Allowing God To Love You
For most of my life I have been on what I like to call the “treadmill of performance”. It started because of rejection that I suffered as a kid and especially as a teenager. I was saved at the age of 12 after my parent’s divorce. I bounced back and forth between my father’s house and my grandparent’s house. I wanted to live with my mom, which I eventually did when I was about 14. It was shortly after this that my dad, for the most part, walked out of my life. This affected me deeply.
Due to my parent’s divorce, and some other issues in my young life, I was dealing with a very low self-esteem. I knew that I was a Christian and that I wanted to be a pastor. However, I was constantly getting “saved” every Sunday because of all the things that I did wrong during the week. I constantly promised God perfection for the coming week. However, I couldn’t be perfect, and at this time in my life I didn’t understand grace. So I became a legalist and a performer. I was always trying to obey the rules and trying to earn God’s love. I kept messing up so I was constantly feeling like I just didn’t measure up to God’s high and holy standards. I believed that God loved me because He had to. He was love so He had to love me, but I didn’t feel like He liked me. How could He? I was always messing up. So, I kept performing trying to get Him to like me. And the more I messed up, the more rejected I felt.
This was the beginning of my treadmill of performance. For the next 25 years or so I felt that if I ran faster and at a steeper incline on my treadmill then God would be approving of me. I had a “lottery mentality” with God. If I kept performing just right then one day my number would come up. The problem with that thinking was my number never did come up and I just stayed frustrated. I could go into a whole lot more details but I think that you get the point. I was running faster and steeper, sweating like crazy, working my little Christian butt off, but wasn’t getting anywhere. I was so frustrated, tired and perplexed as to why I wasn’t getting blessed and used like I knew I should be because I sure was working hard and paying the price, as I had been taught to do.
Beginning in 2009, I started going through the most horrible valley I have ever went through in my life. I am still in that valley but I am starting to come out of it. It has been in this dreadful valley that God began to teach me about grace. He began to show me that it wasn’t how fast I ran, or how much I worked for Him that mattered. I had it all wrong. I was trying so hard to get His attention that I didn’t realize that I already had His attention. I came to a startling conclusion. I realized that even though I was born-again because I had put my faith in Jesus Christ, I didn’t know Him as a person. I knew all about Him, all the theology, all the principles, all the “stuff”. However, I was so busy trying to get His attention and His approval that I had failed to really get to know Jesus as a Person, not just my Savior or Lord, but as my friend, Who loved me for me.
That was the day that I began to get off the treadmill. Or at least, I slowed down a little bit. I can’t say that I’ve gotten totally off the treadmill but I have slowed down a bit. I wish I could say that I have thrown that treadmill on the dump but I haven’t. Occasionally I find myself getting back on it and running for a while until I realize the trap I fell into again. Then I get off.
Along this journey I have been learning how to just allow God to love me. See, He loves me already. And, amazingly, He actually likes me! But I had to learn how to receive that love and just allow Him to love me in spite of all my mistakes and short comings. This has been a difficult journey because God’s grace just sounds too good to be true. I have to relearn many things about what I already believed. I have had to really readjust my theology to come more in-line with true Biblical teaching.
Here is one statement that has really helped me to readjust my thinking: There’s more love in God for you, than there is sin in you!
With that statement in mind, there are three principles that are helping me get off the treadmill of performance.
Principle #1: God IS love.
Love isn’t God’s behavior; it’s His very nature (I John 4:8, 16). It’s who He is, not simply what He does. He is the essence of love. Love exists because of Him.
His love for you is pure, complete, eternal and unconditional. It’s pure because there are no motives. God simply loves you because you exist.
His love is complete because it’s the most satisfying love there is. His love, when we allow it too, will touch the deepest part of our being.
His love is eternal. It will never end. It will never fail. It will never cease.
His love is unconditional. You can’t earn it. You can’t work for it. You can’t merit it. It’s all based upon Him and not you. You can’t stop Him from loving you.
Principle #2: God’s primary objective is your returned love, not obedience
What is the greatest commandment? To love God with all that you are. (Mark 12:29-31). As Christians we know this, but we don’t live it out. We live like the greatest commandment is to obey God. But here’s an important question: What’s the desire of loving someone?
The desire in loving someone is to be loved back. When you love someone, you want them to love you back. One of the worst feelings in life is to love someone and they not return that love.
My primary desire is for my kids to love me back. Sure, I want them to do as they are asked or told. However, that’s not my greatest desire from them. I simply want them to love me back. You see, I can get them to obey me but that doesn’t mean they are obeying me from a heart of love. They are simply being compliant. I want their heart, not just their obedience. Obedience motivated by fear is simply compliance. But, obedience motivated by love is reverence and respect. You could say that obedience motivated by love is worship, which comes from a root word meaning “worth-ship”. So when we obey out of love, we are ascribing worth-ship to those whom we are obeying.
We must understand that obedience doesn’t produce relationships, but love does. God wants a relationship with us based in mutual love, not based in our obedience.
I can hear some people now quoting John 14:15, “if you love me you will keep my commandments.” When most Christians read that verse they put the emphasis on If and commandments. That is to say that they read it like this: you prove your love to me by obeying me. The way that I see this verse is that since, or because, I love Jesus I will obey what He is saying. Just because I obey someone, doesn’t mean that I love them. But, if I love them, then I will obey out of my reverence for them.
Love cannot be measured nor verified in the absence of freedom. I must have the ability to make my own choices in order to show forth my love. I must truly be free in my decision making to show forth my love. In other words, I cannot be manipulated into loving someone. I must freely choose to make that decision on my own. Therefore love is always a risk. God took that risk when He created man as a free-will agent. He had to give man the ability to disobey in order to truly be loved by man. Man had to be able to choose God, and God’s commands, over man’s own desires and wishes.
Love is never really about obeying “the rules”. Love is about making choices to show that special someone that they mean something to you. Love is about putting the other person ahead of your own desires. Love is about making the choice to put someone else first.
Principle #3: God wants you to allow Him to love you.
This is a very difficult principle for some people to get and follow. We don’t feel worthy of His love. We can’t seem to get past our own sinfulness. We don’t feel the treadmill is going fast enough.
We have been taught that God hates sin. In my mind if He hates sin and I sin then He must have hated me.
Love unexpressed is love not received. Reread that sentence again. If you don’t express your love to someone then that love will not be received. For love to work it must be expressed and it must be received. God has expressed and continually expresses His love for you. You must receive the love of God.
Love expressed but not returned is rejection. If you do not return someone’s love, then you are ultimately rejecting that love. When you do not receive God’s love then you are rejecting His love. The amazing thing about God is that because He is love, your rejections don’t stop Him from loving you. A man that I greatly admire says it like this, “God will keep on kissing you until you finally kiss back.” What a great statement!
I am learning to allow God to love me with all my hang-ups, deficiencies, struggles, sins and failures. Because I am learning that it’s not about me anyway….it’s about Him and His goodness. He sets my value. I don’t (see my earlier post for more on this).
I want to end with asking you to close your eyes and imagine that God has a refrigerator. As you look at that refrigerator you see a picture on that refrigerator. The closer you look the more you realize…..it’s you. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. He loves you!
Do you struggle with allowing God to love you completely? Why or why not?