Note: This post is adapted from a testimony of God’s recent work in me that I shared with my Christian fellowship at Purdue in October 2023.
I’m going to preface this post by saying we’re all looking for love somewhere. We all have this gap in our hearts we’re trying to fill.
Have you watched Fiddler on the Roof? Do you remember that scene where Tevye, the Papa, asks his wife, Golde, “Do you love me?”
If not, you’ll need to watch it sometime. The thing is, Tevye and Golde had been married for a long time—25 years—but it was an arranged marriage. They didn’t even meet each other until their wedding day. They never shared that passionate, romantic, newlywed love because they were just thrown together and had to figure out how to do life together. Golde is not a touchy-feely person. She’s a no-nonsense housewife, and “I love you” is not a regular part of her vocabulary.
Suddenly, this question is important to Tevye. “Do you love me?”
This is a question that’s important to all of us, whether we’re thinking of our friends, family, or our relationship with God. And it’s a question that was especially important to me last semester.
To be clear, I was already a Christian, and I had been since I was 12 or so. I was blessed to grow up in the church. But this was a question that was bugging me in early 2023, during my freshman spring semester. Was I really loved? Was I loved by God? Was I loved by the people around me?
The method I chose to go after this love was perfectionism. I wanted to do everything right, say all the right things, and be the kind of person people liked. But this method came with a strong fear of rejection. What if I messed up?
Overcoming Fear of Failure and Rejection
This summer, I brought my perfectionism to a new job at Chick-fil-A, and I was humbled. I will never look at fast food workers the same way again. There is so much information to remember, and it takes skill to work in that fast-paced environment and do everything the right way. And as much as I tried, I would either be too slow or mess things up. My perfectionism had come from a fear that I would be rejected in social settings. But now my workplace perfectionism came from a very real fear that I would be fired if I couldn’t get this right.
So. I had this manager named Darren. And he was great. He taught me how to roll up Doordash bags and put the stickers on them the “right” way. He was detail-oriented that way. But he was also the manager I call the scary manager. When he was not around, everyone breathed a little easier. When he was around, you knew he was watching your every move. He seriously counted the napkins I had put in a bag once, and I was so relieved to pass that test. But if I made a milkshake and it was a little messy … he was the one who caught it.
There was one time, or maybe two, he pulled me aside to talk to me, and I was terrified. Maybe I had made one too many mistakes, and this would be the day that I got laid off. However, he just told me I needed to be faster on Mobile Beverages, even if that meant making more mistakes, and he asked if there was any way management could help me get more experience there, and then I got back to work.
I learned to move on from my mistakes without fearing the mistakes to come. It was a lesson that came out of necessity because I made mistakes every day. Mistakes were just part of my job, and my perfectionism was effectively burned to the ground, imprinting a valuable lesson I could take away in life and in my walk with God.
Friends, God will never reject us. We’re never going to come to a point where one more mistake will get us “fired.” We can rest secure in His love for us, no matter how little we have to offer.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV), the apostle Paul writes, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Sharing Genuine Love with Others
Ok, that was my first unexpected lesson from working at Chick-fil-A. There’s another one too.
When I started my training, I fully expected that “Have a nice day,” would just be something I said to people. It’s just part of customer service, right? Customer service people can’t actually mean it when it’s the same thing they tell every single person who walks through the door.
However, something kind of weird happened. As I forced a smile and recited my script to customer after customer, I found that my words were 100% genuine. I didn’t know these people, and some of them were very different from me. But I knew they were created and loved by God, so I genuinely hoped they would experience some of His goodness that day.
I knew this wasn’t me, but this was God working in my heart to genuinely love these strangers. It’s something I’m still trying to practice. Having a heart that reflects God’s love for the people around me: people I know well and people I just met.
Ultimately, this love comes from the amazing undeserved love that God first showed us through Jesus Christ. Even when we ignored, disobeyed, rejected, and replaced Him, He continued to extend His forgiveness to us—caring for us, redeeming us, and offering us eternal life with Him.
Embracing God’s Love Through His People
That leads me back to Tevye’s question to his wife: “Do you love me?”
This question was something I used to struggle with. I had these conspiracy theories in my head last semester, that maybe people just pretended to like me. There were so many reasons I could list that I was not lovable.
But I saw God work in me to love strangers this summer. And I’ve seen the way He’s naturally bent me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ immensely. And I realized that He’s working in all of us to love each other. This love is genuine and true because it comes from Him.
So now I accept this love that has been given to me as something real. I don’t feel the need to go after it and earn it. I don’t feel the need to use this love to replace God. But I accept it as a reflection of His love. Seeing the love of the church for me helps me better understand God’s real and personal love for me as His child.
If you watch that video from Fiddler on the Roof, you should see the way that Tevye’s face lights up when Golde admits she loves him. Our desire for love isn’t a bad thing—it’s part of what makes us human. And what Golde and Tevye realize is that love is more than a newlywed feeling. Their love is built on years of sacrifice.
As a church, our love is built on the greatest sacrifice of all. Christ came down in human form and took the wrath of God that we deserved so that we can have life in Him. Our personal, individual love for one another is just a small picture of the personal, individual love our Savior has shown to each one of us in saving us.
To sum everything up, there are three lessons I learned last summer, and they are changing the way I do community this school year.
First, God’s love for me doesn’t change based on my performance. His love was ultimately expressed in Christ, who came not to save the righteous but to save us when we were helplessly lost in our sin. I don’t need to despise myself when I fall short, because I know I am a beloved child of God.
Second, I learned the importance of genuinely loving others in my life. This is a way we can reflect Christ and share His love. Check your heart. Be real.
Third, I learned to experience God’s love through His people. God shows His love for us through our families, our churches, and individuals in our lives. I don’t need to wonder if people are just “being nice.” I can accept this love as a gift from God.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26
What Do You Think?
Have you watched Fiddler on the Roof, worked in customer service, or learned an unexpected lesson about God’s love? Let’s start a conversation in the comments!