Saturday, January 8, 2011

Who loves you, baby?

In the vein of acceptance and love and grace and all of that, I've been thinking about the following phrase a lot, and wondering about it.
"God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to let you stay that way."
I would have always said that I agree with the above. And to some degree, I think I still do. But I'm not sure that I think it's completely accurate.

First, I will readily admit, I'm definitely more of a carrot than a stick person. I don't like being threatened and really don't respond well to intimidation or fear tactics. So my perspective is no doubt colored by the way that I am personally motivated. And to be clear, I absolutely believe that God loves us where we're at. I think the Scripture is full of examples of Jesus meeting people in places that are gross and messy and unpleasant. And it's clear to me that his interactions with people in that place were absolutely loving. So I have no qualms accepting the first part of the axiom.

But I've been rethinking the second part a bit. I remember reading Messy Spirituality a year or so ago and not really liking some of what Mike Yaconelli had to say. The whole thing felt a little too "grace-y" for me. Why weren't people being "better"? Why don't these people care about excellence or holiness? Why isn't God "fixing" people?

Now I'm wondering if that's what God does. Is He (through the Holy Spirit) a "fixer"? If we "stay that way" does that mean that He doesn't really love us as much as we thought? Or that we don't really love Him? Or (in some of my darker moments) that He's not even there?

I've been thinking about my own life and what tends to motivate me the most and ultimately, I really do not like to be fixed. When someone comes to me with an obvious idea of how I should be, the likelihood of me becoming that is minuscule. Now, that could simply be a character flaw on my part; some kind of rebellion that I'm not recognizing. I get that.

But I don't think that I'm incapable of change. I think what I find is that when someone approaches me in the context of a loving, safe relationship, I am better able to see what needs to be changed. Or even to have them tell me what could use improvement. When I know that this person has a strong track record (understanding that no one is perfect) of loving me right where I'm at, I WANT to change for them.

So does Jesus love me and refuse to "let me" stay where I am? I guess I see the statement as being more controlling than I see my relationship with Him. My hope is that as I choose to invest in that relationship with Him, I am wooed into making changes that are a blessing to me and to others. So maybe not that He won't let me stay there, but rather that His love is so irresistible that I don't WANT to stay there.

What do you think? What motivates you to change? Are you a carrot or a stick person? Do you think the phrase is right just as it is, or does it need to be tweaked?

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