One of the greatest pleasures in the world is to be liked.
I live next to and nanny for two of the sweetest kids I’ve ever encountered. When I walk in the door in the morning I hear them chanting at the breakfast table “Greer’s here! Greer’s here! Greer’s here!” When they see me walk out my door towards my car they race out of their house, begging for hugs. I love being liked.
I married a boy who genuinely likes me. He singled me out, put a ring on my finger, and vowed to spend his days cherishing me. Every now and then, when I remember to look above the normalcy of daily life with him, I look over at him teaching choir or getting dressed in the morning and I marvel in the wonder it is that he likes me.
I like to be liked. Everyone likes to be liked. There’s a sense of acceptance, of security, of self-worth, of fulfillment that comes with knowing someone else is genuinely glad that you’re in their life.
There’s a song that I learned as a small child. You probably know it too.
“Jesus loves me, this I know.”
I don’t remember a time that I didn’t know this song. That I didn’t know that I was loved by God. It was a fact I had engrained in my head from the time I was born. It is something I still sing of.
Jesus loves me, this I know. Oh, how He loves us. He loved us to the point of death. The blood that streamed from his hands and feet as they were nailed to the cross is the ultimate picture of love being poured out over our heads. Jesus loves us.
But for some reason we’ve made a distinction between what it means to be loved and what it means to be liked. “I love you, but I don’t like you,” is a phrase we’ve heard – or even used – before. It means that we’re willing to stick around and show kindness to people even if we don’t particularly care for them. We feel this way sometimes about our siblings, our children, our spouses, our students, our co-workers. We will love because we have to, but no one will receive our liking unless they actually deserve it.
I think sometimes that’s how we think of God’s love for us. He is obligated to love us because, well, because He is God. His nature demands it. He will stick around and continue to keep an eye on us, but when we are disobedient, when we rebel, when we stray, when we fall short of His glory He is free to withhold his liking from us. “I love you,” we think we hear Him say. “I love you, but I don’t like you very much.”
But what if…
What if God liked us?
What if the God who told the sun to shine and called forth the stars in the sky, the God who hand-carved the mountains and set the planets spinning, what if the God who holds the earth in His hands and created universes beyond what we will ever know … what if He likes you? What if He has a special place in His heart for you, and what if He smiles at the thought of you? What if there is a fondness that He holds for you, and a loving tenderness behind all His plans for you? What if He is eager to spend the day with you simply because He enjoys your company? And what if He watches you through the night because your heavy breathing and serene face is a delight to Him?
Would the knowledge that God likes you change the way you live? Would it change the perspective you have of yourself? Would it shape the way you treat others?
“If the question were put to you ‘do you honestly believe that God likes you?’ – not loves you, because theologically He must – how would you answer? God loves by necessity of His nature; without eternal, interior generation of love, He would cease to be God. But if you could answer ‘The Father is very fond of me,’ there would come a relaxedness, a serenity and a compassionate attitude toward yourself that is a reflection of God’s own tenderness.” –Brennan Manning The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus
We know this. We know this in our heads. But our forgetful hearts lose grasp of this world-altering truth. We get frantic and lazy and busy and tired and we neglect to remember that which would lighten our dismal worlds and relieve our heavy souls. We brush past an outstretched hand of the God of the universe beckoning us to receive His favor and to walk in His company. He asks simply because He LIKES us.
We too often think of God in regards of the rules, the standards, the missions, and the duties He calls us to. But it seems that whenever I get quiet before Him and open my soul to His presence, He speaks this first: I like you.
One of the greatest pleasures in this world is to be liked. The greatest pleasure we will ever know is to be liked by God.