Saturday, December 17, 2005

I love you just the way you are

Remember Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood? I do. I really liked him. Not the show, though. A bit too slow for me. And I just never clicked with the denizens of the Land of Make Believe. But, as I said, I liked him a lot. My friend, Yvonne, never liked him though. She says that as a kid she’d watch him and when he said, “I like you just the way you are!,” she’d think, “How can you like me just the way I am? You don’t even know me.”

That’s Yvonne. Very keen and dedicated to truth. Yvonne is Jewish. And an agnostic. Her dad was killed in Auschwitz. She is one of the most honest agnostics I have ever met. There are remarkably few of those. She will say things such as, “I know there is something...someone...but I just can’t get past this business of God having a personality or desires.”

But back to her assessment of Mr Rogers. You know...she really does have a point there about that saying of his. I suspect we all somewhat feel that way about folks who say they love us. After all, they don’t know us. And the Christian answer – that God loves everyone because He is so loving– well that doesn’t quite sit well with most of us either. We don’t want to be loved by someone who loves everyone. We want to be loved by someone who sees what little goodness or virtue we have.
My question then, today is: “Have you ever accepted God’s love for you? Have you accepted his praise of you? Have you accepted his thankfulness for you?”
Carole, I hear you thinking, are you saying that God praises us? I thought we were supposed to praise Him???!!!!
Well, of course God praises you and loves you...because He is loving to all His creatures. But also because of Who you are.

Didn’t He praise Job? (Yes, I know...look where that got poor Job.) Didn’t Jesus see the young rich ruler’s heart and love him?Wasn’t Abraham called a Friend of God?Wasn’t Enoch saved because he pleased God?Wasn’t David called “a man after God’s own heart?”Didn’t Jesus pick about 400 people who followed him, then established closer bonds with seventy, then of that seventy chose twelve. And of those twelve, didn’t he have three best friends – Peter James and John? And of those three close friends, didn’t he choose John as his best friend?Aren’t there 144, 000 people who are called Companions of the Lamb who will remain at Jesus’ side forever?Aren’t there two thrones especially appointed for two people who will sit one at his right hand and one at his left?

Okay, so now someone else might say that like Mary we are all “full of grace” and “acceptable in the Beloved.” And someone else might say that this kind of thing smacks of favortism. I don’t think so. In favortism, the favored and unfavored ones have no choice. A loving and good child will be loved. No, one does not have to earn one’s love. As has been said over and over, God loves everyone and he knows how frail we are. But – scary thought– the Bible declares over and over that the Lord laughs at the wicked. Yes, I know...we are constantly being told God loves the sinner but hates the sin. Probably...but do you really want to play that game? Do you really want to fall into presumptuous sin and say “I know God hates this sin, but since he loves the sinner...well, I’ll just risk that?

I think – given my druthers– I’d druther shine a little brighter than the rest of my beloved brothers. No skin of the teeth salvation for me, no mere normal regular Godly love for me.
When I look at my husband I think, what a sweet-souled person! I know God sees that. Some of my friends simply amaze me by their sweetness, goodness, and piety. Some aren’t so sweet, but they’ve got such strength of character and such a capacity for suffering for God that well I know God stares at them everyday amazed. Yes, I could name them all. My friend, Rain, who picketed the local Walmart – the only picketer mind you– with a “Don’t sell guns!” sign in her baby carriage. My friend, Milvia, who is battling lymphoma and who helps so many others in addition to picketing the abortion clinic every Saturday. My friend, Yvonne, who is way more saintly in her behavior than many of the Christians I know. Yes, I cannot see the goodness of everyone so I’m not saying that I know whom God loves and doesn’t love. But I do think there are folks out there whom God loves very deeply, and in ways that are more profound than the love he has for the child molester, or the nominal churchgoer. Just as Jesus saw the heart of the rich young ruler and loved him, so He sees the heart of many a Christian and loves them in a uniquely special way. Somehow they become one of the inner circle.

Yes, God loves us just the way we are. But we don't have to stay that way. And our friends love us just the way we are. But why not make our friends' hearts swell with love when they ponder our great souls and noble deeds?

Prayer: Lord, let me live a life where my character and personality make you love me very much.

Easy Way to Write Bible Studies -- www.easywaytowrite.com/bible_studies.html
Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing venues, in print and online including www.compulsivereader.com, www.thejoyofmovies.com and www.curledup.com. Her website is www.geocities.com/scifiwritir/OreoBlues.html She lives with her husband, their two sons, and their ferocious tabby Ralphina in upstate New York.
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