I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what keeps me (and you) from living loved. It can be summed up as simply as “life.” But, like most superficial and overly-simplified answers, this isn’t very helpful.
For me, the biggest obstacle to living loved is this—I know myself.
I know how unlovable and unworthy I really am.
I know how ugly my morning face (and all-day attitude) can be.
I know the mistakes I’ve made.
I know the times I’ve blown it as a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, and a daughter.
I know the doubts I have about God and His goodness.
I know I am overly self-sufficient, sometimes leaving God out of my life altogether.
If you’re like me, knowing any (or all of this) about yourself might leave you wondering — are you actually lovable?
I think we are and here’s why: God said so.
Throughout the Bible, God loves people even when they reject Him.
We act unloved and unlovable. Yet, God loves us anyway.
One of my favorite examples of a Biblical character who isn’t able to “Live Loved” is a man named Gideon.
When we meet Gideon (in Judges 6), he is feeling a little hopeless. When the angel says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “nice day we’re having,” Gideon responds, “what’s so nice about it?”
Although the angel calls Gideon a “mighty warrior,” Gideon describes himself as the weakest person in the weakest family.
Can you relate at all?
Have you ever felt like the least-equipped person in your family, your social circle, or among your friends?
Gideon sure did (in the beginning of the story).
God wasn’t discouraged by Gideon’s self-assessment. God stayed with Gideon and reassured him he could do the job he was assigned. Ultimately, Gideon and a very small army were successful on an important and dangerous mission. Gideon knew he accomplished the task only because God was with him.
To celebrate his triumph, Gideon created …
a golden statue…
and worshipped it.
The statue actually replaced God for Gideon, his family, and his community. (Judges 8:27)
I can put myself in Gideon’s sandals.
In the hardest and most uncertain times Gideon relied on God. Once the hard times were over, Gideon abandoned God and chose to rely on himself and what he created.
It’s easy to go to God when I’m worried or the way seems uncertain. I’ve experienced God’s presence and His grace when my need was greatest. And yet, as time unfolds and those moments fade, I find myself explaining away what I once knew.
Instead of celebrating God’s action or presence, I either fall back on why would God look out for me? I’m the least of the least, or I take credit myself and exclude God altogether.
I think this is the Living (Un)Loved Cycle.
In my life it plays out like it did for Gideon.
I feel unlovable (or unworthy). This feeling propels me into prayer, reading, and time with God.
Sometimes I turn to God out of desperation. Jesus take the wheel. In those times I experience the joy and fullness of living in relationship with God.
Then I feel so good I no longer turn to God. That lasts for awhile until I, again, perceive my need for God, and the cycle continues.
Have you found yourself in this cycle?
We aren’t alone. Even in Gideon’s story God acknowledges our human tendency for self-sufficiency. God directs Gideon to reduce the army from 32,000 troops to just 300 so the people of Israel (and Gideon) would give God credit for the victory instead of thinking they had succeeded without Him. (Judges 7)
For me, the best part of Gideon’s story comes hundreds of pages and 12 centuries later.
In the New Testament, Hebrews 11, Gideon is remembered as one of the heroes of faith.
Isn’t that remarkable? Because God’s love endured through Gideon’s idolatry Gideon is remembered as a hero instead of a fool.
God’s love is strong enough and deep enough to endure the Living (Un)Loved Cycle.
God’s love is strong —
The love of God is so strong, “nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love.” (Romans 8:38, MSG)
God’s love is deep —
“I pray that you [and I], being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you [and I] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV)
I guess the best news of all for Gideon and for me is that even when we don’t Live Loved, we are still loved.
What do you think? What stops you from living loved? Do you find it harder to build a relationship with God when things are going well in your life? Tell me what you think on Twitter, Facebook, or in an e-mail.