I’ve never really struggled with the concept of God loving me. For as long as I’ve be alive, I’ve been taught that there is a God and that part of his nature is to love me. God can’t help but to love…its who he is. Its simply a fact that I have never really questioned. He loves because he has to love: its part of his character.
What I have always struggled with is whether God likes me. I’ve always questioned whether God actually enjoys hanging out with me… spending time with me …sharing stories with me. Does he invite me to go places he is going? Or am I one of those third-tier friends that God would maybe go to lunch with, but would never hang out on a Friday or Saturday night with?
A person’s relationship with God is often reflective of their relationships with others. For a long time, my questioning of whether God indeed likes me caused me to question whether others indeed like me. I assumed that God loved me because God was God, and I had people in my life that loved me, but didn’t really want to hang out that much. What resulted from that was that I got to a point in my life where I stopped expecting anything from friendships and relationships based upon the assumption that if I didn’t even want to hang out with me, why would other people?
One of the most profound realizations I have had on my spiritual journey is that not only does God love me … with a kind of self-sacrificial, eternal, transcendent love, but he also really really enjoys hanging out with me. Christian spiritual writer Brennan Manning calls this “living in the accepted tenderness of God.” The moment a person interiorizes the tenderness of God, the more they are free to be truly transformed by the love of God.
Tenderness is what happens when you discover that you are liked by someone.
Its amazing how different life looks and feels when you live in the accepted tenderness of God. You approach people differently, you view them as children of God also within the sphere of his tenderness, you’re not as afraid to be vulnerable with people because even when they do reject you, or even when your attempts at transparency are met with indifference, you’re not as affected because you’re rested in the fact that God really likes you. The influences of the world around you don’t affect you as much. As Manning puts it “the heart enveloped by the tenderness of God passes that tenderness around indiscriminately, making no distinction between the worthy and unworthy.”
My hope for anyone reading this is that you not only rest in the theological, unchangible reality of God’s love for you, but also in the reality of God’s tenderness for you … not the kind of tenderness that lets you continue to live as you have been living, but the tenderness of a father for his children … the tenderness that sometimes severely deals with his children, but always from a foundation of a father’s love for his children.
God loves you … he does. So much that he paid an unimaginable price in pursuit of you.
But he also wants to invite you to things he’s doing.
He also wants to hang out with you not only for lunch meet ups and in groups, but also on weekends…prime social time.
God loves you … but he also really, really likes you.