I was loved as a child.
I know I was fortunate in this, and I think I even knew it then. I was loved by my family, I mean, which I suspect is the main thing, in childhood. I had a little more trouble at school, though, and somewhere along the way I picked up this perfectionism thing, and so overall, I didn’t like myself very much.
Of course, growing up with church-folk, I knew that God loved me, too. What’s more, I knew He loved the whole world so much that He gave His one and only Son (John 3:16). I knew that He is love, in fact (1 John 4:8). I was very grateful for this and sometimes could even “feel” it, but at some point in my 20’s I was able to articulate,
I know God loves me, but He has to, because He’s God. I just don’t think He really likes me.
We could talk about how that thought triggered a multi-decade journey into discovering more about who God is and who I am, or you could sign up for Stepping Into the Story and hear about it there.
Something else I picked up as a kid (I don’t remember where, and maybe only church kids hear this–I don’t know) was that, as the child of a loving God, it was my responsibility also to love everybody. But, They said, loving and liking were two different things and I didn’t have to like everybody. Phew. That let me off the hook. I could just say I loved everybody in the general way we “love” people when we stand up for causes without actually getting our hands dirty and getting to know the people we’re standing up for. And I didn’t have to try to like anybody in particular if it didn’t come naturally.
But then one evening a number of years ago, a friend I was hanging out with after a late shift at Starbucks, who didn’t identify as a Christian, though he had grown up in the Catholic church, said, “You know how, the more you get to know someone–I mean really get to know them–the more you like them?” This probably says more about the character of this friend than about the human condition, and I’m not sure the process he described is something everyone experiences all the time. On the other hand, I have discovered it to be true more often than not, so I said, “Yes?”
“Well,” he continued, “I think God, since He made everybody and therefore knows everybody so intimately, must really like everybody, too. I mean, I kind of feel God must even like someone like Hitler.”
You might imagine I’ve been thinking about that for a long time, too, and I might almost be ready to write a blog post about it–sometime soon after this one.
Then late last summer, as the first iteration of Stepping Into the Story was getting under way, we were doing a lectio divina exercise together. I don’t remember which Scripture passage we were reading, but when we were discussing our impressions and what we might have heard from God afterwards, one of the participants said, with something a little like awe, “It makes me feel like God likes me.”
It was a simple statement but a powerful moment–I think for everyone. There’s something of an epiphany when you realize–when you feel–that God likes you. Now I’m wondering if that is part of what has gone wrong with many attempts to evangelize, among those of us who still believe in evangelizing. The heart of the gospel is God’s self-sacrificing love making a way–in Person–for us to relate to Him again, having dealt with our sin. But I wonder if a lot of us miss something in the delivery. I wonder if, were those of us who feel compelled to share this Good News convinced that God liked us, the News would really sound good, as we communicated that God not only loves you, but likes you, too.