There are so many different things to think about!
What should I give up? What should I lay down? What should I do more of?
I need to read the Bible more. I need to pray more. I need to give away more of my money, more of my time, more of my home.
If I really loved, God wouldn’t I be more like so-and-so? That one really has it figured out.
I should really volunteer at church more, lead a Bible study, organize something for the homeless.
I’m the worst at this Jesus stuff. I should really be doing more for God! It’s so demanding, it takes everything EVERYTHING. Jesus laid down his life for you, you should return the favor.
Don’t you just feel so much more holy when you’re sacrificing everything on the altar of doing more for God? We like to feel like we’ve earned something. Who wants a free gift – those come with strings attached, right?
I used to think God wanted a lot from me.
I loved God, I wanted to please God, I wanted to be worth something to God. I thought I owed God something for all the saving-the-world thing. Of course this life in Christ will cost me something – everything!
That old God wanted so much from me: time, money, energy, focus, worship, passion, work.
God wanted my best behavior, a clean conscience.
Work harder, do more, strive strive strive.
People are going to hell if we don’t do our part, the stakes are high. Defend the faith!
God wanted my best; of course, it’s just too bad my best won’t ever be good enough.
If I saw my children entangled, oh, God, I would cut away every thicket to reach them with my bare hands, crying out that I was coming for them with every breath. I wouldn’t rest, God help anyone who would stand in my way.
I would tear away all of it until I had them in my arms, I would laugh and I would cry at the moment of rescue. I would snatch them up and kiss their sweaty and scratched necks, you’re safe now, I’m here, I’m here.
Here is what I think: Maybe God doesn’t so much want things from us.
Maybe God actually wants things for us.
After all, God imagined us for love and for beauty, for life and for wholeness, for goodness and for mercy. You were made in the image of God. The Holy Spirit stirred over the waters, deep calling to deep.
God yearns like a father, like a mother, for us to be free.
God is Love, yes, and so God wants to lavish friendship and meaning and abundant life upon us, to help us to see this old world like the new world God envisions.
God wants us to be truly human, the way Jesus walked for and with us. Even the wrath of God isn’t something to fear, but something to welcome – that wrath is coming against the very things in us that bring death and destruction.
You, dear one, you’re not being condemned. You’re being rescued.
God doesn’t want much from me: God wants so much for me.
See there? The difference?
Start there. Start with the Love and with the freedom, with the grace and the wisdom, with the abundance, and suddenly those other things are simply an overflow instead of a sacrifice.
Open your hands and surrender. Cut away the thickets. Hand over your apathy and your loneliness, your never-enough and your too-much. Lay down your sin and the things you do to numb yourself against feeling it all. Toss down your pride and your greed, your selfishness and your me-first, those things aren’t for you. What are they but fetters? Can anything hold up against the fury of a God who wants you free, wants you restored, wants you to see that you are loved loved loved.
God is for you, Love is for you. The only thing God wants from you are the chains that are holding you back. Hand them over, they’ve already been unlocked, you get to walk away free.
God is for us. Never against us.
I’m not working for God. I’m working with God.
We’re on a rescue mission, we’re on a setting-things-right all-things-redeemed mission.
We’re not trying to wrestle paltry gifts from a reluctant deity, counting coins in the counting house, viewing our lives as a sheet of checks and balances. You’ve been caught in a war zone, not a bank.
The spreadsheets have been tossed out, there is only welcome now.
The counting house doesn’t exist, there is only the supper of the Lamb and there is room for everyone.
Run towards grace, towards shalom. As the Apostle Paul said, throw off everything that holds you back – it is holding you back! Restoration Project: partners.
Add everything back, everything that has been stolen will be restored.
We are not serving gifts of stone or snake for the children who ask, there is only a Father of Lights handing out bread to the entire hillside, this is a party.
Open the gates.