Did you ever know someone who made you feel like a rock star every time you saw them? Until his death last spring, our family friend Bob Hittner was that for me.
Bob always seemed as though he might die from the sheer joy of having your company once again. If you judged by his delight, you could almost imagine him putting his life on hold just to wait for you. Glorious You.
He was part of my life for 30 years—long enough to know my lesser side, yet he never made me feel that I was anything less than perfect. It wasn’t an act; it was a love fest. That kind of love made it so easy to summon my best self, so easy to believe that I deserved his good opinion.
When I remember this good man, I am reminded of the delight God has in each of us. How he loves to dwell and abide with his children the same way I loved being near Bob.
Of course, most of us force God to sit in the very back of our bus unless we’re in real trouble. Here he is, the creator of the universe, and us too, but he isn’t significant enough to ride up front. Not in the day to day.
Anyway. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly do anything right when I sense that I am being observed with a critical eye or one that doesn’t quite know me.
I bring this up for a reason: fortunately, God isn’t like that. No, he knows us and loves us completely. When he sees us acting and thinking like his children, he especially loves what he sees. Enough that he wants to hang out with us. Abide. Dwell. Delight. In ways that only he can. He is ready for that 24/7. Forever.
According to Ephesians 4, there are a few things that will repel God the same way they repel us: anger, wrath, tantrums, outbursts, and bitterness. Bad will toward others. If we hope to keep company with him, we must set these things aside because they are incompatible with God.
Just as we avoid bitter, angry, spiteful people, evidently God would just as soon have them camp elsewhere, too. His message in Ephesians 4 reminds me of the way my mom handled bad behavior. She gave me time to shake it off and get it right. “Go to your room, and don’t come out until you can act nice again.”
Even when we have good reason to be angry, bitter and spiteful, God asks us to sacrifice our impulses for the sake of our relationship with him. “Set it aside,” he says in Ephesians 4:31.
Even if the tender heart he wants us to keep will not be nourished or appreciated, much less reciprocated here on earth.
At times, it feels like it costs quite a lot to set things aside while others skate by with seemingly no remorse and no accountability for the harm they cause.
When you’re in the grip of such anger or bitterness, it’s difficult to comprehend the “setting aside” process.
God gets it. He gave up his only, perfect son for the sake of our relationship with him.
When forgiveness seems impossible, our best help may come by remembering Christ’s sacrifice and by basking in God’s eternal love and protection right now.