I Am Unusually Fond of You

After a delightful spring break, I am now amping up for my third term of teaching Psychology at our local community college. I have noticed something about many of my students.

They are incredibly hard on themselves. 

And I am unusually fond of them.

Then I noticed something about my friends and family. They are all incredibly hard on themselves. And I am unusually fond of them.

And of course, from time to time, I am incredibly hard on myself.

So Much Pressure

Many of us set the bar very high. This is often especially true for Christians.We tend to be low on self-compassion, high on drive. We have been given a visual of what perfection looks like: Jesus. We regularly read stories of what the epitome of wisdom, love, truth, and perfect words and behavior look like. God in human form. And so, we are driven to be just like that. 

 Last Saturday was my 47th birthday. I laid down to take a nap, because really- is there a more contented thing to do on your birthday? I think not! I woke up to voices in my living room. I stumbled out to find… my daughter on my sofa! My daughter currently lives about 150 miles in one direction, while my son lives a few hundred miles in the opposite direction. So to see one of my children on my sofa is quite possibly the best surprise birthday gift a mother could ask for.

 She stayed the whole weekend, and we ended up watching The Shack together as a family. I have been staunchly avoiding both the book and movie for years (I’m not even sure why). But as the movie unfolded, tears streamed down my face (and my husband’s face- but don’t tell anybody).

 If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend it. It’s not cheesy, or low budget, or preachy, or surfacey, or ridiculously positive. (I have to admit, I am biased against many faith-based movies- for some of these reasons).  It’s gritty and real and deals with quite possibly the highest level of human suffering that exists- the kidnapping and murder of a young daughter. I watched this movie with my own precious daughter seated just a few feet away, which made the profound suffering in the movie hit particularly close to home.

So Much Compassion

The most startling thing about the movie, at least for me, is that it makes the compassion of God real. Our God is not some far away, stern, demanding entity watching with either disinterest or disappointment. And yet, that is the image of God that I must battle regularly.

 And for those who don’t believe in God (like many of my psychology students)- it's not an incorrect view of God that drives them- it is an inner voice that speaks in the same harsh manner: disappointment, criticism, and unreasonable demands. We can never do enough, be enough, or achieve enough. And, certainly, we never handle suffering very well. When and how will we ever “arrive” and be able to rest and enjoy life, impervious to challenges and setbacks? 

 At one point in the movie, the main character (played by Sam Worthington) begins to cry in anguish. His tears are solemnly captured in a bottle. His grief is so precious to God that the physical manifestation of his sadness is bottled, treasured, and kept for all eternity. I have shed quite a few tears over the last 47 years. Not one of those tears missed God’s notice.

 God cares about us intimately and passionately- in the same way I care about my daughter, my son, and my elderly dog, Jenna (pictured above). This week I brought Jenna (now 13 years old) in to have 11 teeth extracted. When I brought her home, she was loopy, bloodied and drooling, and in a lot of pain. I hovered over her, checking her constantly, lifting her onto a soft cushion where she could sleep and hopefully- with time- make a full recovery. I gently touched her forehead, stroked her back. That same type of “hovering” is how God is with us, in our striving and sufferings. He’s hovering over us with supreme compassion and understanding.

 He is paying intense attention to us- not in judgement or ready to be disappointed or let down. He is paying attention to us because He just, frankly, loves us. In the movie, it is worded like this- “I am unusually fond of you.” That is what God thinks of me, and you.

 If God were to send a clear message to people in my life, it would be this:

 “I see you working a difficult job to support your precious family. I see what breaks your heart and what makes you laugh. I see your concerns for the future of your children. I see all of you, and I am unusually fond of you.”

  “I see all the energy you pour into your family. I see you fighting cancer. I see your fears and your courage. I see all of you, and I am unusually fond of you.”

 To my students- “I see you struggling to balance work and school and life. I see how much pressure you are under, and how hard you are trying to achieve your goals. And I am unusually fond of you.”

 To myself- “I see your worries and frequent confusion. I see you struggle to maintain an identity based on my love and acceptance. I don’t hold anything against you. I don’t expect perfection, my precious daughter. In fact, I find you unusually lovable- just exactly as you are.”

 To you, reader- “I see everything that causes you suffering, fear, exhaustion, or unrest. I wish it were not so. I will do all I can to create goodness for you out of the badness. I love you so much- and I want you to rest in that. I want you to take all that pressure off of yourself. Just rest. I find you unusually precious. I couldn’t love you more. Be aware that I am hovering over you today, touching your forehead with my Spirit, patting your back with my love.”

Note to self: today I will not live under pressure to do more or be more. I will relax, and enjoy one day at a time- knowing I am loved, approved of, and hovered over by God each second of each hour of each day.

Psalm 56:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

Bottom line: God is Unusually Fond of You.


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