The other day someone asked me my favorite thing about Jesus.
It has been awhile since anyone has asked me that question. It reminded me of a recent lunch where I asked a college student what she loved most about her long-time boyfriend. She had a momentary stunned look and then replied, “Wow. No one has ever asked me that question before.” She went on to explain a lot of things she loved about him and as words poured out of her, it was clear to see she loves him. Very much. Yet to narrow it down to a favorite thing was a daunting task because her reasons for loving him where countless. Where should she begin?
The reasons I love God are countless. Where do I even begin? I could speak of His great love for me. I could speak of His amazing grace. I could give witness to His comfort in my times of pain. I could tell you stories of His faithfulness to me, to people I love. I could point you to people, including myself, who have been freed from all types of slavery by His mercy. All of these are reasons I love God.
But this past year another truth has become my favorite thing about God. A truth that leaves me amazed and overwhelmed nearly every day.
The truth is this: Not only does God deeply love me, God genuinely LIKES me, too!
I read a story about a disciple who asked his master whether there was anything he could do to make himself grow spiritually.
The master answered: “As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”
Disconcerted, the disciple asked what then was the use of the spiritual exercises the master had taught him.
And the master replied: “To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”
This week I’ve exercised. I’ve exercised physically. I’ve exercised spiritually. Neither come naturally for me. Neither come without resistance from me. If I can find an excuse to avoid either, I’m apt to use it. Because in the pre-exercise stage, it just doesn’t seem appealing to me. I don’t want to have to shower or change clothes again. I don’t want to feel the discomfort of pushing muscles to the next level. All I want are the end results. I want to be healthy, fit and wearing those cute little ModCloth dresses now.
Spiritual exercise is the same. I don’t want to wake up early for a little Jesus time. I don’t want to be quiet or still so the Spirit can get my attention. I don’t want to feel the discomfort of surrendering. All I want are the end results. I want to be close to God, to have the heart of Jesus, and to be in sync with the Spirit.
But there is a difference between these two types of exercises.
The other day I was walking with God and processing my hurt over a friendship that has greatly faded under the intense rays of distance and neglect. It was some healthy, gut-level vulnerability as I expressed my frustration and disappointment and confessed my need to surrender – yet again – my emotions and unmet expectations at His feet. As I walked the mulched trails, I went back and forth between surrendering my feelings and wallowing in them a little longer. I muttered some indictment about actions speaking louder than words, blah, blah, blah.
After one pretty decent wallowing when I was finally quiet for a second, I sensed God asking me a question. I should have kept muttering like usual but I stopped to listen…
“So …. you are angry with this person for doing to you what you do to me?”
I could almost see the twinkle in God’s eye around the log in my own. It was said in complete love and grace, with a decent dose of smirk. (God and I speak smirk a lot.)