One of the things I love most about my closest friends is the sense that I can be completely relaxed in their presence. It’s the feeling of being secure because we know that they love us and they completely accept us just as we are—flaws, blemishes, and all. The relationship is invigorating, encouraging, and life-giving, and instead of having to keep our guard up, we can just relax and enjoy each other’s company.
And then there are those other relationships that we all have where we can’t completely relax because we know that if we do, there is a high probability that we will be judged negatively. In these kinds of situations, we often feel as if we need to perform a certain way instead of being able to just relax and enjoy.
The difference between the two types of relationships is kind of like how my closest friend can come hang out with me when I’m wearing my old, stained sweatpants and slippers because he doesn’t care what I’m wearing. He is more interested in the relationship than my “performance”—whereas with others, I may feel the need to tidy up a little first. Similarly, some women never let anyone other than their closest friends see them in their pajamas and without makeup. Some relationships are totally real, while others are just not quite on the same level.
For many years, my relationship with God was really more like the second one—a relationship based on my performance rather than one where I was able to simply enjoy God. When we live in a performance mode with God, we are focused on the need to be a certain way in order for God to accept us. Our spiritual life revolves around being approved by God instead of simply being with Him. And let’s face it: since none of us is ever going to be “good enough,” a performance-based relationship leads us into the swamp of negative feelings of shame, guilt, and condemnation.
God desires the kind of relationship with us where we can completely enjoy one another’s company. He certainly understands everything about us and, like our best friends, is never surprised or alarmed at who we really are. He sent His Son to save us so that we could enjoy Him without any pretenses or the need to perform. Once I really got this in my heart, I was finally able to enjoy God more fully, somewhat like how He enjoys me!