If performance is not the marker of God’s love for us, what is? How do I know God loves me? How do I know I please Him?
I struggle with this. Intellectually, I know God loves me and is pleased with me because of who He has declared me to be in Heaven and because of the defining work of Jesus on the cross. I know He delights in me. In my head, I know this. It’s my spirit that has a difficult time believing.
I think it’s because God’s love is so very counter to how our worth is measured in our day-to-day lives. At work, I am given assignments, promotions and merit increases based on how well I do my job. My great smile and winning personality might count for a very small portion of my worth to my company, but the bottom line is this: no matter how well I am liked for who I am, if I do not perform at or above the company’s expectations, I will be out of a job. In the professional arena, my worth equals my performance. I’m not saying this is wrong. The workplace isn’t often about relationship, it’s about outcomes. My integrity and personality, my strengths play into the measure of my worth but at the end of the day, it’s about outcomes.
In my relationships with family, I like to believe my worth is based on unconditional love and acceptance. Parents tell their children they will love them no matter what. Siblings may fight bitterly one moment and then embrace each other in spirited camaraderie the next. On the surface this can feel like worth is about who I am within my family, but when I dig deeper there are inconsistencies. I do something wrong, and someone may threaten to box up all their toys and take their relationship away. Or there’s the family member who will withhold any type of love or affection UNLESS I performed in a manner pleasing to them.
Then there is the spousal relationship. We vowed to love each other for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. And we do. I love my husband and he loves me. We don’t always like each other. When I reflect on my marriage, I see two people who keep score. Who like to be right. Who, when thwarted, instead of finding that middle ground of compromise, can pull the rug out from under relationship and lord it over the other person. Oh, how I wish I could say this behavior is the domain of my other half. Sadly, I have been found guilty of this very same behavior.
In all these relationships there are moments where worth seems to be based on performance. On how well we measure up against another’s wants, desires or expectations. We get this mixed message about what it is that makes us worthy. People, in my experience, tend to be fickle. God is not. He’s consistently and fully in love with us. With me. And my worth is not something I have to earn. Or validate. Or prove. Not to God. He doesn’t react out of anxiety or fear. He doesn’t keep score. He doesn’t take past hurts or slights and hold them against me. His love is consistent. Constant. His relationship with me is always secure.
Intellectually, I know this. And I feel funny asking Him to show me, to write it so deeply upon my DNA that the experience of this knowledge becomes as common as breathing. I want to experience God’s love and delight so deeply, I can’t help but see others in the same way. I don’t want to confuse my worth with performance ever again. And I don’t want my love for others to be based on performance. I want to love my husband the way God loves him. I want to delight in my siblings and my parents. I want to see my friends with great compassion. I want to look at strangers with kindness.
I can’t earn love. I can’t perform my way to Heaven. But I can be with God. And I can sit at His feet and commune with Him. I can abide with God. I can enter relationship with him. I can stand between the Father and the Son and bask in their love for me while the Holy Spirit gently holds my shoulders and helps me to stay. With God, at the end of the day it’s about relationship, which is always, always secure. Always true. Always full of love and delight.
So, feeling funny or not, I ask God to show me His great love in ways that are so clear, so fantastic I can’t help but see it for what it is. And to remind me there is not need for shame or timidity or fear. Tonight I pray for signs of God’s love. For reminders of His delight for me. I pray this for you, too. We can’t reframe how we see ourselves and have that truly stick without God.