So, a while ago I read The Shack by William P. Young. If you know nothing of this book, a brief summary is this. One guy's family camping trip turns into a nightmare when his 7 year old daughter is abducted and murdered in a remote shack. He goes into what he calls The Great Sadness and becomes bitter at God. About a year or so after the tragedy occurs, he gets a note in his mailbox from God saying He will be at the shack that weekend. He goes, has a weekend with God, and you have to read the rest. I can't begin to explain what goes on, but I can tell you your life will be changed. While it's not the most eloquent book, it's definitely worth the read. I laughed, cried and was overwhelmed by it, and I am actually looking forward to reading it again in a few months. It's deep without being heavy, and an easy read. Now, I didn't write this post to briefly summarize a good book and tell you to read it, I actually am writing it for a much different purpose, but the book has spurned all these thoughts...
One of the main conversations the protagonist, Mack, has with God is about our relationship with God. I know that in my life, I have spent a lot of time trying to earn God's favor. I had repeatedly learned that God's grace was a "free gift" that I didn't deserve, but I spent so much time learning verses for prizes or points, that I felt like I was trying to earn God's saving grace. The problem was, those points were also used to get myself prizes as well. So now not only am I trying to earn God's grace, but I am getting fun prizes for myself too. In The Shack, the idea of a relationship with God is one of the central themes of Mack's coming out of his Great Sadness. In their conversation, the embodiment of the Holy Spirit tells Mack that a relationship out of love has no expectations at all:
"That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything tha emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that expectancy into an expectation- spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements."
God has no expectations of us! How freeing is that? I mean, suppose God had expectations of us. Only one person could (and did!) live up to those expecations: Jesus. We would fail Him EVERY day! But since He loves us, that relationship of love has no expectations of us to do anything. If we truly love him and want a relationship with him, the things that seem like "requirements" (i.e. prayer, Bible reading, etc.) wouldn't be done out of obligation, but a desire to grow closer to someone we care about. That's what God wants, a relationship that is built on love and what flows from that. It makes me feel better about when I make mistakes to know that I haven't failed God and that He loves me just the same no matter what happens. That is a true love relationship, unconditional and right. Faith without works IS dead, but a relationship of love REQUIRES no works. I have gone through life trying to earn God's grace and do works I felt required to do. Now when I do those daily tasks of praying and spending time with God, I feel like I'm doing them out of love, not because I have to. How much of a difference that makes in my daily life is CRAZY! Love it!