Real talk: selfishness is one of my biggest character flaws. It’s a really strange paradox, because my heart is devoted to service and helping other people, and yet I am so guilty of choosing myself and my own desires over those of others a lot of the time. Even more so, I choose what I want over what God wants. My excuse has been that I don’t know what God wants for me. I don’t know what God’s calling is on my life. It’s hard to know what God really desires for any of us, right?
Man, am I wrong.
Sure, it can sometimes be difficult to see the individual plans God might have for each of us. It can be hard to see the end of the tunnel when we’re stuck in the middle of it. It can be a challenge to figure out where God wants us to go to college, or which job He wants us to take out of a slew of all of the possibilities. It can be hard to hear God’s voice in the midst of all the noises that fill our heads (or maybe it’s just mine that has all that noise, I don’t know).
But at the core of what God’s plan is for all of humanity, I think it’s simple. Jesus tells us to go into all the world, making disciples of all the nations. He tells us to love the Lord with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths…and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I’d argue that God doesn’t care so much about the titles on our résumés as much as He cares about what we do in the everyday. That doesn’t mean those things don’t matter to Him, but He isn’t consumed with titles and reputations and people’s opinions. God doesn’t love us any more or any less for the school we go to, or the job title we hold, or the company we work for. He doesn’t base His love and affection for us on how others see us, and thank heavens for that.
How freeing is that? How great could our God be that He doesn’t look at each of us and see a bundle of mess-ups, a collection of mistakes?
I look in the mirror every morning, not because I like seeing my own face, but so I can make sure I don’t jab myself in the eyeball when I put my contacts in. And when I do, most days, I see all of my flaws. Acne scars (and the occasional blackhead that rears its, well, head, with a vengeance). Double chin (which has miraculously diminished over the last three months, but it’s still stubbornly hanging out on my face). Eyes too small, lips too chapped, skin too red and dry. Uneven teeth in spite of having braces for a larger-than-normal portion of my life. All the things “wrong” with my body, like the pouches of fat on my body that refuse to leave no matter how many planks I do or miles I bike.
I look in that mirror and often, all I see is a girl who’s been beaten up a few too many times by life. A girl who’s made a lot of mistakes. A lot of them. A girl who regularly chooses the same episodes and movies on Netflix instead of Jesus, or community, or self-improvement. A girl who is comfortable with complacency and routines and the same old things.
But that’s not what God sees. He sees His creation, His beloved. This doesn’t mean He can’t see our flaws and our mistakes. It means that the core of who we are is rooted not in what we do or what our problems are, but rather, because of our identity as His children. If we have been created with the purpose of loving God and being loved, cherished, adored by the Creator of all things, my gosh does that take off the pressures of life. We don’t have to impress Him with our accomplishments or boast of our own successes.
So, I’m selfish. I choose myself over God more than I’d like to admit. I choose my own desires over God’s desires. I want things for my own sake, not for the sake of the Kingdom. And yet, God loves me. He pursues me relentlessly. He waits patiently, watching me run around on this Earth making all of my mistakes, and simply calls each time, Beloved. Return to me. Even when I reject God, choosing the things in this world that are terrible for me, making decisions for my own gain, and taking more than I give, He is still there, faithful and devoted. Even when I wake up hating every single aspect of myself (which happens more often than it should), God loves this girl He created passionately. And the thing is, God isn’t doing this for me and me alone. There’s nothing special or unique about me to warrant this kind of love. He does this for all of us. For you. For your families and friends and loved ones. For your coworkers. For your enemies. God’s love is so much bigger than anything we do (or don’t do).
So, what can we do in response to this radical love? We love Him with all of who we are and all we have. We love our neighbors. We follow Jesus with our lives and our words and our actions. We respond to devotion with devotion. And the coolest part about God is that He doesn’t ask us to live out a one size fits all type of faith. He doesn’t ask us to all do exactly the same things and behave in exactly the same ways. He has designed each of us with unique gifts and abilities to serve Him and others in our own ways.
If you’re like me and you love structure, such a broad and open-ended calling is overwhelming. It’s so much easier for me to use the excuse that I just don’t know what God wants rather than to actually serve Him with what I’ve got. It’s easier to avoid and deflect, because the alternative comes with risks. What if I fail? What if I disappoint God? What if I do something wrong? What if I make a fool of myself? How do I know if I’m really equipped to serve the Kingdom of God? What if what I have to offer isn’t really all that important or valuable or beneficial?
To be honest, I don’t have answers to any of those questions. But here’s what I’m learning: I am created in the image of God, cherished by the King of kings, and shrouded in the love and peace and grace of Jesus Christ. I’m really, truly learning it. And I’m learning how to accept it. How to abide in it. How to turn to this truth before I turn to my anxiety and my flaws and my problems.
God is in pursuit of you. Relentless, passionate, unfailing pursuit. This is where I’m starting, and my prayer today is that this is where you’ll start, too.