‘Christian Home’ is Googled 135,000 times per month.
I grew up in a Christian home and had the most wonderful parents any girl could hope for. The only angst I had growing up, was just that our home was too Christian. Everything was Christian, almost even the choice of which toilet paper to buy. But it wasn’t the faith I grew up to reject, it was the stringent imposition of a law that I could not personally fulfill. With so many rules and regulations, my relationship with Christ had become stressed, almost like some marriage relationships, where either the wife or husband lives under the rule of the other, and can never quite meet the expectations of someone who makes it their personal mission to fit you into an especially designed mold. I knew I loved Christ, but I just couldn’t get it right. I knew He was saving me from my darkness, that there was a God void in my life that only He could fill. But at the same time our relationship was strained because I felt like He needed too many things in return. Though it was unspoken, I believed that God would only love me if I did exactly what He wanted, when He wanted and how He wanted it. And like a wife who has been beaten down to the point of no return, until one day she packs up her stuff and leaves without saying a word, I was on my way out of this relationship with a God who seemed controlling, unreasonable, unloving and unable to show me the love that I so desperately needed. But God says, He will never leave us or forsake us. And even when we’ve moved away, our place with God is reserved until we’re ready to go home and figure out what it was about ourselves that might have affected our perception of a God who never changes, yet stays the same. God is love. And beyond any earthly definition of what we long for so deeply, his love is not conditional upon our loving Him enough, serving Him enough or thanking Him enough for all of His blessings, big or small.
For those of us who grew up with the need to please, especially in an environment that emphasizes our “rightness” with God in terms of adherence to strict rules and regulations, we easily lose sight of God our Father, God our Friend, God our comforter and God our Savior. And we get tired of doing the good works needed to convince ourselves that we’re in right standing with God the ruler of all heaven and earth. When we start realizing our efforts are in vain and when we’re sure we’ll never meet the expectations that can only be met by a supernatural fuel that drives our day, we either decide to get to know God for who He is in the entirety of what His Word claims, or we begin to reject the God we’ve had with us since childhood–based on a milk-fed relationship with Him. Our sin is not in finding out that we have to get to know our God better. The downfall, is when you reject your shallow childhood image of God, instead of going deeper to grow into a long lasting commitment that isn’t based on fairy tale images of earning God’s love just because you’re you, a sweet child with really good intentions. Something that’s been haunting me lately, is the truth that God is no respecter of persons. When we look down at other people based on their actions toward man and God, that means we believe somewhere deep inside that His love for us is based on how we personally measure up to a “Christian” standard that is centered on society’s current interpretation of what’s most relevant in God’s book.
Yes, of course God sets standards for our lives, but those standards are met through the filling of the Holy Spirit, not through a fleshly desire to be known as a “good Christian” or someone who bless her heart “has it all together” in the eyes of the church. At some point God says, we have to be willing to hate our family for the sake of His call. God also says any man who says he loves God but doesn’t love his brother is a liar. So obviously, God’s point is not that we intentionally make our family mad for the sake of “God’s call.” I think the point could be that when we get serious about getting to know God’s will for our lives, even those closest to us may not understand our calling. Even those we consider to be a part of “God’s family,” those good Christians we sit beside on Sunday morning, may have wiser words of wisdom that fly in the face of God’s statement that “pure religion undefiled is to care for the widows and orphans.” Along with my desire to please God so that He will be pleased with me, I grew up with a quite romantic notion of giving my life sacrificially to a God that would in turn love me more than anything in the world–perhaps deciding to include me in the next edition of God’s Word as one of the greatest women of faith. Kind of ironic that God so loved the WORLD, that He gave His one and only begotten son. And yet my desire was that God love me beyond what He loved my neighbor.
Years ago, I could have never put this into words, but I’ve realized that my lack of love for certain others, is in direct proportion to my desire that God reserve special favor toward me. And when we do our good deeds just to earn the favor of someone, no matter whether it be our earthly father or heavenly father, our efforts will soon dissolve into the dust of the ground from whence we came. I’ve started a lot of things in my own strength in hopes of receiving that unconditional love I still somehow believe is based on my doing the right thing. But it is only through God’s grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that I will finish the work God has begun in me. Again, I grew up in a home where to become a missionary or a pastor was the sure ticket to receiving God’s grace, or at least the esteem of your family and friends. So I’ve always romanticized the aspects of doing something big that would set me on a pedestal where others could clearly see that I out of anyone they knew would surely inherit the Kingdom of God. I don’t think it is wrong to want to please God and to lavish Him with love by serving Him in utmost submission. But when our desire to please God is based on a deep seated belief that aside from our good works, we are just too unlovable, our relationship with God becomes just as unhealthy as earthly relationships where we try to earn our place based on being the best daughter, the best husband, the best wife, the best sister, the best friend–completely self sacrificial solely based on an unquenchable desire to be loved.
God’s salvation is immediate and complete. But our understanding of God’s love toward us as sinners, is a lifelong process of discovering what that salvation means. Obviously my need to be loved is a normal human condition that God has acknowledged by giving me opportunities to not only live in relationship to Him, but also to live in relationship to my husband, to my children and to a world dying for mutual affection untainted by selfish wants and desires. The only thing that can possibly trump a performance based reciprocity of love, is an unconditional love that is based on a price that has already been paid. In Christian circles, sometimes we talk about God’s love like it is a side item to salvation. But true love, the kind of love we all long for and desire is only possible by way of the cross, by way of not only realizing just how much God loves us, but also that there is absolutely nothing we can do to secure the kind of love that looks beyond our fault.
But what do we do in-between the point of God’s complete salvation and our incomplete understanding of His unending love? And what does our life look like when we live in and out of the Spirit like a bottleneck traffic jam? How do we share God’s love with others when we’re still trying to earn it on our own. It is next to impossible to convince someone that something so awesome is completely free, when we’re living a life that looks like it’s painfully stuck on fitting into religious circles and pleasing our golden idols of public achievement. And doing the good that God wants us to do, flowing out of a Spirit filled life, like a tree planted by the river of life, is often a lonely prospect that will leave us in complete reliance on God–the only one who can turn single works of the flesh into powerful testimonies of His love.
Doing good is messy. Living life in the light of God’s love is like trying to stay out of the shade while in the forest. There are simply moments where we are on the outside looking in at the glory of our salvation, and we have to force ourselves to let go of the way we think our relationship with God looks to others. No. God doesn’t love you more than He loves your sister or any less for that matter. But there is not another you. Just like your physical DNA is absolutely unique, your spiritual DNA sets you apart from every other Christian in the world. Your life of surrender to Christ, may look to outsiders like a sloppy, failed attempt at righteousness. But your relationship with God is completely incomparable. And often, the ruler of darkness would have us all believe the subtle lies that will ultimately keep us from coming out of hiding into the light and truth of God’s full and complete love. Some of us even refrain from fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ because it feels painful to stack up our relationship with Christ against that of our fellow believer’s. Does God love His compliant children more? Does God favor those who are not afraid to speak up on His behalf? Or perhaps He holds a special place in His heart for those who pastor churches or go to the mission field. Is He more willing to move on behalf of the lady who is uninhibited in her worship of Him, waving her arms with tears flowing down her face, oblivious to the outside world.