For years now, I have been working on accepting and internalizing a particular truth about God: that God loves me as I am, no matter what. This has occupied a great deal of my prayer, my spiritual conversations with others, and my writing. I first came to know this truth when I was tasked to teach a course on sin and grace to adults. I spent weeks researching the topic to settle on the idea that sin never prevents grace from doing its work and that the amount of love God has for us does not depend on how little or how much we sin; it is constant. My journey through the Spiritual Exercises solidified for me that this was a message God wanted me to hear, work on believing, and share with others as well.
It’s not easy work, however, to believe I am loved as I am, no matter what. Every time I think I have it down, something happens to bring me back to square one. Sometimes it’s something big; sometimes it’s not. This past weekend it involved flowers. I was on my way back from getting my groceries, and I had a bucket of flowers sitting on the floor of the passenger seat. As I made a U-turn to get onto the highway, the bucket fell over, and the flowers were clearly damaged by the impact. Immediately, I felt stupid. I had placed them there without a thought, not considering for a minute that they would fall over and get damaged on the drive home. I admonished myself as I traveled the last few miles home from the store: Gretchen, you get flowers every week. You never place them so haphazardly like you did today. What were you thinking? My words to myself at that moment were far from loving, far from echoing and reinforcing God’s magnanimous love for me.
I think part of the difficulty with accepting and internalizing that God loves me as I am, no matter what, is that if I really believed that, I would be able to love myself in the same way. Even when the flower bucket falls over. Especially when the flower bucket falls over.
This Advent I am dedicating myself to paying attention and bringing to prayer those moments when I am less than loving to myself, in hopes that it will lead me closer to accepting and internalizing God’s magnanimous love for me. I’m asking to see how God sees me and how God would speak to me during each moment, so I can figure out how to better speak to myself.
I know that often we spend time during a season like Advent focusing outward, and that is valuable and important. But imagine the difference it would make if we did the work to love ourselves a little more like God loves us. How would it change how we treat our most difficult family members? Our most demanding friends? Our most challenging coworkers? Or the stranger we encounter on the road?
Consider taking this journey with me, not only through the rest of Advent, but beyond. I think it might just make all the difference.
Somewhere deep inside
I know You love me as I am, no matter what,
and I know You solidified that love for me
the moment your Son was born
and shed his first tears upon this earth.
But still, I struggle to truly accept it.
I struggle to truly feel it.
I think that’s why I sometimes
don’t love others as well as I should.
I think that’s why I sometimes
don’t love myself as well as I should.
Grant me the faith to see
the birth of your Son this Christmas
as a clear sign of a love that exists
for all of us and each of us in turn.
Help me feel how You cherish me,
and let it become as natural to me
as breathing has always been.
Then let this love embolden me
to do great and marvelous things,
including loving others well.