To face and embrace ourselves is the only way that we can bring our whole selves to God in love, as Jesus commanded.[Matthew 22:36-40] This passage means to come to God naked, hiding nothing, totally open to him. There are no longer any walls in us that would protect our guilt and shame from ourselves and from God; they are not needed because God already knows the totality of who we are. It’s not that he doesn’t care that we be good people, it’s that he can’t work with us until we can face who we are and what we have done and what was done to us. Then, when we can embrace ourselves and come before him without defensiveness or self-protection, that’s when he can transform us into the people he created us to be.
We hide from our own reality in so many ways, but mostly through addictions. That is, addictions to drugs and alcohol, of course, but also to running away from facing who we are in a myriad of ways—always buried in a book, always on our phones or computers, always engrossed in video games, always wanting to go shopping, overtraining athletically, and more. We all have our ways of running from ourselves. Some ways are based in fear or anxiety, some in anger and distrust. But they all come down to this: I can’t tolerate all that I am.
As long as I have no tolerance for my own actions or words or what was done to me, I will project that same intolerance onto others. I will not face or embrace who I am. I will not come before God with all of myself. How can I? I can’t accept what’s already in my life. So I project onto God that he wants to punish me for what I have done. The only way out of this dilemma is to see ourselves exactly as we are. I use two phrases to express this truth about ourselves: we have to come before God bringing our warts and all, or ”the good, the bad and the ugly,”(as the old western film title goes)the whole person that we are.
No matter who we are or what we have done, no matter what has been done to us, the first step to accepting God’s love for us is to accept exactly who we are. Otherwise we are too defended to ask for help. We are too closed to change.
It takes an invitation from us, given that God respects our free will, for God to have access to our deeper hurts and pain where he can transform our suffering and shame into a greater, fuller life. He will not violate our walls, our wills, without our permission. So as we dismantle these walls, brick by brick, and offer ourselves up to him, his Holy Spirit transforms each issue, healing us, changing how we experienced all this pain and suffering, transforming us into the people he created us to be.
It does mean that we will re-experience some of each instance of pain, but it is only by going through it once again that we can let it go and let God do the work on it. We can’t keep fleeing from our pain—it will be the main area where we have the most to give to others. We can understand their pain which is so much like ours, speak their language and offer to them the way out of the suffering that we found. It’s the place where we’ll most likely be called to serve. It will be the place of strength in us, once the pain is transformed.
Until we’re able to embrace who we are—warts and all, we will still be a captive of the past, unable to move on from the suffering, to be redeemed from it. Here is where Christ is our best ally, because of what he suffered for us. He knows what pain and suffering is and he wants so much to heal our pain. Look at how much healing Jesus did for others before he suffered his own fate. How much more now does he want us to be free of all of our own walls and limitations?
Questions to ponder over the week: What parts of my life experience am I hiding from myself, from others and from God? What would be the next step for me in opening up to God, to what he would like to heal in me, to allow him full access to all that I am? Do I see the value of bringing my whole self to God in love?
Blessing for the week: May we be the whole people of God who willingly lay bare every instance of pain and suffering we have experienced. May we forgive and love ourselves and accept fully God’s forgiveness and love for us. May we be free of all the pain and suffering.
News from By the Waters:
All five of the videos about the Exodus story are up on YouTube, plus two more. Here are the url’s to access them:
Part I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKfouN0PNH0
Part II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvRsnqYrdg
Part IIIa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZU32Y09UN8
Part IIIb: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqKay89kjE
Part IV: www.youtube.com/watch?v=84z7KF_uv7Q
God’s Invitation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkp_-wDKFo
The Heart of the Gospel, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJJbPKSOACc
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.