Or is he just using me to fulfill an agenda, to prove a point?
In my first “What Good is God?” post I explored the idea of approaching my relationship with God without expectations, just drawing near to him for him rather than for what he can do for me. This path has led me to another question. “Does God draw near to me the same way? Does he love me for me, or for what I can do or be for him?”
Making God happy
I learned early on that my parents were happiest when I was doing things their way, acting like the person they wanted me to be. Things were always better for me if my parents were happy, and since our parents tend to be our first role models of God, I naturally projected this image onto God. I assumed that he, too, had an idea of who he wanted me to be, and things would be better for me if I was that person. Also, I was taught that he would do the work to make me into the person he desired me to be, so lining up with his will was the ultimate win.
As long as I submit to his will, God will make me into the person he wants me to be and God will be happy. That’s how I win, right?
A friendship without agenda
But then God comes along and says, ”What makes me happy is not when you conform to some holy-man ideal you think I have for you. I made you to be who you are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and I am exalted (and happy) when you live out the person you truly are.”
In Beyond Loneliness, Trevor Hudson writes, “We are called to befriend others without the desire to try to change them. How would we feel if we knew someone only wanted to be our friend because he or she had an agenda for our lives?”
Yet this is exactly the picture we paint of God, that of an exacting parent who has an agenda for our lives and personality and who is only happy with us when we fulfill those expectations. It’s hard to imagine being friends with someone we are constantly trying to live up to, so is it any wonder we resist such an agenda driven relationship with God?
What I am discovering about friendship with God, is that my relationship with him is not some kind of a transactional, master and servant arrangement, but an actual friendship (John 15:15). One in which we delight in one another. It’s mutual. It’s back and forth. To participate in it, I have to actually be myself, share myself.
Have you ever had a significant other who just tried to be whatever they thought you wanted? They wanted to do whatever you wanted to do, go where you wanted to go, eat what you wanted to eat, ad nauseam. It get’s boring, doesn’t it? There’s no depth to that relationship, no intimacy, and no fun!
I think God wants to have fun with us. I don’t think he wants to always be raising kids, but that he intends for us to mature into adults (Eph 4:13) so that he can be our friend. I bet he gets just as frustrated as we do when we try to suppress our healthy desires in an effort to be who we think he wants us to be instead of living out who we really are.
Loved people love people
That’s where the fun happens, when we can delight in being our true selves and know that we are delighted in as our true selves. That delight is the conduit through which the love of God we experience can be shared freely with the world around us. But we will never love others freely if we are constantly trying to earn God’s love because if we believe God’s love is earned, then we will expect others to earn our love, too. As Greg Boyd explains in Repenting of Religion, “Only when we receive God’s love, given to us in Christ, as an unconditional, free gift can we ever love others in an unconditional and free manner.”
Freely we have received, freely we give. Not because giving away love is how we earn more love, but it’s how we make room for more love. Like a lake that goes stagnant without an outlet, we have to give away the love we receive to stay healthy. And just as we received it without agenda, we give it without agenda. We don’t dictate how others will respond to our love, we simply love “in truth and action” (1 John 3:18) and let love produce life as it will.
This agenda-less friendship, this delighting in our true selves, this is the experience of being loved by God. And it sets us free to reciprocate God’s love and to share that love with others unconditionally.
What has your experience been like? Does your relationship with God feel like it is free from an agenda that you just can’t live up to? How do you balance spiritual growth God is cultivating in you with His loving delight in who you are?