Most of us have believed that we needed to impress God, we had to succeed, we had to achieve, to do good, in order that God should accept us, in order that God should approve of us, so that God should love us. It all started with us, depended on us, and God's attitude to us was then a response, a reaction to us, to our achievements, to our success, to our goodness, it was a reward for being good, virtuous, etc. If we failed, then we were doomed, and so we worked ourselves into a frazzle trying to impress God, seeking to make ourselves acceptable, lovable, etc. That was the burdensome image that I had of God for a very, very long time - thinking that God was a kind of spoilsport on the lookout to catch me out doing something wrong, thinking or saying something wrong, ready to pounce and declare gloatingly, 'Gotcha!'
"What a relief, no, a veritable liberation, when I learned that God is really the Prodigal God, incredible in the love that He has for all of us. It was tremendous stuff when one discovered the truth about the God of Grace.... When I did find out this central truth about God (or did it find me?), it grasped me and possessed me so that all my sermons and addresses are really about this one necessary fact. I have not yet worked out its full implications. I am still bowled over as the true significance unfolds day by day....
"And the one truth is this: God loves me. Full stop. The initiative belongs to God. It is not as if God were reacting or responding to something that existed before. No, the glory and the wonder, as St. John puts it, are 'not that we first loved God, but that God loved us' first, and everything, just everything, flows from that fact.
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