Jack Nicholson's famous line from the movie "As good as it gets".
If you've never seen the movie, Nicholson plays an incredibly grumpy, opinionated, obsessive-compulsive bigot called Melvin Udall whose life is turned upside down when his gay neighbour is the victim of a brutal attack and Melvin has to look after his pet dog; as well as trying to coax his favourite waitress back to work after she quits to care for her ill son making it difficult for Melvin to have his regular breakfast served the same way, by the same person every day. In the process of all of this, the socially stunted Melvin has to learn the language of love in order to win the heart of Carol the waitress, whom he realises he is actually in love with. In a pivotal scene in a restaurant, Carol challenges Melvin to say something right then and there that will make her stay, forcing the already panic stricken Melvin to take a deep breath and utter his famous line. And what a line!
"You make me want to be a better man."
My wife makes me say this more often than I probably care. Now, don't get me wrong...she's not making any demands of me at all to repeat it, because she has actually no idea that I saying it as it's the little voice in my head that's delivering the line (tell me you've got one as well).
My Mum makes me repeat it to myself as well. So do some of my family and friends. I've even met complete strangers who have prompted my inner voice to once again repeat it. Even my cat does!
This is the true power of love you see. Love with no agenda other than to simply give for the sake of...well...love.
Unconditional love inspires us, showing a better way to live and calling us higher. Unconditional love is powerful. Love without terms and conditions. Love that accepts and forgives. Love that understands and cares.
The church hasn't done a great job unfortunately over the years at getting to grips with representing the unconditional love of God towards us all because it's fundamentally made up of people, and we as people all have a tendency to tag conditions onto everything. It's the fear of losing things that makes us do it. The fear of being let down. The fear of failure. And so we try to build safety nets around us in the forms rules, regulations, demands, expectations and "guidelines" in order to protect the status quo.
You need to do this because...
I will love you if...
God will love you when...
But the true power of love is unleashed in the total freedom of unconditionality. No rules. No regulations. No demands. No expectations. No borders.
When someone shows me love without demands, something rises within me, steps up to take stage centre in my head once again to deliver that great line: you make me want to be a better man. The answer to all our issues and problems I believe is indeed love. I know it sounds so simple, but seriously...try it on yourself for a start. Dare to tell yourself regularly that you are loved...loved by God in fact. Watch how the arguments will rise in your head first to try and convince yourself otherwise. We all have them. We've been trained from an early age to not accept the concept of unconditional love and our minds can't really cope with it. But stick with it. Repeat it to yourself. Allow yourself to begin to feel it and slowly you will get used to this radical idea that you actually are loved without condition.
Take a few minutes every day to remind yourself that you are loved.
Are you struggling with having a devotional time with God? That's probably because you're living under the 'must do' mantra of devotions. But when you realise there is no 'must do' coming from God, and that you are loved in spite of what you do or don't do, you will discover a healthier motivation to spend time with God that springs from the knowledge that you are simply loved. So the way to grow your desire to spend time with God and ease that erroneous feeling of guilt that comes along when you don't, is to start by simply spending a few minutes every day intentionally reminding yourself that God loves you unconditionally and in this you will begin to train yourself to feel loved by God
Love is powerful. Unconditional, unselfish love. Give yourself permission to feel it.