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Loving God Just As He Is

Can I accept the God who accepts me?
Loving God Just As He Is

Casey Kasem's American Top 40 blared from the radio. Hugging my pillow tight, I swayed across the kitchen floor, eyes closed, singing:

I said I love you and that's forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

Billy Joel's lyrics took me beyond the embarrassment of my parents laughing at my flat-footed steps and off-key notes. The melody lifted me out of the loneliness of the dance itself: A pillow couldn't substitute for all the boys who'd never asked me for a dance at any of our high school dances or house parties. I wanted someone to sing those words to me. More, I wanted to sing those words to someone. Anyone.

More than 1,000 Sunday morning worship services later, I realize I have been singing Billy Joel's words to someone. They've been the subtext to hymns I've sung week after week—I Love You, Lord, Better Is One Day, Immortal Invisible. I wonder though if I really love the triune God—the great I Am Who I Am—just the way he is. I know I love who I'd like to think he is: the tender high-school boyfriend, emotive father, and dragon-slaying prince I've never had.

I Am Who I Am challenged Moses to exodus with nothing more than the bald sufficiency of who he is and always will be (Exodus 3:14).

I Am Who I Am declared to Isaiah, "Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

He cut through Job's anguished grasping: "Who has given me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under heaven is mine" (Job 41:11).

On one level, I Am Who I Am exists outside of the tears and fears that make up my life; a life that, most days, I'd like him to fix—to my specifications of course.

I AM is 100 percent "other."

Dare I then love I AM just the way he is? Does he want me to?

Yes, because I AM went further than the miracle of a burning bush to proclaim deliverance. He became one of us, sat beside a well to ask a Samaritan woman for water, and declared that very deliverance (John 4:25-26).

Can I love I AM just the way he is?

Yes, because I AM cried out his heart for justice and mercy, his compassion for the world, through the caked lips of a dying man on a cross.

In Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, a windy silence wraps the figures of John and Jesus' mother, Mary. Jesus has just breathed his last. Suddenly, a raindrop falls. It touches earth and the temple quakes while the curtain barring the Holy of Holies rips from bottom to top. Say what you will about Gibson's movie; that raindrop—a teardrop no less—bears witness to the fact that God the Father drank the same cup his son chose, finally, to drink.

That teardrop reminds me that I can live—abundantly—not having to have his final answer for all that cuts me up inside: the 2.5 million persons, mainly women and children, trafficked around the world; the 11 million people classified as refugees by the United Nations (49 percent are women and children); the silenced victims of domestic abuse. The great I AM tasted suffering, and that fact is becoming enough for me.

Do I love I AM just the way he is?

Yes, because I AM asks me never to be afraid of him: "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever!" (Revelation 1:17-18). What an invitation I AM offers me: to look beyond the burning bush; to turn my face to the scandal of the triune God-made-flesh and the outrage of a cross—and not look away; to look inside an empty tomb, then up—into his eyes.

"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm," he whispers, "for my love for you is stronger than death." It's an invitation to trust—with all I've got, holding nothing back.

And so I stand in that space where the wind of the Spirit blows, singing Sunday's hymns, and I begin to understand that, in Christ, I Am Who I Am speaks—no, sings—his hard-won passion over me.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Renee James

Renee James is a regular contributor for TCW, Leadership Journal, and the Gifted for Leadership blog. She lives in Toronto, Canada, and is the communications director for Baptist Women of Ontario and Quebec. She blogs infrequently at ReneeJames.org.

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God's Character; God's Love; Relationship with God; Worship
Today's Christian Woman, January/February , 2012
Posted January 1, 2012

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