It’s been about thirty years since I gave up. I gave up trying to please God, or perhaps more accurately, to please God according to the job list people who put themselves in charge of the Pleasing God Committee gave me.
I quit trying, but I quit with a question: So, God, if I don’t do any of this stuff, if I walk away from trying so hard, will you still love me, or is your love conditional?
I’m a slow and stubborn learner and I had erected a lot of self-protective barriers. Wounded people do that. But God has grace and patience beyond — way beyond — anything I could imagine based on what I could drum up myself.
Since that time, his kindness and faithfulness have won my heart. He met me in the desert. He wooed me, or as Hosea wrote about God’s actions toward the unfaithful wife symbolizing a nation that went after every pleasure but God, he “allured” me. Like the woman in the desert, I eventually responded with my own song of love.
Now, all these years later, I hear him asking me the question. “If I don’t give you what you want when you want it, will you still love me, or is your love conditional?”
There are a lot of things I want, and as the beloved of the King of Kings am entitled to. I want good health. I want financial security. I want my children and grandchildren to have easy lives and a great relationship with God. I want my city and my country to prosper. Most of all, I want to be understood.
As I ponder, I remember this is the question posed to many people in the Bible from Abraham with his precious promised son, to Job with his wealth and healthy family, to Solomon with his fine mind and reputation, to Jesus himself who laid down the right to the recognition and worship owed him.
Like Peter, I remember the night of denial. “Jesus is ok,” I said, “But I don’t trust God the Father not to use me, then throw me away.”
Like Peter on the beach with Jesus, with the scent of a charcoal fire in the air to remind him of the night of denial, I hear the question. “Do you love me for who I am and not just for what I give you?”
I know my weaknesses. I know how easily the rug is still pulled out from under me when I feel harshly criticized or misunderstood. I know that in my own strength I can’t say yes.
I also know that his strength is made perfect in weakness. I also know that he gives me his love so I have something to give back to him. Everything comes from him, and in him and through him I live and move and have my being.
Yesterday the words from a song sung by Celine Dion played in my dreams:
You were my strength when I was weak.
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak.
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see.
You saw the best there was in me.
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach.
You gave me faith ’cause you believed.
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me
This morning I was singing a song in my spirit. The words come from Psalm 73 which, in the New Living Testament, reads:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.