I've been thinking about the fact that our relationship with God is pretty much the only area of our lives where we are NOT judged based on our performance. We all have (or have had) jobs where we have to measure up to a certain standard, and we've all been involved in projects or undertakings where we feel we will be judged based on what we do, what we say or how we look. I'm so grateful that God doesn't look at us that way. He only looks at our hearts and values us for our REAL selves. His love and acceptance and approval aren't based on our performance. They are based only on the fact that HE first loved US...meaning, he already loved us even though he knew we would continually screw up, and even though he knew we'd never be able to deserve it. That's some good news, people.
I love that I can be real and honest and transparent with him. He already knows my heart. He knows my motives.You can't be fake with someone who truly knows you, and who loves you passionately in spite of yourself. When I really "got" that I am deeply loved and accepted by God and that the only opinion about me that truly matters is His, I gained a level of freedom in my life that I had never had in all my years of life. But I didn't really get it until a couple of years ago.
For so long, I tried to fit into whatever mould people wanted to try to shove me into. I tried to be all things to all people, so as not to rock the boat or cause conflict by standing up for myself. I tried to be a good pastor's kid. I tried to be a good teenager. I tried to be a good friend. I tried to be likeable. I tried to be a good pastor's wife and fit into the "pastor's wife" mould. It didn't work. In fact, I was a failure at trying to be all of these things. I have to say that doing everything to gain the approval of others is exhausting and so not worth the anguish. Even though I knew in my head that God loved me for who I was, I still projected on to him the fact that I felt all of these ridiculous expectations coming from other people.
Daily counting my blessings made me realize that the gifts in my life are not based on what I do. They are based on the fact that God somehow sees fit to pour out love on a sinner--a pathetic, undeserving, imperfect, but completely loved loser like me. I still don't understand it sometimes because I know myself and how dark my heart can be, but I accept it and I receive it.
I think this is why I've come to such a place of rest in my walk with God. Knowing that he holds no judgments against me and that he loves me fully is freeing. It allows me to learn to be free in other areas of my life. I've become more honest, more transparent, more loving, more patient and more positive because I have known true love. I can look back to the woman I was 10 years ago and I barely recognize her. I see a sad, misunderstood, fearful, approval-seeking shell of a person who knew very little about myself or (to be honest) about God. I thought I did, but I didn't.
I'm grateful to be living in a place of rest. I'm grateful that God won't stop loving me when I screw up. He won't turn away from me, but he chooses instead to dump buckets of new mercies on me every day and lavish me with countless gifts. I just have to notice them and receive them. I don't have to perform. I don't have to DO anything, as a matter of fact.
If anyone tells you that God is angry with you or that you have to do this or that to earn his love, you know that that person really doesn't know God. Run away from people like that! They may profess to love God, but their actions speak volumes about what is truly in their hearts. Their condemnation is toxic and many people have fallen prey to the enemy under the guise of "Christian love." The Scriptures say that you know the followers of God by their love and by the spiritual fruit in their lives. Are they humble? Are they transparent? Are they kind? Are they generous? Are they encouraging? Do they run from gossipers? Do they reach out to help those in need? The only standard is love. If we live our lives and do what we do just because we love God, we can't go wrong. People will see the fruit in us if the only standard we keep ourselves to is love. No other standard really matters.
I'm grateful for...
My church family. Tonight, since my parents were away and my husband was working, I was in charge of facilitating the service. It was worship night, so it was mainly music, but I shared a little bit about being thankful, but also about letting worship be a two-way thing. It was a good time. :) I'm so grateful for my church family. We are an awesome little group of people who know each other like family--so much so that we CHOOSE to spend our recreational time together, as well. I'm blessed to have them all in my life.
Perspective. I'm learning so much as a parent. I'm learning to get a little perspective before I fly off the handle about things that won't matter in the end. I'm learning to be a listener. I'm learning to know my kids as individual little people. I'm learning that they love me, even when I'm behaving like an absolute freak. I'm learning that loving them and accepting them for who they are is one of my biggest callings in life because it's teaching me more about God's love.
A chill day. Today I spent most of the day in my pajamas. Yes, I'm sick with the cold/cough thing, but I really needed the chance to just sit and do nothing. Sean understood that and let me languish all over the house, and he encouraged me to lie down and relax. So I did. I needed that.
My dog. Seriously, she's the sweetest thing. She follows me everywhere. If I stand still in one place for any length of time, she comes and sits in front of me (usually ON my feet) and leans her head on my leg. She gets happy when she sees my feet hit the floor in the morning. When I come home, she jumps around like a little puppy, even though she's getting old. I love her. She's the epitome of unconditional love, and (despite the fact that I am constantly complaining about the fact that she somehow sheds on every surface in our house) I wouldn't trade her for anything. Right now, she's curled up next to me on the couch and dreaming about running in a field somewhere.
I hope that you know that you can just be yourself. I hope you know that you're loved. I hope you know that if you're being fake or pretending to be something you're not, you're selling yourself short. Be transparent. Be who you are. Be humble, but realize that you are awesome. Seriously, go to the mirror right now. Look yourself in the eyes and say, "I'm loved. I'm accepted. I'm awesome. I'm wonderfully made. God knew what he was doing when he made me." I bet the more you learn to be yourself and to love yourself and to be grateful for everything, the more you'll find that people are drawn to you because you'll be like a candle in the darkness. You'll glow.