Wow. This is a hard one. I think the earning-favor mindset is very ingrained in our culture. We work to earn grades, which gives us favor in the eyes of our teachers and — hopefully — our fellow students. We work to earn paychecks so that we can have nice homes that — hopefully — earn us favor in the eyes of those who visit our homes. As children we complete the tasks on our chore lists or homework lists so that we can be in good graces with the life systems that surround us. We are very programmed by a life pattern in which we earn the good graces of those around us. When we cross the line, we are punished (temporary fall from favor) and when we “straighten up” then we are blessed by those good graces again.
Or at least that’s my experience. I grew up in a very performance-oriented environment. As adults, my friends and I called it the “Good Christians Win Football Games” experience. It took a long time for me to realize that God loved me whether I won or lost, did right or wrong, completed my to-do list or had items left over. His love wasn’t conditional on whether or not I had completed all of the steps adequately. It was just THERE no matter what I did.
And trust me. I messed up. I messed up big time more than once. Not only did I leave some “to-dos” undone, but I also went over to that other list of things NOT to do and crossed a few of those items off my list. It wasn’t pretty.
But you know what? I learned that God still loved me. He still held me in his arms, let me cry, and question, and weep, and I even threw things a couple of times. And he didn’t run away from me. He listened. He held me. He spoke to me and reminded me of the truth that I knew and had been avoiding.
He loves me. He limited himself by becoming human, lived on this earth with all of its garbage, then died for me. Not for generic humanity, but for me. Not because I’m special, but because he is. He loves you this much too. You don’t have to earn it, or stay in line to keep his favor. It’s just there. Beyond anything that you could ask or imagine.
PS — Don’t miss Si’s wonderful response in the comments section of the previous post. Thanks, Si!