I was driving home from college a few weeks ago, and those long drives tend to get me thinking deep, philosophical things that my scatterbrained self can’t dedicate proper mind-space to when I have ten million things going on. Something about being in a car with nothing to pay attention to but the road ahead gives my brain the freedom and space to run amok.
Recently, I noticed that I’ve been looking for God to impress me. I’ve been looking to Him expectantly, crossing my arms and tapping my feet, like a bratty child. Here’s how I noticed it:
I was driving (as I said) and praying about a situation I’ve spent a great deal of time questioning. Not meaning to necessarily even think this, I prayed, “Lord, you know what would really impress me? If You made this happen.”
Whoa. Full-stop, almost immediately, a voice in my head declared: “God isn't here to impress you.” It was one of those thoughts unleashed, a thought that I alone could never think up. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was speaking a truth into me that I needed to hear.
This realization brought me to the core of guilt. All this time, I feel like I’ve been looking to God to impress me—at least with this one particular situation. I’ve been tapping my foot impatiently, thinking some grandiose gesture needed to happen in order for me to see the good work that God is surely doing in my life.
On this same train of thought, my mind involuntarily wandered over to this: God is love. If this is true, think about who God is: He’s about faithfulness. He’s about loyalty. He is not about impressing someone. He’s not about fleeting beauty or glittering promise or whimsical flirtation—He is a steady, long-lasting, deeply-enduring treasure, and that’s what makes Him impressive—because He is everything that we are not. Our fragile human condition or fleeting beauty and charm is not, and never will be, impressive—it is His endurance that is the true picture of love, and this alone is what makes love impressive.
I hadn’t really given it thought until that point, but that’s the honest truth: I base my ability to love someone or be loved by someone off my ability to impress them. Read it again and let that sink in. I think that my impressiveness = my promise. My hope. My future.
I think a lot of us, myself included, have forgotten how to love. Not just how to love, but what love even looks like. Until recently, to me, love = impressiveness. I based whether or not I liked someone based on how impressive they were to me. I based loving other people not on God’s terms, but on my own. God’s terms are to “love the least of these” (Matthew 25:45) because the Father loves the poorest, the most broken and helpless in spirit (“those who are the last shall be first and the first last”—Matthew 20:16).
My terms are to love those who can get something in return for me. I want to love those who can heighten my image, or bolster my resume, or who will make me more known or seen. Admitting this is hard, but realizing it has broken me. For the most part, I choose to love the people who can give me something in return. Whatever they have to give me is the impressive part. I want to impress them with who I am, so that they can impress me with what I want.
I feel convicted when considering that Christ Himself was most likely homeless. Christ Himself was a minority, an outcast, looked down upon in his own community because of their suspicion towards the nature of His pure conception. I don't think I would believe my friend if she told me that she was pregnant as a virgin. I would internally shame her for being a liar and wonder secretly who the father was. Neither would I have welcomed Jesus into my own home because I don’t think I’ve ever readily welcomed a radical, unshaven, unkempt homeless person who associates himself with the likes of prostitutes, tax collectors, and leprosy victims in my house.
How incredibly convicting that is to realize! Jesus says in Matthew 25:40-45: “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” This alone shows me that Jesus would have been among the “least of these,” and my response, more than likely, would have been to doubt his validity as a rabbi because he wasn’t “upstanding” enough, then shut the door in His face. How shameful. What a sinner I am.
This revelation alone has made me realign my thinking in ways I cannot even begin to describe. By reading the Gospels and considering who Jesus was in His humanity, it has been revealed to me that I have never even once been close to loving Christ in the way I should be. I love the idea of Christ, a Christ who holds baby lambs in oil paintings in my Sunday school. I love the Christ who takes on the form of a genie for my sake, the Christ who wants to see me get a 4.0 GPA, fall in love, have a few upstanding children, and live a lavish life so that I can be more comfortable and happy. I love the Christ who asks very little of me. I love the Christ who doesn’t challenge me to rethink the entire alignment of my prideful heart. I love the Christ who brings blessings upon me and my family.
But here’s what I’m learning: I need to learn to love the Christ who can drive a legion of demons into a herd of pigs into the Sea of Galilee. I need to learn to love the Christ who already knows what, exactly, I need, and will walk alongside me as I navigate these waters. I need to learn to love the Christ who may not have marriage and children in my life plan. I need to learn to love the Christ who asks more of me than I could ever fathom, but will make me more rough-around-the-edges, tough yet tender, for it.
The earthly cycle of loving for recognition is heartless and cold and I want to learn how to really, truly love again—without borders, without reservation, without expecting anything in return. I want be overcome with love because it’s what Jesus would’ve done. Love those who won't be able to give me anything in return. Love without expectation. Love radically. Love the least of these.