All last week I was planning to write about how I came to bask in God’s love. But I couldn’t.
I felt silly. I felt like the stories I wanted to share were silly examples of positive self-talk and self-absorption.
I talked myself out of their importance. I started to doubt if I’d really made any progress. I started to doubt if learning to love myself has really helped me love others better.
As I sought to write about these fits of unwarranted compassion, these moments where God spoke to me and set me free, I realized I am not yet fully free.
As I seek to set others free, I am realizing just how trapped I still am.
Am I really better off? The accuser mocks my progress. I’ve done nothing. I’m no good. Can I really love and serve others better now?
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had moments of freedom and seasons of basking. It doesn’t mean God isn’t calling me to share these stories of freedom I’ve experienced.
I have heard God. He has spoken to me through words and images, friends and strangers.
And it turns out he’s pretty kind. His words are life-giving. His words are Love.
But this last week I’ve been hearing words that aren’t so kind, that aren’t from Love. Faced with a fear of leading a new book club at my church to share and grow with women struggling with eating disorders, this voice tells me I don’t need to lead because I’m ill equipped. I’m too shy. I’m too busy. I’m too scared.
God must be crazy to want me to lead this book club because I am the least qualified of anyone I know. My friends are friendlier, kinder, more hospitable, more empathetic, better suited to this ministry.
I feel ill equipped to love people, to lead people, and to make an impact.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: I don’t lead, I don’t try, I don’t engage, and then I’ve proven that I was ill equipped in the first place.
As soon as these thoughts flood my brain, I’ve abdicated my responsibility. I’ve lost out on the gift that I am and the gifts that God has for me.
Another thought that’s been plaguing me is that I’m being selfish for starting a ministry within my church community. I feel like I’m taking the easy way out. That somehow this ministry is second rate because I’m not directly serving the poor.
I absolutely believe that God has called me to this ministry. And I still feel guilty.
Where’s the freedom in that?
I’m not so different than I was three years ago when I scoffed at the idea of basking in God’s love. I’m still tempted to base my worth on my actions and efforts. On my poverty reduction and social justice scale. I’m still tempted to earn God’s love.
But I can’t.
I am loved. Period. That is the reality of who I am.
Henri Nouwen said, “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.”’
As a response he says, “The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world–free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless…. I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.”
This week I will share the silly stories of positive self-talk and revelations that have speckled my journey of learning to bask in God’s love. I really do believe this basking, this experience I’ve had with God’s unconditional, unconventional, unfathomable love, has shaped and formed me to love others better.
Let the basking begin.