Accept. Forgive. Embrace.
When Jesus says we are to love God with all of ourselves and to love our neighbors as ourselves[Mark 12: 28-31], he is showing us the way. And when he says we are to forgive another 70 times [Matthew 18:22], he is telling us to forgive always, that there should be no limit to our forgiveness. And he is not just telling us how we are to be in this world, he is telling us to model ourselves after God who is the exemplar of these qualities of love.
There are definite steps we have to take to be an example of love and forgiveness here on Earth. The first and foremost one is that we have to accept God’s love and forgiveness for us, for exactly who we are, warts and all. This love and forgiveness is not a cloak to be worn over all our areas of guilt and shame. All that we would hide about ourselves needs to be revealed to God and accepted, embraced and forgiven by us. As we accept God’s love and forgiveness, we need to also love and forgive ourselves.
Until we accept God’s love and our own for ourselves, we will forever be returning to our default position as one who is unworthy. The benign qualities of love and forgiveness have to be downloaded onto our operating system. We have to let them in to affect how we think about ourselves, let them change who we are, to have them change the default system of thinking about ourselves as someone lacking in all kinds of things into someone who is lovable—as s/he is—and who knows that s/he is forgiven in every cell in his/her body.
We are probably aware of our own default system of thinking about ourselves. No matter what anyone offers to us in the way of love or forgiveness, we are always denying it, because we always go back to that basic fault-line of negative thinking about ourselves. I’ve written about mine before—“It’s not going to work out for me.” And when you look at my life, you’d think that’s a lie. But for many years that’s is how I looked at everything that happened to me, positive and negative. That was the filter I believed and it colored everything that happened to me. It(whatever was happening) was not going to work out for me.
Until we admit the lie in how we feel about ourselves, we have no way of accepting God’s love and forgiveness or anyone else’s, because we are way too busy fending it off. And when we do come to a place of acceptance about who we are and what was done to us and what we did to others that is problematic, there’s a second step to be taken–that of forgiving ourselves for every single thing about us that we did or was done to us that causes us guilt and shame.
Often I think we skip the first step of accepting God’s love for ourselves and try to go straight to showing love and forgiveness to others. It doesn’t work this way. We can’t give what we haven’t experienced. Until we let in God’s love for each of us into every cell of our bodies, we have no way to love ourselves or anyone else or God, for that matter. We have to embody love to give love. It must be part of every cell in our bodies, part of our hearts, souls and minds aw well, so that we’re giving freely what we already have.
Love cannot be faked. It cannot be couched in nice terms. It cannot be assumed. It cannot be a policy that we adopt. Really there is only one way that unconditional love can come to us and that is through loving God. When we really and truly love God, and put him first in our lives, when we can accept his love for us in every cell in our body, only then can we be a vessel of God’s love for all mankind.
For me I think I have still not totally accepted God’s love and forgiveness, but I have accepted who I am and all that I have done. Now the next step is forgiving myself. It seems I am recapitulating great swaths of my life lately. I am seeing how I treated my mother as a teen and as an adult; I am seeing how my shyness and acne during my teen years go together, the acne reinforcing the shyness that was already there. The assumptions I made about myself because of how I was raised and treated. And much more. I am now on the way to forgiving myself for who I am in total, and hopefully then, I’ll be able to really take in God’s love and forgiveness for me.
I think I make progress on two fronts in tandem: I work to deepen my relationship with God and to put him first and then I see how my own self-image gets in the way of that deep relationship, so then I work on self-acceptance and now forgiveness of myself. Then I have more of myself to give to God, so then I shine a brighter light on my relationship with God. And so on. Do you know how you work with the Divine and your own self?
We’re again dealing with the dichotomy between how we in the world think and how God thinks. We are steeped in the world–what has been reflected about us by the world/parents/school/friends/life. To get with the discipleship program we need to see ourselves from God’s eyes. And that means to look on ourselves with love and forgiveness, with understanding and mercy—with no area of our lives and history where we would withhold that love.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I know where I refuse God’s love either because of what I have done in the past or because of what was done to me? Can I go with the feelings of guilt and shame, to re-experience them enough, so that I can offer them up to God for healing? Am I ready to do that?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people who have wholehearted turned over our sin, our failures and anything that causes us guilt and shame to God for his healing Spirit. May we be so free of the past sorrows and sufferings that we can meet God in this present moment and the next one and the next. May we experience the freedom that comes from releasing all that has bound us in the past.
My book, Thy Kingdom Come! is up on Amazon in both a paperback and a digital version. Look for it under my full name, Patricia Said Adams, or Patricia Adams. There are three parts to the book: I)Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom of God, II)his teachings about how we get into the kingdom and III)implications for us in all that he taught. Check it out if you’re interested! There are two videos now on my FB page By the Waters, “What Jesus said about the kingdom” and “The kingdom is about loving God.” They are an introduction to the book.
Read the whole blog at bythewaters.net or await Monday’s thru Friday’s offerings on FB. I’m on YouTube at By the Waters with Pat Adams and on Twitter at BTWwithPatAdams.