by Anita Miles
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
A few days ago, I took my 16 year old daughter, Addison, for her yearly check up with her pediatrician. If you've ever done this with your children, you know that pediatricians have all sorts of sneaky ways to inquire about and measure a child’s mental health and social well being. Being a nurse myself, I'm always interested in the ways in which they interact to get kids to spill the beans on all of the milestones they hope they have reached by any particular age.
I won't bore you with all of the questions that are in the drill. However, this year, in the middle of all of the engaging questions about my daughter's love of playing volleyball, comes the quick but important question of "who are your best friends? Quick. Give me 2 names." Her pediatrician is quick witted and the presentation of the questions are all in fun. But in his mind, he's measuring her social skills by her answers. If she stumbles to figure out who her friends are, she may be at risk for isolation and the issues that follow that particular social plague. Their conversation triggered a thought that’s been rolling through my mind for the past month or so…
Recently, while listening to a particular podcast on the topic of trust, the guest was talking about a conversation she had had with her 8-year-old daughter on what causes her to trust her 2 closest friends. She said when her daughter gave the list of reasons, it wasn't one big thing, but it was a list of small seemingly insignificant things that made them likable. One was that one friend was able to recognize who her grandparents were and that she had spoken to them at a recent school event. One was that one of her friends had been kind and stood at the sink and held her purse while she went to the restroom. Small things... Just little things that made them likable.
I'm always interested in what characteristics and traits I find in people that cause me to trust them and enjoy being in their company. Possibly one of my greatest joys (and sometimes biggest hangup) is that I trust deeply and have very meaningful close friendships in my tight circle of influence. My friendships are major investments for me.
Other people that I know trust very superficially and are just "good friends" with anyone they meet and find friendly. But there is always the one thing that everything in any friendship / relationship hangs its hat on when it comes to why people become friends and how they stay friends. It's this thing called "likeability." You actually “like” to spend time around that other person. You “like” to have valuable conversations with that friend. You “like” to do the same things with the person you hang out with. You enjoy the presence of the other person. On the subject of likeability, I once heard a man say that some people can stay longer in 5 minutes than a friend stays in 3 hours! It’s funny because it’s true!! It’s JUST different when you like who you’re spending time with.
We all know that we are called to display Christian love to all of those we encounter, but there are personality traits that we all have that cause us to be drawn to specific people for specific reasons based on our likeability to traits or hobbies. Sometimes it is even the commonality of our experienced pain.
But SOMETIMES the process of love becomes so cloaked with obligation, commitment, and busyness that we forget to enjoy or even like who and what we're supposed to be loving...
Ever been there?
I think we’re all guilty… We’re committed to relationships. We REALLY DO love our people. But sometimes we get bogged down in whatever is heavy in life and act like we don’t even like them. Although we do…. There‘a a disconnect with bonding in relationships when we say we love someone but don’t act as though we even like them! I think the same situation happens when it comes to our relationship with God.
I don’t know why this grabbed me the way it did a few weeks ago - but I was listening to an interview with an author talking about a religious book she had written. Maybe I just hadn’t had enough Mountain Dew yet. Or maybe I just wasn’t feeling very lovable that day... I think that if I had read what she said out loud, it wouldn’t have clicked how it did. But in the middle of a thought process included in her book, she stopped. She had a thoughtful tone as she proposed this question to the person interviewing her, “Did you know that God actually likes you? We talk about His love all the time - but did you ever stop to think about the fact that God actually likes you?”
I’m still dissecting this thought in my brain…
John 14:7 has Jesus saying out loud, “he who has seen me, hath seen the Father…”
Now to be clear - I’m no theologian - nor do I claim to be! But… I think it’s pretty obvious that no one hated sin more than Jesus did. However, I also think that no one could question that Jesus was MUCH more likable and touchable to sinners than the haughty religious people were to them in His day.
It was not a mere obligation of love that brought Jesus back to the tomb of Lazarus. I believe He genuinely liked and enjoyed being in the company of Mary, Lazarus, and may have, at times, even been a bit humored by an easily distracted and frazzled Martha. And He truly wept because the people he cared deeply about were hurting!
I think Jesus actually liked and enjoyed the company of his band of brothers known as His disciples. There was a bond in which He knew He could teach them things of eternal value - and enjoy their company all at the same time. Even though He knew they all had their imperfections. Every. Single. One.
I believe wholeheartedly that we must be serious about the nature of God that hates our sin. We must believe through faith that God loved us enough to send his only Son to the cross to take our sins upon Himself that we could be saved. But in all of that - there’s just something that hits me a little differently when I think that even in His seemingly obligatory love for me - He likes me too!
During the time Jesus was clothed in humanity, yes - He had moments that He was intensely frustrated. But it was mostly aimed at human overinflated piety. The moments of His beautiful compassion, touchability, and the heartfelt connection He had with the people He encountered was LIFE CHANGING and far outweighed His anger towards men. The essence of God was visible - even in times of betrayal. What we know through the life of Jesus is how we learn Who God is.
Think about this question… Does your friendship with God allow you to accept the fact that He actually likes you? That fact will change everything about your relationship with Him. It enhances trust and you pray differently. You wait differently. You walk through hard stuff differently. You hope differently. The struggle of the will is not as fierce!
When He sings over you, your heart knows it! And it’s a beautiful thing…
So just in case you needed to be reminded of this for some reason today… God loves you…and psst! He actually likes you too!