A few weeks ago my pastor said, "God is not angry with you" and I've had that phrase rattling around in my brain ever since. I've been trying to find space in my mental picture of God for an all-powerful being who isn't actually irritated with me. For some reason, without even realizing it, this was the image I had of God. It was subtly taught to me for most of my life, and it's refreshing to re-train my mind to think differently about God.
As my pastor said, "Why would God create us and then be mad at us, waiting for us to fail all of the time?" That kind of a God makes no sense, if you stop and think about it, but for some unknown reason it seems to be the general feeling I had about God. I don't know where this comes from, but I'm happy to abolish it from my world view. God loves me. I was always taught this, but along with it came the vague uncertain idea that his standards were so high and impossible to meet, so as a result he was almost always disappointed in me.
It's a relief to think differently about it now. To use how I love my kids as an incomplete picture of how God loves me. I don't sit back and judge my kids for their occasional poor choices, feeling superior to them in some way. My love for them is greater than my distaste at what they do sometimes, and I like to think of God loving me first and foremost, and believing in me instead of shaking his head in a frustrated way when I'm less-than-stellar.
I don't know how these ideas of God develop, but once they are in there, they can be hard to shake. Simply hearing the phrase, "God is not angry with you" had the power to cut a cord which had been attaching me to a faulty image of God. I believe now that it's not about our behaviour at all. I thought it was for many years, but I see it differently at this stage of my life. It's about love, and mercy, and being accepted for who we are and not for what we do. If God loves and accepts me, warts and all, then why would he be angry at me and constantly expect my behaviour to be better than it is?
I'm frustrated that I felt set up to fail for so many years. I really don't believe that it has to be as complicated as we make it. It's actually very simple. When Jesus was asked about the most important things, he said, "Love God. Love others." Four words which can anchor us in something real and true and has the ability to change us from the inside out. It's also damn challenging to truly love and be loved, because grace and forgiveness must exist alongside of love. One doesn't work without the other.
There is so much freedom to be found in the idea that God isn't itching to sit in judgement on us, but in fact would rather hold us tight and tell us that he loves us, exactly as we are. We don't need to change for him or pretend to be better than we are. He knows us at our core, and loves us where we are at. The best relationships in life reflect this principle as well. There is no sense in pretending, because our true colours always rat us out in the end. It's better to step forward, as ourselves, and be loved for who we really are and not who we desperately wish to be.
God is not angry. He loves us, each one of us, and accepts us as we are. It's just so hard to accept ourselves, but if we do, and find that we are loved in spite of our many shortcomings, we can experience healing and peace in a whole new way. That has certainly happened for me, and I want more of that in my life. I want it for my kids, and for my friends and for my family. I want it for everyone, as it provides the answer to so many of the questions, and brings joy and contentment to a hole that could never be filled before I came to discover that it was not about performance but all about love.