Yesterday I was lying in bed doing that thing I do where I play with my phone rather than go to sleep. Sometimes I find myself picking it up even when the light is off (no matter, phone backlit) and plugged in for the night (no matter, long cord). I might pick it up ostensibly to check that the alarm(s) are set, but actually it's to faff. I love sleeping, but because I am the Queen of Procrastination I even put that off too.
Quick check of the news headlines (do I think that's going to lull me to sleep? Unlikely) and a quick game of Bejeweled Blitz (can that trigger adrenalin? Surely not. Possibly). Maybe there'll be a browse of my daily devotionals if I haven't explored them in the course of the day, but more often than not it's a quick check on Facebook.
Ha! That old chestnut. Habit firmly under control these days, but still a mighty pull when a spot of timewasting called for.
So, someone's done this, someone's done that, someone's posted a great picture, someone's having a birthday - oops, it was yesterday - someone's painting their toenails. You know the score. Then, my scrolling finger stopped and hung in the air. Joyce Meyer had something to say.
Joyce has lots of things to say, and most of them speak sense to me, but this one stopped me in my tracks. My eyes stopped moving from left to right quite abruptly.
She said, 'God is not mad at you.'
I know you're not mad at me. Are you? Why did that short sequence of six words pull me up short?
You know, I think I've been feeling that you are mad at me. Not for any specific thing (though there are many, many reasons why you might be justified) but something deep down in my heart, or in my brain, or somewhere long buried, is a feeling that somehow you're not a kind, loving, accepting, forgiving God at all, but a hard taskmaster who likes to pounce on mistakes and transgressions and make a Big Deal of them. Tally them up. Roll your eyes and frown at all the shortcomings.
Hold it all against me.
Really? Do I think that? Maybe I've had this idea that you're hard to please. That nothing I do will be good enough. As you know, I've felt that way for much of my life; always trying, striving, proving, attempting to win approval in a whole host of ways and feeling constantly bad about myself when it doesn't work. Maybe I feel as if I need to perform in order to win your approval; reach a certain standard. Do I?
I think somewhere deep inside I've been frightened of you. Not in a respectful, 'fear-of-the-Lord' awestruck way, either, but in a you're-angry-and-I'd-better-make-myself-scarce sort of way. I don't know where that comes from, but I sense that it's there.
Images of God: Angry.
I'm sorry about that. It must hurt your feelings to be so misrepresented, even if it's on some buried level. These days I know you, and it couldn't be further from the truth. You are Love.
I wax lyrical about your love, your forgiveness, and I believe it. I don't have any remote problem in accepting that you are compassion itself. You are the source of peace and hope, not criticism and despair. I do not have to shrink from your presence; quite the reverse. You invite me to come in.
'Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus... let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.'Lord, I want to thank you that I can approach you with boldness and confidence. Show me today what an amazing thing this is, because it seems as if I sometimes don't understand the magnitude of it. I am forgiven! I am thoroughly cleansed from al the wrong and all the grubbiness of my life. I don't have to be ashamed. I don't have to be full of regrets. I don't have to be weighed down by guilt any more... but quite often you wouldn't know it to look at me.
You are not mad at me. You are actually quite pleased with me.
'For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.You made me and you're pleased with your creation. You've known me since long before I was thought of and you will be there with me, loving me, long after I've turned up my toes down here. You don't make mistakes, so I conclude that I am just as you planned me. You wanted me this way. You knew what you were getting when you organised those groups of chromosomes and cells to get together. You don't look at me as I am and feel disappointed.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.'
Psalm 139: 13,14
'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.'You don't stop loving me when I mess up. Because of Jesus, I am forgiven. More than that, I am holy. When you look at me, you see Jesus - and he's perfect. My little brain struggles to hold onto this, but I know that it's true.
You're not mad at me.
'As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.'Psalm 103:13If we parents are kind to our children; me with my impatience and over-critical nature, and my irritability and perfectionism, if I can look after my children with compassion, how much more will you look after me? You are tender, gentle, ever-patient.
You are not mad at me.
'The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!'Isaiah 30:18My God. God of grace. Compassion. Justice - but not the sort of justice that serves me right. No, no. Blessings.
You are not mad at me.
Father, there's a lesson for me here, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's about what lurks deep down in me - the misapprehensions and long-abandoned beliefs that rise to the surface when I least expect them. If so, take them and wipe them away, Lord. Heal the little raw place that they came from, will you? I know you. You love me just as I am.
All day I've had a line from an old song in my mind. I woke up with it. It was in my head when I brushed my teeth this morning and it's still there. It's your word to me for today. It's your comfort; it's you holding me close because you knew I'd have a moment when I saw that post by Joyce Meyer. It goes like this:
'I'm accepted, I'm forgiven
I am fathered by the true and living God
I'm accepted, no condemnation
I am loved by the true and living God
There's no guilt or fear as I draw near
To the Saviour and Creator of the world
There is joy and peace as I release
My worship to you, O Lord' *
You love me enough to send me presents. Things that can only come from you, for no other purpose than to let me know that you are there, right now, right here, and you love me. You pursue me. You remind me.
Yesterday I walked home from school with Elizabeth in the drizzle and the world was grey and dreary. Leaves on the ground in puddles, all sticky and squashed. Hoods up, umbrellas up, heads down. And suddenly, there, a vivid orange flower between someone's garden fence and the wall. A lone flower in Autumn, startlingly bright in the rain.
I stopped and called Elizabeth.
'Lizzie, look!' She looked. Briefly.
I handed her her book bag and water bottle to hold. She rolled her eyes.
'Mum, take a photograph and let's go.'
She didn't get it, but I did. It was a little love note from you to me.
You made me smile.
You're not mad at me.
You love me.
*Rob Hayward 1985 Kingsway/Thankyou music