I was challenged recently to imagine God looking at me with love. When I sat down and closed my eyes and envisioned God looking at me, I realized there are two ways it could go. One, the look of delight that a parent has for a child who has done something for the first time, or who has told an unexpectedly witty story, or otherwise surpassed expectations. I could imagine a look of loving commendation. Two, the look of compassion a parent has for a child who has fallen, who has been heartbroken by an unrequited crush or hurt by the words of a friend, who has cried in frustration over not getting her own way. I could imagine a look of care for a beloved and vulnerable child.
God’s Gaze of Compassion
When I first tried to imagine God looking at me with love, I recoiled at the thought of that gaze of compassion. I realized how much I want God’s acclamation. I realized how afraid I am for God to see my neediness. I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden, wanting to cover my nakedness. My gut reaction to the thought of God seeing me in my need exposed my own heart. And then that moment served as an invitation to bring my whole self—including the needs, the hurts, the anger, the frustration—before the Lord. Even more, it served as an invitation for me to see the ways I still don’t understand and trust God’s love for me.
I suspect some of us are more comfortable with God’s delight than God’s compassion, and others are more able to imagine God’s compassion than God’s delight. Jesus insists that his disciples understand God as a loving Father, which is to say, Jesus insists that we experience the compassionate love of God as well as the delighted love of God.
All of us are invited to know the fullness of God’s love as the one who delights in our gifts and abilities and who cares for us in our needs and brokenness. We are invited to bring our whole selves to God and to receive God’s love for us in all that we are.
Want to read more? Here are some recommendations:
- How to Receive God’s Love
- Really Good Bacon and the Expansive Love of God
- Reading the Bible as a Love Letter