By Vinita, based on Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand: Living Fully in Friendship with God.
“I have begun to suspect that the notion of God’s love as utilitarian is a defense against accepting God’s love. If I convince myself that God loves me for the sake of other people, then I do not have to face the enormity of being loved by God for myself alone. . . . So too, God is kept at a distance if I [think] “God loves me for what I can do for others.” It is a very subtle way of keeping God at a distance: “God does not love me so much as these other people.” I am loved for what I can do for God. Interestingly enough, it is also a way both to puff up my ego and to make sure that I am never satisfied with myself” (pp. 37–38).
I think Fr. Barry has it right. We come up with all sorts of ways to create distance between ourselves and God. Why? Because to open ourselves to God, bare of any other motivation or purpose, is to face the Divine without any sort of defense or argument. If I come to God only because I am relying on God’s mercy, compassion, and friendship, all I have to offer is my attention and receptivity. That can be scary; it can make a person feel naked.
This is why sometimes it’s easier for a more hardened, desperate sinner to approach God than it is for those of us who are fairly well-behaved and who don’t have a history of murder, grand larceny, assault, and so forth. After you have crossed major boundaries of morality and humanity, you know you don’t have a leg to stand on—you are completely at the mercy of the God you approach. You have no bargaining power, no power at all. What else can you do but turn to God and say, “Please help me. Please heal me. I have nothing to offer, nothing I can do or say.”
But we “decent” folk often labor under the illusion that we are helping the Good Lord hold up the universe. We even feel, at times, that God is depending on us. Then, when we fall short in some way, we dare not bring ourselves before God because we are guilty of imperfection.
God desires our friendship, and a true friendship invites participation. So, naturally, we join in the work of God—bringing up children, tending the sick, fighting injustice and oppression, aiding the poor, and so on. But always at the front of our activity is the fact of our relationship with God of the universe. We exist because God desires us. I can write those words and say them out loud, but I will spend my whole life understanding, in my soul, what they truly mean.
A Spiritual Adventure for the Week
Make a list of all the things you think God expects from you. This might take awhile. But list everything you can think of—things you should do as well as things you should not do. The list will include actions but also words and attitudes.
Then, at least once or twice during the week, come to prayer with this list in hand. Offer it to God and say, “I know your dream for me is much bigger than this. Help me be free of expectations and simply wait to perceive—and receive—your presence.”