If I had been asked to draw a picture of God when I was a child I think I would have tried to draw someone who looked a bit like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. A tall, skinny white-haired old man leaning on a staff. And he would not have been looking at me. In some ways that last part says more than anything else – he would not have been looking at me. Oh I prayed to God as a child. It was taught at school, and we actually prayed together as a class every day. We had bible stories, and I believed them, because the teacher believed them, or at least she said that she did. And every night I prayed on my own, the prayer that I had learned at school: “Day by day oh Lord I pray to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly.” I felt a need for God, so I prayed.
It could be said that as I got older my view of God matured, but in actuality I think it deteriorated. I began to see God as a bit of a task master, someone we had to perform for. If we did the right thing he wouldn’t do anything, but if we did the wrong thing we could expect some consequences. I felt he was pretty distant too, only interested in important people and situations. And this idea that we had to praise him all the time – I came to think he was an egoist. I did not like who I considered God to be, and I pulled away from him.
Now that I am much older if you were to ask me to draw a picture of God I would want to start with two hands, reaching out to me. Then I would draw a face, looking at me, smiling. Looking at me, me, someone pretty insignificant from the worlds perspective. Looking at me, smiling. He loves me. He wants to spend time with me. I am important to him.
So much has changed since I was a young child, but the most important thing that has changed is that I have come to know, in both my mind and my heart, that I am loved by God. I became a Christian when I was a teenager. Someone suggested that I try becoming a Christian and see if it worked. Sounds silly but that is exactly what I did. I admitted I was selfish sometimes, and I asked God to forgive me and come and be my boss – if he was for real. And he is for real. And that honest prayer that I prayed nearly fifty years ago, where I was simply trying this Christian thing, was the best decision I have made my entire life. I have never regretted it and I have never reneged on it. God is my boss, and he is the best boss ever. And the most important thing that he has wanted me to know, and know deeper, and know wider, and know thoroughly, is that he loves me. And because he loves me I want to please him.
When I first heard the UK Blessing it brought tears to my eyes. And the second time, and the third time, and on it goes. The Canada Blessing is great too, and all the other nations and groups who have come together to pray a blessing over their country – I love them all. But just thinking about that last phrase makes my eyes begin to water. “He is for you.” Over and over that truth is declared – God is for you. So many people need to hear that truth – God is for them. It does not matter whether you are a Christian or not, God is for you, he loves you, he wants to have a relationship with you.
Sharing the gospel is very important to me, and all too often I have tried to speak to someone and let them know that they are loved by God, but they refuse to believe that. It is not that they do not believe there is a God, it is that they do not consider themselves loveable. They have done too many things wrong in their lives and that causes them to think that God is angry with them. They think that God wants to judge them, not love them. I sometimes consider that the reason more people become Christians when they are younger rather than older is because they have not yet realized how often they are at fault in a situation. Just as when Jesus was drawing in the sand after the woman caught in adultery had been brought to him, it was the older people who seemed to recognize first that they had also sinned. And when you realize that you are not the person you should be, you think that God wants nothing to do with you. And you are wrong.
I am not the first person to say it, but there is nothing you can do to make God love you more and there is nothing you can do to make him love you less. He loves you. And he loves everyone around you. This is a message we need to hear again and again, and this is a message we need to be sharing, again and again.