My concentration and ability to focus are slowly returning, and as I think and heal I have been struck by how much I was taught to despise myself. I grew up learning that I was depraved and only redeemable if God felt like it. That just by being born I was worthy of destruction. This wasn’t an overt message, no it was a very well packaged and incremental build up to what is called, in those spheres most influenced by Calvinist thought, total depravity. Total depravity meant that even the best that I did was unbearably evil to a Holy God, and that only by being chosen could I live. That God chose some to live and some to die, and that no matter what we were nothing. God didn’t love us really, he just pitied some. When I learned to hate myself, loving others was difficult, because even if I was chosen for God’s pity, those other wretches on the outside weren’t. If I wasn’t worth loving, “they” surely weren’t.
God, how screwed up is that?
As I studied and spent time in the scripture I saw a different message proclaimed. I saw a message that was truly good news. I saw that from the beginning we were created and acknowledged as very good: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a Nowhere in the chapters that follow does God change his mind about the goodness of creation. Are there hard consequences to the way humanity has messed up? Of course, but nowhere did that change God’s love for us or the universe. What we see throughout the pages and writings to come is all the things God does to bring restoration of relationship, finally culminating in God’s own self-sacrifice to redeem and show as powerless the worst of what humans are capable of. Paul the Apostle goes further than I in saying that “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 Wow!
I thought I did a great job of loving God and neighbor, but there was a love that was missing. When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus said:
28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34 http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=359537346
There is a third love hidden here that is bound to the others. We must love our neighbors, yes, as we love our selves. This is where I failed for so long. I no longer beat myself up over this, but instead remind myself when those voices from my past rise up within me that Jesus came to demonstrate the love of God, that all are worth loving, even me. It is incredible that I still feel the need to add that qualifying “even”, but I am growing in the knowledge that God truly loves me exactly as I am, and that the same is true for all of creation. It is that reminder that enables me to love my enemy, even when that enemy so often is myself.