We don’t have to be inside God’s good boundaries for him to love us.
I was checking my Facebook feed over break breakfast recently when I noticed that Mike Smith (I am not using his real name for privacy purposes) had posted a status update. “I don’t know a Mike Smith,” I thought.
I clicked on Mike’s profile to discover that an acquaintance of mine, Michelle Smith, had become Mike Smith. I didn’t think much of it until Mike posted a rant several months later: “To everyone, I say you WILL address me by these pronouns [he/him]. I spend $60 a month and get 2 shots for these pronouns.”
My heart broke because in those words I felt a desperation—someone desperate to be loved and accepted, someone desperate to know their identity in a world of chaos. In those shouts of desperation, I realized that Mike and I are not all that different. In fact, we all long for love and acceptance; we all seek to know who we are.
And sometimes we look for the answers in the wrong places.
I didn’t know Michelle very well, but I do know that she struggled with depression and anxiety. Did that struggle lead to the transition to Mike? I can’t say for certain. But as one who has struggled with those same demons, I know what it feels like to be in that pit. It feels like you’re drowning, and a drowning person reaches out for anything to save them. I’ve read that a drowning person can sometimes unintentionally drown the rescuer because they are that panicked.
Most of us are faced with times when we are woefully unhappy, so much so that we panic, searching desperately for a way out, for some hope to save us. It is not wrong to feel that way. Could it be that Michelle looked for something to pull her out of the pit, and she thought that maybe becoming Mike could do that for her?
It’s altogether possible. Would it be wrong? In God’s eyes, yes, but maybe not for the reasons we Christians so readily jump to. God has put limits on our lives. Some are obvious: we need sleep, we need oxygen to breathe.
God has also given us commandments, such as do not commit adultery, do not lie, do not steal. We know we are not supposed to break these. Yet most of us (yes, even you) dance around these commands, cherry-picking our way so that we can feel like we are following them even when we are not.
But did you ever stop to think…maybe God is not an eternal killjoy. Maybe God puts those limits there for a reason…maybe God puts those limits there so we can find happiness.
It’s so easy to point fingers at someone who is transgender as one who is breaking God’s laws and limits. “God made man and woman. How dare you try to change that?” But is this act of rebellion any different than any I have made? Just because I have not rebelled against the limit on my gender does not mean I haven’t rebelled. How about telling “little white lies” to make myself look better? How about being angry at someone (the same as murder, says Jesus) or taking something from work?
We work too much, eat too much, drink too much, become addicted to drugs (or video games or pornography), divorce our spouses, become emotionally distant…how are any of these different from Mike’s sins? We clutch and strive at anything that can bring us hope and happiness and save us from our pit of despair.
And in all this striving, we are breaking the most important limit God has put in our lives. The first two commandments can be summed up as, “Love God supremely.” We don’t do that. God created us to come to him with our every need—to find our hope, our satisfaction, our happiness in him. Instead, we reach out to food, friends, family, strangers, Facebook, changing our identity, finding a new lover—anything else except reaching out to and seeking God. And because we do not accept this limitation God has put on us—that we were created by him for the purpose of being in a relationship with him—we will only find unhappiness in the end.
It is far too easy to judge Mike and tell him what he did was wrong, but if I really look at him and his life—and if I really look at me and mine—what I ought to feel is a profound sense of compassion. The moments in my life in which I have been closest to God have brought me the most profound joy. In Mike’s lament on Facebook, I can see that is not where he is at.
When I see a beautiful sunset, I want to share it, either by urging someone to watch it with me or by taking a picture to share it later on social media. How much more, then, should I want to share God’s love with everyone? And how can I share God’s love with Mike by yelling at him for the choices that he has made? I can’t. I can’t think of a single person (myself included) whose heart has been changed by criticism. My heart has been changed through compassion and love.
How can I expect that Mike will see that God’s boundaries are for his good when I don’t even accept mine? God tells me to rest, and I don’t do it, thinking that I can be all things to all people. God tells me that he is in control, but I work blindly as if that were not true.
There is no greater thing than to love and to be loved by God. But here’s what we forget: we don’t have to be inside God’s boundaries for him to love us. Christ loved us first, and while we were sinners, he died for us (Romans 5:8).
I’m struck that in my struggles with depression and despair and in Mike’s struggles, that God loves us both where we are at. And he loves us both too much to let us stay where we are at. He wants to lovingly bring us back to the boundaries he lovingly created for us both—boundaries that keep us from harm. He wants to restore us—all of us—to his pastures where we can find true hope and happiness.
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)