Most men I have known over the years have had difficulty with the idea of “unmerited favor.” As men we are wired to initiate and achieve. We get what we deserve. So it becomes a real stumbling block to come to the realization that we will never be able to earn God’s favor. This becomes exaggerated, if we have had a poor relationship with our earthly father. There are men who spend their entire careers trying to please their absent or distant father. When a young boy is not affirmed by his father as his masculinitydevelops, the spirit of a young boy goes searching for acceptance. Grown men will be motivated either unconsciously or consciously to prove their manhood to their fathers. But as I have had to tell many men; you probably will never get the affirmation that you are looking for from your earthly father.
The good news is that we do not have to earn our heavenly Father’s love. His presence in our lives, brings us the affirmation we need in our masculine soul. We must always remember that the Father’s love reflect his character. His character does not reflect our behavior, whether we are responsibile or irresponsible. Our behavior is secondary. Behavior does not increase or decrease God’s love for us. Our sin does not change the way God loves us. Similar to a parent who is disappointed in a child’s behavior, but in no way loving that child less, God’s love is not dependent on our behavior.
This deepening awareness over the years has allowed me to “relax” in my Father’s love. Whether I am good or bad, I am daily able to fall into the loving arms of my Heavenly Father and know that all things will be well. If I image God being disgusted, disappointed and anger with my behavior, I would not be able to relax, that is, come to rest in His love. This was a struggle for me much of my adult life. I felt that I have to try harder to be better, getting caught up in “performance trap.” As a pastor, this was an built in occupation trap. Pastors are supposed to be good. The result was that I would be more focused on my efforts. Any obedience on my part would be based more on fear then love.
Being able to let go and just relax in God’s love was out of the question. Surrender would mean coming to rest and relaxing in God’s loving presence. But if I thought that God was preoccupied with my shortcoming and failure, I would not be at ease in his presence. Only as I have come to accept myself as I am not as I should be, have I come to relax more in God’s presence. Real self-knowledge, that is knowing the good, bad and ugly about myself, begins by looking at God and seeing how he sees me. God sees me first through the eyes of love. This the basis of my identity. David Benner observes, “And identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God.” The depths of this statement has allowed me to relax in my Father’s love and his acceptance of me. What a relief it is to know that God knows me as a sinner, but that my sin does not suprise him. Sin does not reduce his love for me. I am “a beloved sinner.” Even though I fail, I can still relax in His loving embrace of me as his “beloved.”