When I was a counselor at Flathead Lutheran in Kalispell, MT, I learned a song that went like this:
I will change your name / You shall no longer be called / Wounded, outcast / Lonely or afraid / I will change your name / Your new name shall be / Confidence, joyfulness / Overcoming one / Faithfulness, friend of God / One who seeks my face.Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp songbook
The creation story in Genesis tells us that God looked at what God had created and said, “It is good.” The Bible tells us that we were created for God’s pleasure (Rev 4:11). That means God delights in us, which means that we don’t have to wonder if God cares for us, or if God is listening to our prayers, or about doing enough to please God. It’s quite the opposite, actually– there is nothing God likes more than to be with us and hear from us. Just looking at my garden in the growing months fills my heart with joy; that’s how God feels when God looks at us and when we lean on God.
At times, this truth can be hard for us to believe. We know ourselves well, and, as someone I know once said, “We carry our faults, failures, and insecurities like a snail carries its shell.” But because of the cross, we can be certain that nothing will change how much God loves us and delights in us. In fact, through our adoption as God’s children, when God looks at us, God sees nothing less than what God sees when God looks at Jesus.
It’s like when my kids were in preschool and their class would sing a couple songs for the parents. When the kids lined up to sing, I smiled as I watched them crane their necks to try and spot their parent or grandparent. They were thrilled to have us there and soaked up the attention. As I watched, I thought that they wouldn’t have had to sing a single song and we would still be crazy about them.
If you are a loving parent, you know exactly what I mean. We love our children so much that sometimes it hurts, simply because they are our children. This is something I tell parents when they come to have their child baptized, and then I tell them that that’s how God feels about each of us. There is nothing we have to do to earn God’s love; God loves us simply because we are. It gives me goosebumps every time.
We often try to make it more complicated than that, and, certainly, there are ways that God desires us to live in order that we might be whole, have meaningful relationships, and enjoy a safe and healthy life. But even though that is the case, God’s love for us is never contingent on us getting or doing things right. Just as a loving parent looks forward to holding their child and looks on them with adoration, that’s how God feels about us. As it says in Isaiah 43, “I have called you by name, you are mine.”