For years I said I believed that God loves the world, that He gave His son Jesus to die for us because of that love and I was sure that God loved the people I told that to…I just didn’t believe it about myself.
I didn’t really put it together for a long time- that I wasn’t applying to myself what I passionately told others. I didn’t realize that the concept in my mind and the belief in my heart were at odds. But about five or six years ago it started becoming clear. We all have stated beliefs, but then we also have functional beliefs. Our stated beliefs are what we say we believe, oftentimes what we’ve been taught to believe/say we believe. Our functional beliefs, could almost be called our “true beliefs” because these are the beliefs that affect how we actually live out our days.
My functional belief was that God loved the world, and I was just a general part of that- like I was hiding in the midst of the crowd so He allowed me in with the others, but this was purely out of His leniency and not out of affection.
I am not sure how much of this functional belief came from things I was taught. I don’t know how much of it is what I twisted in my head because of worldly concepts so long impressed upon me, of self improvement and “owing people” and transactional relationships “If I do this for you, you should do this for me, and vice versa.” I do think there was some small part of my functional beliefs that rose up from teachings that tried to respond to our culture of “God’s Love” that really means “God doesn’t care about anything that you do, just don’t rape or murder anyone.”
The teachings I received were rooted in truth– I am depraved and unworthy of the love of God in the sense that He is God and I’m merely human and I’ve disobeyed Him. However, I went too far in my mind and this became “there is nothing good or desirable in me, no reason for God to love me, and the truth of Him loving me says everything about Him and nothing about me.” It was like trying to debase myself completely would magnify Him. Saying there was nothing worthy about me made Him more worthy. I became despondent. If the only thing good about me was Jesus inside of me, then God was still only loving Himself, and there really is no “me.”
A few years ago I heard a pastor say something that really resonated with me- he made the point that as a Christian culture we had started talking about the Gospel as though it started in Genesis 3- as though the Fall was the first thing to happen and man started out sinful and separate. Yet our story does NOT start in Genesis 3. God made us in His image and He rejoiced over us. I still bear His image, I am still His creation- and not just in a general way (God made the first human being, so by extension He made me). The Bible is clear that He knit me together specifically and knows every hair on my head. God’s glory is ultimate in the story, but I am not worthless or hidden. In fact, it is this amazing truth that so differs Christianity from so much of Eastern Mystic religions that do in fact have as their goal a sort of ceasing to exist.
Some of you will relate to this, some of you are thinking “what the heck are you talking about?” Let me move on to more relatable thinking…
I continue to ask God to flesh out in real belief and understanding what it means that He LOVES me. He started the process in opening my eyes to His AFFECTION for me and enjoyment of me years ago, and has multiplied this in giving me a daughter.
My daughter is the apple of my eye. I love her wild curls, her grin, her long limbs. I loved her when she had rolls upon rolls even in her forearms, I love her now all stretched out and skinny. I love her questions and imagination. I love her diva ways, her passion for anything sparkly and twirling dresses. I love her enjoyment of being upside down and spinning and I love when she asks ‘that so funny Momma?” I love her curiosity and when she asks “what happened?” (except for when she keeps asking me ten times after I just explained it). I love her smart brain that is soaking up words and concepts. I love enjoying her enjoying other things. I can be in situation and enjoying it but wishing she was there because I know she’d enjoy it so much and I want to see her enjoy it.
All this love for my daughter. But my daughter is also disobedient. She is selfish. If it comes between loving herself or loving me she’s going to choose herself. If it’s between her happiness in having a toy or seeking the happiness of the kid next to her, she’s going to choose her own happiness 99.9% of the time. She is manipulative. She tries to cry about things to get her way, to give extra hugs at bed time so she doesn’t have to lay down and she’s also not opposed to hitting, pushing, or pulling to get her way. She is impatient and her impatience often leads to angry outbursts. She wants to be in control and believes she knows better despite all the ways I’ve cared for her, protected her, sacrificed for her.
I don’t say these things to beat my daughter down. Of course this is all “normal” two year old behavior (it’s also a lot of stuff I see in myself, in slightly more controlled ways) but it’s also real and things I pray for change in, and I pray for wisdom to teach her what love looks like. I DO say these things to show that my love for her does not ignore her sin, and her sin does not negate my true love and enjoyment of HER. Her sin doesn’t make her worthless in my sight. It doesn’t negate the qualities that make her Corrie Joy Beran, and not some other kid. I don’t simply love her in order to show how great at loving I am.
Today I read through another blog written by another Christian who realized that believing God’s love for him is more than elementary. I again found myself pondering this love of God for sinners. I thought about the verses that say that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And verses that tell us that before we accept Christ’s atonement on our behalf, we are rebels.
And the thought God gave me was, “yes, you were rebels, but you were rebel SONS.” I thought of that often told story of the prodigal SON and the fact that the Father RAN to His son, OVERJOYED to see his son, not just because the father was incredibly and super-humanly gracious, but because this rebel was his son. He didn’t merely look at that young man as a rebel returned, he looked at him as the young boy he raised, who had the family jaw line and his wife’s smile, who though impetuous, was strong and adventurous and clever. The Father wanted more than praise for being gracious and forgiving. He wanted relationship and nearness, to hear his son laugh again, to see his son thrive again, to hear this thoughts and grieve with him and rejoice with him.
The father is most certainly the star of the show and the one to be praised, yet the son is not trash allowed back in the house, but treasure sought out.
It is tempting for me to go back to those other beliefs. It’s tempting to measure myself by the world’s standards and think that if I’m not accomplishing something noteworthy then I’m insignificant, or those false religious beliefs I’d twisted in my own mind that said that I’m nothing more than a rebel and wretch and God saves me solely out of his magnanimity.
Those are all lies. I must reject them and speak the truth He has revealed both in His word and spirit. I am his beloved daughter, justified by the death and resurrection of His Son, yes, but restored to Him that I may be called His child and His friend.