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.
Let every turntable proclaim: Jesus is coming again!
Above is a skratch track I put together in 2006.
At 16, I started to DJ and learn to mix. When God stepped into my life and saved me, I was still a club DJ in Gainesville, FL . This track is a funny moment in my journey.
As a young believer, I came across a “End-times” prophecy CD set from a recent conference. I took the CD’s and found cool little snippets from preachers. I also grabbed a funny clip from a Pat Roberson CD that somebody gave me. I still had a CD turntable and a skratch mixer, so I had some fun with the sounds.
Have you ever just felt “judgy”?
I’ll never forget a young women, her freckled face beaming from ear to ear, coming up to me after a message. She said: “Pastor AJ, I loved the message. God has been convicting me and showing me stuff. He’s helping me because I’ve been feeling SO “judgy” lately!”
Her heart for God made me smile along with her. I had never heard that expression before: “judgy”, but I could totally relate to what she was talking about.
Have you ever felt like this young women— all “judgy”? Have you ever found yourself just being critical of everything and everyone? (Sometimes I call it being “Mr. Crabby-pants”) Or maybe it’s a particular person that just bugs you and you don’t know why.
What I have found is that being critical has a lot more to do with me than it does with the person I am judging. To be consistently uncomfortable with people often is a sign that I am uncomfortable with myself. In fact, show me a critical person, and I’ll show you an insecure person. I’m convinced the more insecure you are—the more uneasy you feel about yourself—the more harsh and judgmental you are towards others.
So what’s the antiode for being judgemental?
A personal revelation of your love and acceptance in Christ will drive out all that icky insecurity!
When you really start to know—to have a personal knowledge of— God’s love and acceptance of you, you become a more secure person. That’s just the nature of love. It brings security. It brings a healthy and balanced sense of self. His acceptance brings peace to the soul—a sense of safety for our weary hearts. Like a massive anchor of self-worth, God’s loving affirmation becomes the foundation for our identity.
Say this out loud:
I am loved.
I am accepted.
I am not perfect.
I am something better: I’m wanted by God.
The more you understand and confess His Word, the more you allow God’s love and acceptance to seep down into your soul. And the less “judgy” you will be.
You are loved, child of God!
To believe these things makes you able to live in your own skin. To be yourself. To be. And to let others be. If God is okay with you, then you can be okay with yourself. And you can be a little easier on others.
You are accepted. What is the use in pulling others down? You are affirmed. Why is there any need to prove yourself?
Critical people carry turmoil within. This inner turmoil simply spills out onto others. That’s what criticism is: an overflow. An overflow of judgement. An overflow of shame. An overflow of fear. An overflow of self-hatred and negativity.
But God’s love quiets the storm and allows for mercy to be given and received. Through Christ’s indescribable gift, the Father welcomes and accepts you! In his great love, He gives you freedom and the room to grow. He gives you a chance! So now, you can give others a chance.
Embrace the call today! Be loved by God, dear reader. Get a revelation of your son-ship in Him. Ask, and He will show you. Accept his acceptance of you, and let God be the Judge. He’s better at it anyways.
You’ll start to be more comfortable with yourself, and a lot more comfortable with others!
One thing I know: God gives grace to build!
God is the giver of wisdom. He empowers us to win. He makes us to overcome.
There’s grace to be Loved!
There’s grace to build a marriage!
There’s grace to build a family!
There’s grace to shed shame and embarrassment!
There’s grace to overcome trauma!
There’s grace to rebuild a soul!
There’s grace to start over!
There’s grace to change!
There’s grace to forgive!
There’s grace to build business!
There’s grace to succeed!
There’s grace to win!
There’s grace to seize opportunity!
There’s grace to overcome a poverty menailty!
There’s grace to live like a son!
There’s grace to live noble and wise!
There’s grace to build a life of influence!
There’s grace to love God and love people!
May God, who alone is wise, shower you with grace today.