I love being with my family. We each have our own weird and wonderful ways and there’s a varied mix of personalities, yet somehow we all manage to get on- most of the time! We laugh, cry, disagree and always try to spend regular, quality time together.
We are- by definition, comfortable with one another.
I love how comfortable we are. You can walk around in your slouchiest clothes, wake up with a ‘take me as you see me’ attitude, have some down time without feeling you have to generate conversation, talk about anything and have a laugh. Somebody’s always laughing at or joking around someone else- but it’s always light hearted, typical sibling rivalry. Do you know what I mean? It’s different to being out for a meal with friends or being around anyone else- you can just be yourself! Even if that means your true colours come out at times!
As we spend time together this weekend- thanks to our ‘family focused’ Mum- and thank goodness she is otherwise I don’t think we would all put plans in place to organise time away together- thanks Mum! But as we are all together this weekend, I’m reminded of how awesome my family is and just how comfortable I feel around them! How thankful I am and great it is to be around those who take you as you are and love you just the same- unconditionally!
Have I made my point that I feel comfortable around my family?! I would apologise, but I love my family! – not sorry!
For those of you who’s families are slightly different to mine, perhaps you have a group of friends who are like your family, and you can relate to being so comfortable around them? Or just recall the times when you put on your comfiest pair of joggers/PJ’s/slouch clothes- just how relaxed you feel when they’re on! It’s like you can strip back all your layers and get back to the bare bones of you- you feel totally comfortable this way.
Perhaps I’m one of few who feel comfortable this way- maybe you’re reading this and can’t relate. The point I really want to make is this next one…
No matter who you feel most comfortable around or how you feel most comfortable- out of everyone and everything you know- the one who I believe we should be comfortable with is God! – Simple!
If you don’t feel comfortable with God- I encourage you (myself included) to get comfortable!
Don’t hear me wrong. I don’t mean be so comfortable where you’re at the other extreme and disrespect who He is, how He wants you to live and abuse everything He’s ever given you. That’s not being comfortable- that’s disrespect and isn’t how anyone should be treated.
But at the other end of the spectrum I feel we live on egg shells with God. I’ve been reading one book after the next lately- two of which I highly recommend; “God is not mad at you’ and ‘Jesus Is_’ many of the chapters focused on Grace & Mercy- two concepts which I still can’t wrap my head around. But in the words of Judah Smith,
‘Its human nature to mistrust what seems too good to be true. Let’s settle in our hearts once and for all that Jesus is too good to be true. Salvation is too good to be true. Grace is too good to be true. Heaven is too good to be true.’– TRUE!
For years, and if I’m honest, even on a daily basis in different seasons of my life, I walk around feeling like I’ve disappointed God. Ever heard your parents say ‘I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed?’ I cringe just writing that phrase! That’s worse than being mad! I used to think. And typically in life, because not all of us (me included) have mastered the art of forgiveness, we find it easier to hold a grudge which can linger for minutes, hours, days or worse- years! Perhaps you’re nodding your head to that one? Family feuds, friendship fallouts?
With this feeling that I’ve disappointed God, comes the heavy weight and chains I carry round my neck of; punishment, guilt and shame, trying to win God’s love and approval back by good deeds ‘Did you see that God? You see who I helped there? The blind lady I helped across the road, the burger I bought for the homeless person?! Does that make up for what I did? Will you forgive me now?’ It’s exhausting. I’ve made myself a mental note in my head that’s now morphed into the book of disappointments. I’m constantly trying to prove myself worthy of forgiveness. It’s crazy! Yet I still continue to walk around like this sometimes. Can you relate?
I think that’s because I still can’t get my head around how God can be so merciful, gracious and forgiving towards me- someone who messes up and grasp the concept that its not because I deserve it! None of us do- but because of this- HE LOVES US!
Pastor Rick Warren explains it like this,
‘Some of you may feel that is the way God feels about you. You think that whenever you’ve got a problem, God is ticked off. But the Bible says,
“I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of who I am. I will not hold your sins against you.” (Isaiah 43:25 TEV)
God doesn’t hold a grudge. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. He doesn’t rub it in, He rubs it out. He doesn’t rehearse it, He releases it.’
It is too good to be true. But it is true- and the truth will set you free! Free from those chains you’ve hung around your neck of; guilt, shame, low self-esteem…’
You see, as I’ve been reading Jesus Is_, I’ve been reminded that Jesus is; my friend- a friend of sinners, grace, mercy, happy, joy, he is here, he is alive. Not this scary, unforgiving and grumpy person who stays mad at you that we seem to create in our minds and neither is God- he wants you to be comfortable with him.
Jesus told many stories to crowds of people and children and they stayed to listen. Why? Partly because they felt comfortable around him I bet. I can imagine him just chilling in the hot sun with his neutral coloured clothes (because neutral was the ‘IN’ colour in those days!) Kicking off his sandals as he chilled back to get comfortable before telling one of his stories- ‘right guys, listen up, this is a good one!’ You can just imagine everyone leaning in can’t you- shh-ing the person next to them so they could hear.
Yet for some reason, and Judah Smiths’ book makes this point,
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with many of the paintings and movies about Jesus, but for some reason he looks like a Zombie half the time. His eyes are freaky and he never smiles. He looks stressed out or high on drugs or something. That wasn’t Jesus. Do you know how I know? Because kids liked to be with him. Kids don’t like creepy people. They don’t like grumpy people. Yet Jesus had so many kids wanting to come to him that his disciples felt they had to forbid it.’
I really want to start getting comfortable with God, just in the way that I feel comfortable around my family. I want to kick back with him and tell him what’s on my mind, to spend time intimately getting to know Him. Let’s face it, the people we are most comfortable around are the people we know the best and who know us!
I want to get comfortable with God where I can run to him for embrace when I mess up, like a child does with their parents- say I’m sorry and be forgiven. I want to have a comfortable relationship with God where even when I mess up, I know that He knows my heart and when I ask for forgiveness he’s already forgiven me and still loves me just the same. No guilt, no shame. No beating myself up about what I’ve just done and holding a grudge against myself as if its come from Him.
It’s refreshing to know I can have this relationship with Him. I believe we all can, if we let go of everything were holding on to, kick back, relax and get real with our heavenly father. If you got to know him well enough you’d know that he doesn’t hold grudges, his love isn’t conditional upon your daily ‘good deeds’- in fact his love is unconditional. He gives grace and mercy freely whether you feel you deserve it or not. One thing I’ve learned from reading the two books is that grace is a gift; undeserved, unmerited, unearned and too good to be true. But a gift all the same, for you and for me.
My Dad, is the most gracious person I know. Not once have I ever experienced him hold a grudge. No matter how much I mess up- he helps me, expresses a sweet smile, tells me he loves me and I never walk away feeling condemned or guilty. The same is true for my husband. I don’t think he has an unforgiving bone in his body and daily shows me how much he loves me and that all is forgiven. Me? I’m still a working progress.
79 days and counting till our daughter arrives and I consider how I would react to the times she messes up. I can’t even imagine sulking at her intentionally where she knew I was disappointed and then felt so compelled by the guilt to either stray away, tip toe around me on egg shells and feel so uncomfortable that she couldn’t bear to spend time with me. I want to be like the example Jesus sets; loving, gracious, happy, forgiving. I want to create an environment and relationship where she can get comfortable with Mum- talk to me about anything and spend time with me knowing she can just be herself.
Let me ask you this, do you feel comfortable with God? Or are you walking on egg shells because of the condemnation you’ve allowed the enemy to put there? Do you feel like you can’t quite relax around him because of the elephant in the room that hasn’t been addressed? That thing you did, the addiction your battling, the mistake you made, person you hurt, lie you told?
Whatever it is, God has already addressed it! He sacrificed his Son, Jesus to pay the price for the times you’ve messed up and everything else you’ll mess up doing in the future. He dealt with all that by dying on the cross and leaving all your mistakes there! You just have to ask for forgiveness, apologise and you can experience his overflowing love, grace, mercy, compassion- amazing! It will feel too good to be true! But it is true. You can be set free from those chains! Kick back and relax with your heavenly father. He loves you!
I need to remind myself of this daily, I’m not saying it’s easy- especially as we’re living in a ‘blame’ culture. They deserve what they get, make them sweat for it, make them wait until they know your mad at them, they don’t deserve your forgiveness, move on, don’t waste your time on them.
But can you imagine if God had that attitude with us?- That’s it Cheryl, this time you’ve really blown it! I am so thankful that he is completely the opposite and more! Aren’t you?
I’ll leave you with another story from Rick Warren;
‘I remember many years ago, when I was preaching, a woman came up to me in tears. She began to pour out a very sad story to me, complete with all the bad mistakes she had made. She was distraught and weeping profusely. She kept saying how very guilty she felt.
Then I read her 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV). It’s the soap-dish verse. God says he’ll give you a bath; he’ll get rid of the dirt on your life, forgive you, and wipe away your sins.
Then I took her to Romans 8:1: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV). She asked, “You mean all the things I’ve done wrong in my life, God’s not going to punish me for?” Nope. “Why?” she asked. Because Jesus paid for those things. “What about those I’ll commit tomorrow?” she asked. Jesus paid for those, too.
God’s Word cleanses the dirt, cleans up my mind, and washes my body. It gets all the dirt, the junk, the grime, the grit, the shame, and the sin out of my life.’