The Christmas Conundrum
Emmanuel, “God With Us”. I was wondering this morning why God would choose to do such an outrageous thing for our benefit. For some reason, this reminded me of a song that we sing in church, though it’s not a Christmas song at all. I thought of it because something about it brings tears to my eyes every time we sing it. The song is called Good, Good Father. It’s the message of the chorus that messes with me, which simply says:
You’re a good, good Father. It’s who you are.
I’m loved by You. It’s who I am.
It’s that second part that gets to me in particular; it’s such a deep statement of identity and something about it resonates in my soul. As an American male, I struggle with my identity a lot. Modern society tells me my identity is what I do, or what I’ve done, or who I hang with. So if someone were to ask me, “Who are you?” I wouldn’t think to respond by saying “I’m loved by God.” Yet that is a truer source of my identity than anything else in this life.
Who am I? I am loved by God, that’s who I am! Everything else about my sense of identity and self-worth should flow from that fact, right? But it doesn’t. Why? One reason is that I know me; I am, among other things, selfish, prideful, and deeply flawed. And yet, the words of Jesus and the teachings of Christendom proclaim that God loves me and that I matter to Him. This doesn’t make sense to me, nor does it seem right, and it leaves me grappling with a one-word question.
Usually, when we humans are yelling up to the heavens, emotions swelling in our breast, we’re pleading to know why some tragic thing has happened. We demand of God the reason He allowed evil, disappointment, loss or frustration into our lives. Our minds reel with questions like how could an all-knowing, all-loving God allow innocent people to have their lives cut short by terrorists, or cancer, or suicide. These kinds of heartbreaking tragedies are what usually cause us to question God’s character, or His goodness, or even His existence.
Personally, I have no problem believing God’s character and goodness are perfect and His motivations are beyond reproach. I’m convinced His existence is the foundation of all reality. Indeed, its the fact that these things are settled in my mind that brings my own question into sharper focus.
I recognize it’s a strange thing that my biggest “why me?” question for God is why do You love me? But I have to wonder how an all-knowing, perfect, holy God could love me, Robert L. Solberg (1969 – ), American citizen, 1/7-billionth of the current world population, here today, gone tomorrow. Honestly, it’s hard for me to accept.
I recognize part of the issue is that there are times when I don’t really like myself much. Of the world’s population, I’m pretty sure there are at least 6.9 billion other people more lovable than me. I often annoy me. I sometimes even wish I could get a break from me for a few days and take off on a long road trip, leaving myself at home. I struggle not only because I sometimes feel so completely unworthy of His love, but because I understand that I really am unworthy of it. How does it benefit the Holy King of Glory to love a filthy rag like me? And yet, His word couldn’t be more clear that He does love me, and that I matter to Him. How can this be?
The truth I’ve finally arrived at is this; it’s not my job to figure out why He loves me. I’m sure I don’t have the cognitive ability to understand it anyway. (Although, I’ve gotten far enough along to guess that it has everything to do with who He is, and very little to do with who I am.) My job, I have concluded, is simply to decide whether or not I believe Jesus on this point. Fortunately, that’s an easy decision for me; when it comes to a choice between believing my emotions or believing God’s Word, my emotions lose every time.
So far, so good.
Then I started wondering what it would look like to live one’s life in full acceptance of the truth of God’s love. I took a look at my own life and discovered that accepting the truth of God’s love brought up a hidden need in me to try really hard to be worthy of it. I feel I should make sure He knows I’m trying really hard; for some reason its important to me that He knows this. After all, I don’t want Him to think I’m the kind of guy who would take advantage of Him, or be unfair by trying to tip the scales in my favor.
Then it occurred to me: I’m in full people-pleasing mode right now. With God! How dumb is that? He is God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. He knows my thoughts and my heart better than I do. There’s no possible way I could live my life in a way that would convince Him of my value. He already knows my value because He gave it to me. He is its source.
Trying to influence God’s opinion of me is as futile as a sparrow trying to change the direction of the wind. The wind blows where the wind blows. The sparrow can fight against it until its wings give out, but it will not change the wind one bit. Alternately, the sparrow can surrender to the wind and choose to fly in the direction it’s already blowing. Likewise, I can fight against the truth that God loves me and refuse to believe it, but it will not change His love for me one bit. Alternately, I can surrender to it and move in the direction His love wants to take me.
So that’s what I’m going to try to do. I know I can trust Him because He is a good, good Father. One who sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
And that, to me, is the true meaning of Christmas.