by AJ Hall
I can say confidently: I love my wife more today than the day I married her.
Not only do I feel more in love with her, I actually love her more. I’m able to love her more because my capacity to love has grown—my heart has become more open to her; I’m more devoted to her, I’m more sensitive to her touch, and I have a deeper appreciation for her.
When we first got married, I had all the same feelings of attraction. I’ve always been attracted to my wife—how could you not be? She’s beautiful!
But I also had a 25-year-old, established practice of closing myself off to any deeper kind of relationship. My walls were up. My mask was on. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had shut myself off to any form of intimacy—I couldn’t tolerate anything or anyone getting too close to me.
You see, the truth is: I had engineered safeguards in my life against ever having to experience the sting of rejection. If I don’t ever let anyone in, I can’t be hurt. If I keep you at a distance, there’s no chance I’ll be vulnerable to attack.
Isn’t it amazing how we human beings can craft such intricate systems of behavior in our daily lives to keep people out—without even being aware of it?
But here’s the thing: we all have our junk. We all have our strange tendencies. We all have our quirks. Many of us carry pain and hurt from our past. And we bring all of this junk into our marriage. Doesn’t marriage have a way of drawing our junk to the surface?!
Doesn’t marriage have a way of drawing our junk to the surface?!
But you’re not stuck where you are. You can change. You can grow. You can develop an ability to love.
Let me encourage you today: YOU can have a great marriage. You can build a great marriage. I don’t care how jacked up you are. I don’t care where you are starting from. You can grow. You can get better. If I can have a good marriage, anybody can have a good marriage!
It doesn’t matter how much pain you’ve been through. How much fear has been jam-packed into that soul of yours. How many mistakes you’ve made. How closed off you are to others. You can learn to love… and be loved. You can learn to let other people in. It just starts with one simple thing:
you need COURAGE to change!
Why being wanted is better than being needed.
Back when I was a college pastor living in Gainesville, Florida, I had the privilege of hosting and ministering alongside a remarkable missionary from Vietnam. This man was a pillar of faith! In his late 70’s and suffering from Multiple Sclerosis for years, he had comforted dying street children in his arms and washed the feet of real, modern-day lepers.
Known as Uncle Charlie, this man had built an orphanage and outreach ministry to the street children of Ho Chi Min City. Under communism, he had smuggled Bibles into the country for the underground church and now spent his days preparing and delivering peanut butter sandwiches to all his “kids”. When he spoke to my students, I remember how he pushed himself slowly around in his walker and laid hands and blessed the young people hungry for a word of encouragement.
This great man once lamented to me about the attitude of many of the ministers he came across in the United States. He noticed that far too many acted as if God needed them and their great talents.
He leaned in: “AJ, always remember: God doesn’t need you. You need God.”
I’ve found this to be a true saying.
God does not need you.
In other words, you do not impress God. You’re not that big of a deal. God is not (and never will be) awestruck by your gifts, talents, skill-sets, religious effort and/or achievements. And to act as if God needs you belies a considerable amount of self-importance—I’m obviously pretty impressed with myself when I secretly think, deep down somewhere, “You know, God should be pretty happy to have someone as great as me.”
It’s pride. And pride never ends well.
The truth is when we travel along the path of pride we end up in one of two places: feeling like we’re awesome, or feeling like we stink. Really high or really low. I’m amazing… I suck.
Back and forth we go— arrogance and despair become the vicious cycle of religion. I’m amazing: it’s time to judge everybody else! Oh no, I’m terrible: I’m the worst person ever. Yah, God is impressed with me! Oops, oh no. God thinks I’m an idiot!
Ever feel trapped in this cycle?
Here’s the good news:
God doesn’t need you, but He does WANT you!
He never intended for you to impress Him. God is not some secret admirer from afar; He’s a loving father looking down into the eyes of His child. He’s an up-close and personal God. He’s intimate.
God will settle for nothing less than intimacy. He wants relationship. He wants you.
He’s not content to sit back at a distance and let you try to impress him— He doesn’t want you out there performing for Him, He wants you close. Don’t you see? The merry-go-round of religion has too much relational distance for God’s taste. He’s intimate. He’s intense. He’s a father who will not stop with a pat on the back— He’s coming in for a hug. God’s not interested in feeding your ego, He wants to feed your soul with affirmation and love.
Why would we seek to impress God when we can be loved by God?
Don’t short-change yourself! God gave up His very own Son so that we could be loved. Jesus died so we could be counted as sons and daughters. So we could know God as Father.
Embrace the call to be a son or daughter. To be loved like a son or daughter. Don’t settle for the lonely and empty path of pride and religion.