There was many years ago a young lady I knew who was rather mad at God. She had fallen in love with a married man. He didn’t leave his wife for her, and so, she reasoned, any God that could let her hope for a love with this man and then take it away was not the kind of God she wanted to hang out with.

On top of it all, she told me, she was the “best little girl He had.” She went to daily Mass, she said her rosaries, she did all that needed to be done, but crap still happened to her, and God can now just stay in His own corner of the universe.

I was reminded of this conversation upon reading this interesting post about confession and the line “So when we mess up, it’s not as if we suddenly *stopped* being worthy of God’s love. We were never worthy in the first place, and he loves us the same anyway.” Many of us look at the spiritual life as we look at our relationships. They are negotiations over desire and obligation, careful balances of freedom and surrender. “I’ve worked all day for the family, I should be able to come home and be left alone,” says a husband. “I’ve made the dinner and cleaned up, do I really have to listen about your day?” says his spouse. We treat people as forensic partners in keeping a constant ledger of love, and we do the same with God.

“I’ve said my prayers; I’ve gone to confession; I’ve done the good deed, now leave me alone Lord. Let me have my way. Couldn’t you just turn your back for a moment, look the other way, and let me have this one little thing all to myself? How much longer do I have to do these little things of Yours before I’m finally free to do what I want?” Freedom is the commodity of the ledger, and we are passionately possessive of it against God and our neighbor.

But the fact is that what we get from God, those wonders of comfort and grace, were never earned. We will never satisfy Him. It was never a matter of us behaving well enough in order to be loved. He just does so, regardless of our failings. We don’t get a pass from interior transformation and surrender, for being His best little thing. The sooner we come to realize that, the sooner our bitterness about life’s pains can be a thing of the past.