I have a question for you today: Are you hard on yourself? More specifically, are you hard on yourself spiritually? I would imagine you answered yes, because I feel like we are all too hard on ourselves spiritually. The “bar of expectation” is set really high and often we feel we never measure up. I’ve been in ministry over 20 years now, served in four congregational settings and 4 different hospitals. I see it all the time in members of my church and in patient care. We never feel we are enough. Probably 80% of the patients I see do not attend church. They used to, but do not now and they feel bad about that. I’ve had members of my churches come up and talk about how they don’t pray enough, or very well, and how they don’t give/donate like they should, etc., etc. The “guilt-ometer” is really high. I find my work to remind them that God has come to us in Jesus, with unconditional love we call grace. And the key to releasing this monster inside us is to simply accept the grace, and to give ourselves grace. Meaning, lighten up on ourselves. We are okay. We are enough. Church attendance, Bible reading, prayer and on down the list does not add to nor take away from God’s love for us. There isn’t anything we can do to cause God to love us any less, nor any more! And if you don’t think you pray correctly or pray enough, God still loves you! The Bible is clear “God is love.” (1 John 4:7).
I had a counselor once work with me on “clobbering myself!” I have worked long and hard on this issue for me and with others. I have grown in understanding that you and I are children of God and all we can do is to do the best we can, where we are, with whatever is on hand! For example, near my easy chair at home lay 4-5 books that need to be read. A journal that needs filled out and endless things to do. I let the self-defeat go, and read and journal when I can. And I know, and remind myself, the books and journal can wait on me. So, I’ve set a new year resolution to “lighten up” on myself and I invite you in also!
I am sure that if we look back at our family of origin, or elsewhere in life, we can find the source of the critical voice that says we aren’t enough. For me, it was an emotionally absent father, and I never knew where I stood. I know where I stand with God and that makes all the difference and it is the same for you! We stand with God who loves and does not criticize and can find absolutely nothing wrong with us!
I used this theme in a speech I gave over the weekend with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Columbus, Ohio. It was a reminder that God loves us despite how hard we are on ourselves! The theological concept is to put “law” on ourselves over God’s “grace.” In Biblical times it was all about the law and there were plenty of people to go around and remind you of your failure to live up to the over 600 laws listed in the Old Testament alone. Who can do that? Who could possibly meet all of those laws? No one and that’s why Jesus came to break through the laws and remind us of God’s grace and love.
This is why our Via de Cristo is so important….we need to invite and bring others into this grace of God and let the love of Christ pour over them on a weekend. Or, we need it again as we serve on team! And we need it beyond that and that is the reason to attend the National Gathering this July!
Jesus took on all of our sin and died for it all on the Cross. And then the Lord rose again and life has been changed forever. Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew 11:28 “Come on to me all you are weary and need rest, for my burden is light…”
Feeling down on yourself today? A little blue with the weather and post-Holiday “blah’s?” Come to Jesus….Come back to God…..who forgives, and loves. And be renewed!
Pr. Doug Givan