This makes me want to shout His name from the mountaintops! This makes me WANT to live for and with Him. This unconditional love is worth changing our lives for and I firmly believe is the only thing powerful enough to do so.
My hang-ups are people pleasing, guilt, fear, worry. He meets me here. He loves me through it. He empowers me, calms me, walks with me, and reminds me that I’m human. While we see the struggle and feel the shame, He sees the reason that He came. Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for us, if we didn’t need Him to. He did it because He loves and He knew He had to. Being human means that we are sinful. We are sinful and selfish as two year olds. As we grow up, we can control ourselves better and make better choices, but we are still sinful and it takes complete dependence on Jesus when we realize that our works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
When we realize our condition, we are sometimes prone to run the other way. We could never measure up! Instead, let us turn our guilt into gratitude. Let us throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus and say “Thank you!! Thank you for dying for me. Thank you for loving me then, now, and tomorrow, no matter what. Thank you, sweet Jesus, for taking everything I’ve ever done and ever will do to the cross. Help me to live in a way that honors you!”
Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:40-41 (NLT)
Even the men Jesus chose to walk beside him were weak. Peter wanted to fight for Jesus. Peter drew a sword when they came to take Him. Peter swore He’d never deny Jesus. But, Peter couldn’t even stay awake while Jesus (his best friend, his Savior) sweat drops of blood in agony just a few feet away. Jesus asked them to do one thing, yet their flesh was too weak. THIS is why He died for us. He knows what we are up against. He knows the frailties of our minds, bodies, and spirits.
That being said, can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul?
One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ Matthew 22:35-37 (NLT)
Jesus KNOWS our limitations as humans. He also knows our hearts crave His love. If we allow His love into our hearts and start to live in the freedom of it, our lives will reflect that. We will be filled with Jesus and the fruits of the Spirit. We will not be perfect, but we will be surrendered. Rather than hiding because of our guilt or trying to earn His love, let’s go face down in gratefulness to our Father in heaven. Because there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and we could never do enough to even come close to what He’s already done for us.
Mary Magdalene loved much because she knew she had been forgiven much (Luke 7:47). That forgiveness and love is available to each one of us. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…..Only Jesus can save a wretch like me. Thank you Jesus!