This morning I tried to pick up the Aleve bottle, but it fell to the floor. Stuff like this happens all the time. You see, my wife Kirsten is a loose-lidder. She’s one of those people who never fully closes the lid on something she’s used (and I never over-generalize), whether it’s the ketchup or the milk or the pickles or the Aleve. And, unfortunately, I’m a top-picker: I usually pick things up from the top, not the side. As you might imagine, this can sometimes get interesting. I can just see God when we first got together laughing to Himself, “This is going to be awesome!”
Now, you would think after all this time I might have adapted, but some habits die hard. I still occasionally find myself cleaning up broken salsa jars, spilled milk, or still-perfectly-edible-even-though-they-were-all-over-the-kitchen-floor Aleve because I picked up from the top. This used to drive me crazy and as crazy as it sounds, I used to be resentful. I used to actually think Kirsten did it on purpose. But as I have gotten to know and love Kirsten more and more, I’ve learned to just deal with it.
If you’ve been together with someone for any length of time, you can probably identify with this scenario. There are probably things that person does that don’t make any sense or that drive you totally crazy. It is even hypothetically possible that I might do one or two things that drive Kirsten crazy. It’s at least a hypothesis. But when you love someone, you overlook that stuff. You look beyond it to the true core of the person.
And the fact is that when you get beyond the trivial stuff like lid tightening, our close relationships change us. We change ourselves, who we hang out with, how we spend our free time, as a natural part of deepening our relationships with those we really love.
I think God’s love for us is the same way. I can’t even imagine how many of the things I do every day that God just looks at and says, “Really?” As far as God is concerned, I’ve probably got more than just a few “quirks;” more than a few really annoying things that I do. But God looks beyond that stuff to see me, the me that was created as a result of the outpouring of God’s love, the me that was created to exist within the context of that love, the me that was created in God’s own image as a bearer and a recipient of God’s love.
Despite my quirks, God loves me. Despite your quirks, God loves you. That’s it. Now, would God want us to maybe modify some of those quirks and possibly even get rid of them? Sure. God loves us where we are, but God never wants to just leave us there. There’s always room for improvement.
But here’s the thing. The point of “improvement” (or as we Methodists call it, sanctification) isn’t to change something about ourselves so God will love us more. If we look at it that way, it becomes a job, a chore. And anyway, it’s impossible. God already loves us to infinity and beyond.
The point of “improvement,” is so that WE can enter more deeply into the love that God is. It’s not a cause and effect thing where we do something to trigger a loving response in God. It’s just us growing into the people we were created to be—people who live in hope rather than despair, peace rather than chaos, joy rather than sadness, and lover rather than hate. God wants that for us because God loves us and wants what’s best for us.