I sat down tonight to talk to God and I discovered I literally had no idea what to say. Now, anyone who knows me knows that this is a pretty rare occurrence. However, in that moment when I finally sat down and quieted myself in His presence, I was overwhelmed by so many things.
I realized that I had enacted a defense mechanism with God that is so common for me to do with other people in my life: avoidance. I am a very difficult person to read because I have this same response to a variety of different problems. If I like someone a lot, I avoid them. If I don’t like someone, I avoid them. If someone gets too close to my heart, I avoid them. If I feel guilty for anything, I avoid a confrontation. Even if I initially approach someone, apologize and in turn forgiveness is granted, I still avoid because of shame and fear. I have been working on this for quite some time, but it is a natural and comfortable response for me. I have become an expert at hiding…or at least trying to.
The problem with God is that I can’t hide from Him. I can’t conceal my thoughts, feelings, or shame. I can however avoid Him for any or perhaps most of the reasons listed above. Not going to lie, I like Him a lot. And absolutely, He gets way too close to my heart. Lately, however, I have been fighting a lot of feelings of guilt toward our relationship. This guilt has kept me in a state of avoidance.
I have dealt with the word “should” my whole life. I should do this…I should do that. I have come to realize that however perfect I “should” be, the reality is that I can’t be perfect. It is quite the depressing thing to never measure up to all the things you think you “should” be. Every influence in my life has had some sort of expectations. My job expects me to act a certain way and fulfill certain obligations. My family expects that I connect with them a certain way. My friends expect me to do certain things and be there for certain things, and all of this is rightly so. However, in my life there has never been any room for failure. There has never been space for forgiveness, because there “should” never be anything to forgive.
There is a certain truth that I have denied for so long and it has kept me enslaved to this horrible word. First of all, there is only one Entity I ultimately answer to, and that is God. He has the final word. Although there is nothing wrong with trying to please others and adhering to the fulfillment of responsibilities, I must be careful that I do not step over the line into the world of “should”, where my very value and character depend on appeasing this desire. The things that I do in life then do not reflect the desire of my heart, but rather a reluctant need to complete a task or earn approval. There are always things in life that are required of us that we do not enjoy doing, but I never want to do anything or be with anyone based out of a state of reluctance. I know that true freedom in Christ allows us to live above that.
I told God tonight, “I feel like every time I come to You, I have so many reasons to tell You I’m sorry. I need Your forgiveness constantly. I fail You in so many ways.” It is this guilt that has kept me from coming to Him. I feel that I “should” be spending more time with Him. I know that there have been so many times lately that He has been drawing me close and inviting me in, and yet I avoided Him because the shame was too great. However, sitting in His presence tonight I came to realize that these reasons for hiding from Him only served to show me that I do not know or understand Him at all. If I really knew Him, I would know that what is waiting for me is only love. My weaknesses serve as great opportunities for Him to receive glory in my life. My failures are reminders that I am nothing without Him, that I can do nothing without Him, and that everything I am now is because of Him.
1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” It is this perfect love that I do not understand. In relationships, I have always believed that I needed to have it all together before I could be accepted. I cannot comprehend love without condition, or love that sees beyond failures. Like Peter, I wonder how many times one can forgive or be forgiven before the offended decides it is just too much. Surely everyone has a limit. Well, everyone but God.
How could God possibly love me so strongly when I fail Him so often? There is no question in my mind that He is faithful. It is me, however, that chases after so many other loves. I long for so many things that I know can only be fulfilled in Him, yet I am constantly seeking for the answer somewhere else. Why is my heart so irrational, running away from the very One who loves me much deeper than anyone else ever could? He knows everything about me that I try to keep hidden from the world: all the junk stored away in dark corners and closets. Yet when I quiet myself before Him, all I feel is the overwhelming love He has for me. I am baffled by His patience. One of my favorite worship songs says, “You won’t relent until you have it all. My heart is yours.” I keep running away, and yet He still keeps chasing me down. And He does this, not because He “should”, but because He desires me.
So why would I ever spend time with Him because I feel that I “should”? Surely that is the greatest insult to any lover. I will come to Him because I desire to be there with Him. I want to know Him and I long to be known. I am finding that forgiveness is so much more than putting an action in the past. Forgiveness is seeing the true person behind the action, and honoring their value beyond the circumstance. Forgiveness honors the relationship over the choice, and every one of us needs it from each other and from God constantly. I hate coming to terms with being a part of the “everyone” clan, but that is something I can no longer run away from.
Instead of dwelling on the question I ask every time I enter His presence, “How many ways can I say that I am sorry?”, I will choose to rest in His response, “How many ways can I show you that I love you?” It is not God’s will that we live in shame or that we avoid Him for whatever reason we might have. He desires that we come to Him just as we are: broken and in need of His grace. Surely He will not stop short of pouring mercy upon mercy on our wounded hearts. The Great Healer will lavish upon us everything we need in order to know Him and to be in right relationship with Him. This is what we were created for, and His presence is the only place where our true fulfillment can be found.
Do you find yourself running away from God because you are ashamed of your failures? There is nowhere you can go that is out of reach of His love. He desires to be with you and to show you the extent of His love. Stop fighting Him. Come back to Him. As Paul says in Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”