“God is looking for a soft heart, not a perfect life. He is looking for a relationship connection, not a stage performance. God values our heart condition over our performance because He understands that what the heart loves and longs for, the heart will eventually do. In short, God understands us better than we can imagine.”
-Russ Ewell, When God Isn’t Attractive
One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel misunderstood. I can’t tell you how many times people have called me Alex, Alexia, or Alexa (especially after Amazon came out with their new AI device. Phone calls with people who own those things are ROUGH). The fear of being misunderstood is why so many of us hate it when Starbucks baristas spell our names wrong. Were they not listening? Do they not care? It’s also why we put on a mask that few have seen past. What would our friends think if they knew the real us? What would family say if we showed them what was really going on inside? We become so afraid of people not understanding us or loving us for who we really are that we hide the parts of ourselves that are broken, ugly, and flawed. We become so consumed with having an outward appearance that people will accept that we don’t ever truly feel loved, because people only love the performance rather than the real us. When we have this mindset, we project it onto the people around us and onto our relationship with God, assuming that they would never love or understand us if they knew who we really were on the inside. But that’s not how God views us.
“Whenever our hearts make us feel guilty and remind us of our failures, we know that God is much greater and more merciful than our conscience, and he knows everything there is to know about us.”
-1 John 3:20 TPT
Even when we feel that our scars are showing, that our failures are more than we can handle, and that we will never live up to the image we have put forward for the world to see, God says that he is so much bigger than all of that. He is bigger than any mistake we could make, any flaw we could have. He knows everything there is to know about us and still loves us, even when we feel that we are incapable of being loved.
In the movie Wonder, Auggie’s mother exhibits this same unconditional love and understanding that God has for us. As a child with Treacher Collins Syndrome – a condition that, among other health issues, leaves the one who has it with facial deformities – Auggie experiences bullying and isolation during his first week of school. He feels misunderstood, alone, and ostracized from his peers. Below is a scene after Auggie gets upset at his family for asking him about school, and his mother talks to him about what really matters.
As Auggie’s mother explains, whatever we look like on the outside is nothing compared to who we are on the inside. No scar, blemish, or flaw could change what kind of person we are. God has the same heart towards us that Auggie’s mother has toward him. He doesn’t see our ugliness or our failures, but rather looks inside and wants to know and understand who we really are.
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”
God doesn’t get disgusted by what we are most ashamed of. He doesn’t get fed up when we make the same mistake over and over. He doesn’t get tired of our stories, or zone out when we become passionate about something. He not only knows every detail of our lives, but is delighted by them. He loves getting to know us more and more, uncovering our insecurities and reassuring us of who we really are, discovering our innermost parts and celebrating them for what they are. God doesn’t want a performance from us, and will never be able to show us that he cares about the real us until we drop the act and let down our guard with him.
“Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.”
-Psalm 51:16-17 MSG
When we refuse to let go of our pride of wanting to look like we have it all together and to get people to like and admire the image we put forward, we never actually receive the love and appreciation we are so desperately trying to get. It is not until we put the pride aside and be willing to admit how shattered our hearts really have become. Though it is one of the most vulnerable feelings, it won’t go unnoticed. God can put the broken pieces of our hearts back together, if only we let him.
What image are you putting forward to God and people? What in your life has left you feeling heart-shattered? What is the one thing you can share with God and people today that will make you feel more understood by them?
To learn more about how to stop performing and have a relationship with God where you feel loved and understood, read Chapter 1 of Russ Ewell’s book, When God Isn’t Attractive, “Turning Unhealthy Thoughts into Healthy Ones.”