God wants the Real Me and the Real You, not a carefully cultivated image.
But - is acting "perfect" what we do with our biological parents? Are we afraid to be anything except "in control of ourselves" around them? Can we tell them our deepest hurts and insecurities, or do we have to "tough it out" in front of them? Do we think this is what being mature means?
As the mother of grown children, I can tell you that nothing makes me feel more trusted and loved than when one of my adult children feels free enough with me to tell me their hurts and fears and insecurities, and even to cry with me. Then I'm able to listen with my heart, to comfort them, soothe them, and tell them "I love you. I will always be with you." I know we are in a real, time-tested relationship.
This is how God wants to be with us - trusted and loved enough to hear all our private thoughts and emotions. Even beyond that, God wants to hear about our temptations, our insecurities, our angers, our impurities, the times we've succeeded in virtue, and the times we've failed. God made us - God knows our strengths and our weaknesses. But God can't really be "with us" unless we allow Him to be. Until we've poured ourselves out in God's Presence, God can't pour Himself out in our presence. We won't hear Him unless He's first heard us.
In his book "Sacred Fire," Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says that a priest friend of his, Fr. Robert Michel, told him while he was on retreat:
"You must try to pray so that, in your prayer, you open yourself in such a way that sometime - perhaps not today, but sometime - you are able to hear God say to you: 'I love you!" These words, addressed to you by God, are the most important words you will ever hear, because before you hear them, nothing is ever completely right with you, but after you hear them, something will be right in your life at a very deep level."
In the Gospel of John, we first meet Jesus, Son of Mary and Son of God, as an adult, and the first question he asks is "What are you looking for?"
Fr. Rolheiser suggests that that question is the undergirding of the whole Gospel, because at the end of the Gospel Jesus asks it again. This time he is the resurrected Jesus, who meets Mary of Magdala in a garden where she is looking for him to embalm his body. She doesn't recognize him. Bewildered and sincere, she asks him where she can find Jesus. "Jesus, for his part, repeats for her essentially the question with which he had opened the Gospel: 'What are you looking for?' Then he answers it: With deep affection, he pronounces her name: 'Mary.' In doing that, he tells her what she and everyone else is forever looking for - God's voice, one-to-one, speaking unconditional love, gently saying your name."
And - didn't Jesus tell us that when we hear him, we hear the Father? If we trust Jesus, can't we trust his Father and our Father to forever be saying our name, saying "I love you"? Only God can affirm for us that we have worth, substance, an eternal identity, that we truly are lovable, that we have the ability, buoyed by His love, to grow and change?
"Nothing will heal us more of restlessness, bitterness, and insecurity than to hear God say "I love you." (Rolheiser)
Can we return God's love? Can we tell God "I love you?" Far better to love God warmly as our friend, our lover, than to pay casual lip service to God because we imagine Him to be like a human parent who needs only to be revered and obeyed. Jesus tells us and shows us who God is - the One who approaches us when we are not at our best, when we don't have our "image" in place, when instead we are confused, desperate, trying to find our way - and then softly, lovingly our God says our name.