The other day someone asked me my favorite thing about Jesus.
It has been awhile since anyone has asked me that question. It reminded me of a recent lunch where I asked a college student what she loved most about her long-time boyfriend. She had a momentary stunned look and then replied, “Wow. No one has ever asked me that question before.” She went on to explain a lot of things she loved about him and as words poured out of her, it was clear to see she loves him. Very much. Yet to narrow it down to a favorite thing was a daunting task because her reasons for loving him where countless. Where should she begin?
The reasons I love God are countless. Where do I even begin? I could speak of His great love for me. I could speak of His amazing grace. I could give witness to His comfort in my times of pain. I could tell you stories of His faithfulness to me, to people I love. I could point you to people, including myself, who have been freed from all types of slavery by His mercy. All of these are reasons I love God.
But this past year another truth has become my favorite thing about God. A truth that leaves me amazed and overwhelmed nearly every day.
The truth is this: Not only does God deeply love me, God genuinely LIKES me, too!
It may not seem like a big revelation to you but I think if we could be honest there are a lot of us who believe God loves us but doesn’t really like us. How could he, right? Let’s be honest. We get it wrong more than we get it right. We’re always screwing up and letting God down. While we’re down there in the pit, we wallow in self-hatred, covering ourselves in shame. Perhaps we think our self-hatred is not only justified but expected. This is what God wants, right? This is what God deserves, isn’t it? This is the least I can do in exchange for His love because I don’t deserve it.
But if we believe God not only loves us but genuinely likes us, too, than maybe we would lighten up on the self-hatred.
Over the years in youth ministry, I’ve had youth go through valleys in their faith. They walked away from God and towards the world that left them wallowing in a pit of self-hatred and shame. With God’s help, they found their way back to Him and started over. I can promise you this: I could care less about their shame and self-hatred. It sounds harsh but all I cared about was that they were back. What was once lost had been found. Their self-hatred and shame was frustrating. It was keeping them from living free as God intends and as I want them to live. Not just because I love them but because I genuinely like them. I’m for them. I want the best for them. I want to see them free and full of joy.
If I feel this way about my former students, I can only imagine how much God delights in us. How much God finds pleasure in us. How frustrated God gets by our self-hatred and relentless self-flogging over our mistakes. We either believe that God forgives us by His grace or we don’t. We can’t try and “do our part” to reduce the debt. It’s paid. And because He likes us, God wants us to enjoy the gift – not spend our lives trying to pay it off.
One of my favorite authors who I quote often says this about self-hatred:
“In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit.”― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging
One of the things I repeat to myself often each day is the simple statement: “I am His beloved.” To me being God’s beloved means not only that God loves me but that God likes me. God enjoys me. God is happy to be with me. God cares more about my future than my past. It encompasses all of these truths so when I say “I am His beloved” I am not able to also say “I am lacking. I am a disappointment. I’m a screw up.” It is impossible to utter both at the same time.
I want to challenge you to create a similar statement. A centering prayer. Something that you can repeat to yourself to remind yourself that God likes you. A lot. You won’t believe it some days but keep repeating it. God will harvest the seed you plant in your heart and mind.
May you know in your heart God loves you. May you also know AND believe God likes you. God really likes you. You bring a smile to His face. You make Her heart swell with joy. There isn’t a parent on this earth that finds more enjoyment in his or her children than God find in us.