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"Some time ago, the LORD appeared to me and told me to say: 'Israel, I will always love you; that's why I've been so patient and kind." - Jeremiah 31:3 (CEV)
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Jennifer E. Jones on
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Just the Way You Are

By Jennifer E. Jones Producer I should have known better.

Recently I was hanging out with friends who were both engaged. They were stocking up on marriage advice, and the apartment was littered with literature. I guess I got bored while watching Smallville, because during a commercial break, I began flipping through one of their books.

Frankly, we singles have no business reading books for newlyweds. So I was asking for it… and I got it. When I was done, I was absolutely petrified that I would die alone with at least 12 cats.

In the first few chapters, the author listed characteristics and personality traits in a person whom you would want to avoid if you’re thinking of marriage. These people for some reason or another don’t make good life partners. They’re too loud, too stubborn, and they’re two steps away from being on a reality TV show. I looked at the checklist and was surprised to find myself painted in black and white. According to leading marriage experts, I should come with a warning label.

I had two options. I could say calmly, “Well, that’s his opinion,” and leave it be. Or I could take it personally. Guess which one I chose.

My overactive imagination and I could just see the panel of judges saying, “Jenni, baby doll, you know we love you, but you’re just not wife material. Tough break, kid. Next!”

After a few pages, I closed the book, called the author a name I won’t repeat, and tossed the offensive material onto the coffee table.

For even the most confident of us, it’s harsh to have your sins categorized, put in bullet points and counted against you. But it’s even worse to buy into the hype that you’re the one with the problem.

How many times have you heard someone say:

“Nobody wants to marry me because I have two kids already.”

“I cheated on my diet again. I'll never lose weight. I’m hopeless.”

“I can’t believe I made that mistake. Everyone must think I’m so stupid.”

Blah, blah, blah. It all winds up in the “I’m not good enough” bin.

Let's get out of the way right now that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with you just because you can't catch a lucky break in certain areas. Some times bad things happen to good people. Sadly, that’s life in a fallen world.

What I want to address is our habit of condemning ourselves when we’re not where we want to be.

I Peter 4:8 says that "love covers over a multitude of sins." Yet how often do we go underneath that love, dig out all our problems and list them as reasons to loathe ourselves? We connect at least four points of frustration together and let the confetti for the pity party fly.

There’s no reason to do this especially when the vision we create for ourselves isn’t at all how God sees us.

The Lord, in all of His infinite wisdom, declares you the pride and joy of His creation. He knows every single flaw, every imperfection, and He still calls you His “masterpiece” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT). He chose you, set you apart and continually loves you in spite of your propensity to fall.

I don’t want to get into a whole debate about grace versus persistent sin. There’s a place for holiness. There’s a place for rebuke, chastening, and correction. But there’s a big place in God’s heart for mercy, and it’s about time we start resting in that.

It’s certainly not the easiest thing to do. I’m a bit of a control freak, and I’m particularly hard on myself for not measuring up. So the idea that I am in God’s unconditional grace still baffles me every day.

“But God, I'm such a failure.”

I still love you.

“Yeah, but I haven’t change at all in this area.”

Well, we’re working on that. Don’t beat yourself up.

“But I messed up again!”

I’ve got you covered.

How in the world does He love us this much? I’m not sure, but I know it’s beyond our grandest imagination.

I was trying to fathom it one day when one of my favorite songs written by Billy Joel came on the radio -- “Just the Way You Are.” Here he’s trying to convince an unsure lover of his limitless devotion:

I don't want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew
What will it take till you believe in me
The way that I believe in you

I said I love you and that's forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are

That’s it, folks. God loves you just the way you are – all of you. Every blemish, every bald spot, every predisposition to act foolishly… None of it escapes His eye, and He uses it all to draw you closer to Him.

Got comments? Drop me a line.

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