“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
Hey everyone! I hope you’ve been doing well, and that you’ve enjoyed this past week as much as I have. I’m glad to say I had a pretty fabulous 22nd birthday, and I really enjoyed the two weeks off from blogging. Every once in a while I feel like it is important to just disconnect and strive to be present in our lives. It’s one thing to physically be there and another to truly be in the moment experiencing everything. While I did spend most of my birthday alone, I gave myself a really great sugar rush (I got peach ice cream at Heritage Creamery and a cream soda at Common Grounds), my husband surprised me with all my favorite things(pizza, Dr. Pepper and a Harry Potter book), and I received many really sweet birthday messages, and a particularly uplifting phone call from my best friend, Karli. All in all a really great birthday, followed by a weekend of fun at a Rangers game in Arlington.
All of this being said, I realize that now is the time to get back to writing. I meant to post Tuesday, but to be honest I’m really struggling with this particular subject. There’s just so much to say, and so much that I struggle with personally surrounding this topic. Love is so simple but so complex at the same time. I don’t mean to say that I struggle with loving others, although I will say that loving people who have hurt me before is very difficult. I find it very easy and simple to love people. My sister Kathryn, who has autism, has especially taught me what it means to love someone beyond what they can offer you or what their exterior looks like. She has helped me learned to look past someone’s mistakes to see the child of God they are. Having a sister with a disability teaches you a lot about how to love someone unconditionally, including strangers and people very different from yourself. I feel like Kathryn’s autism has also contributed to the strong empathy I feel for the world and everyone I come in contact with. I am very attuned to the emotions of those around me, sometimes so much so that I lose track of what my own feelings are. My mom used to laugh because when I would read a book, I would become so absorbed in the the feelings and attitudes of my favorite characters that it affected my mood. Like during car rides when I was reading something extremely sad or the character went through a particularly heartbreaking or traumatic experience, she would find me bawling in the backseat. It’s funny and that level of empathy can be really useful, but it can be unhealthy and a little self-destructive at times. Thankfully, I’ve learned more self-awareness since high school and have figured out how to filter the emotions around me a little better.
While I usually find loving others very simple and easy to comprehend, throughout my life I have struggled with low self-esteem and find it really hard to love myself sometimes. Sometimes it feels like all I see are my failures, my mistakes and the times when I gave into human nature and forgot about Jesus. Instead of dwelling in God’s promises for my life and letting him change my perceptions, I remain hyper-focused on all the things wrong with me. This attitude eventually permeates my interactions with others as self-doubt and insecurity color my thoughts. Why didn’t they wave back? I’m pretty sure so-and-so doesn’t like me. She didn’t return my texts, so I must have done something wrong. These are dull examples, but you get the general idea.
Worse than that, this attitude colors my perception of God and his attitude towards me. Instead of letting myself be clothed in God’s love, instead of doing my quiet time out of joy and thankfulness, my actions are fueled by guilt and the fear of God’s punishment. I guess subconsciously I’ve always imagined God as a strict, scary principal keeping order in his school; paddling students when necessary, monitoring the security cameras in his office and offering a smile of encouragement as we pass him in the hallway. I know that’s ridiculous, and I’m not sure how my ideas about God became so distorted. I’m sure that an unfortunate majority of Christians approach God and their faith in this manner. For me at least, it’s hard to imagine that God wouldn’t want to punish me for all the sins I’ve been guilty of in my life. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the thought that a perfect, holy, sacred God would be able to love me-imperfect, unholy, and sinful. It’s like, I know in my head God loved me enough to send Jesus to die for me, and that Jesus loved me enough to stay on the cross. I know that He made a way for me to have a relationship with not only Him but God and the Holy Spirit as well. I understand it, and I believe it. But sometimes it feels like this knowledge doesn’t reach all the way into the very depths of my soul. Satan delights in this. He loves it when we feel disconnected from God because it gives him an opportunity to fill our hearts with doubt and tear down our self-confidence. Holding on to guilt and shame only empowers the enemy. Slowly but surely I’m allowing the Holy Spirit to heal me, and remove my guilt and help me forgive myself. As this is happening, I find myself realizing more and more what a wonderful work God has done in me, and am awestruck to think that it was His plan before I was even conceived!
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
I don’t want any of you to think that I’m talking about the prideful, selfish, arrogant kind of self-love that runs rampant in our world. I’m talking about the peace and humble self-assurance that comes from understanding you were created by God, and that He loves you. He knows every part of you, down to every cell, atom, and particle. He understands the deepest, innermost parts of your heart, mind, and soul in ways that we can’t even imagine. While I understand that this is from Solomon to his lover, this is also how God thinks about you:
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7
Something we all need to internalize is the fact that Jesus washed our sins away. We may still feel the consequences of those sins, we may still bear scars. Jesus himself bears the scars of our sins. But there are no more black stains on our souls. Furthermore, once we ask for forgiveness through Jesus Christ, God doesn’t remember our sins at all!
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25
If God doesn’t think about our sins after we’ve been forgiven, why do we hang onto the guilt and shame that He died to erase? It really makes me feel ignorant and hard-headed, and thinking about all of this has made me determined to let go and allow myself to dwell more in God’s love for me. Bethel Music’s “Extravagant” from their new album, Starlight, is a song that puts all of this into perspective for me, and I find that listening to it shrouds me in an atmosphere of love and gratefulness so powerful that it feels like Jesus is sitting right next to me.
The verse I opened with, Colossians 3:12-14 is a verse that I think is important for everyone, but especially for us women. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Today I want to point out the last part: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Without our love, all of the other important traits are unable to be maintained. I also feel that without being self-assured in the first part, holy and dearly loved, everything else is impossible. In conclusion, I want to say that there are three equally important components to love.
1.) Loving God: Deuteronomy 6:5 states, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Pretty self-explanatory.
2.) Loving others: Jesus states in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Jesus commands that because he loved us, we must love one another. By loving one another we show the world who’s disciples we are. 1 John 4:7-8 also emphasizes this: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love.” If we can’t love one another, there is no way that we can love God.
3.) Understand that we too are loved: Romans 5:8 states, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus died for us. There is no greater way to demonstrate His love for us. 1 John 4:9-11 states, “In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” We are not saved by our love of God, no matter how important that is. We have been saved by God’s love for us.
I know that this post has been long, and loaded. It’s just been weighing so heavy on my heart, and I guess I really just needed to let it all out. Brothers and sisters, I pray that if like me, you find yourself feeling disconnected or doubtful of God’s love for you, you are able to read God’s Word and find the peace that He longs for us to embrace. I want to leave you with a verse, Romans 8:37-39. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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.” No matter how you feel, no matter what your circumstances, allow yourself to be clothed in the love of Jesus because nothing can separate you from it.
I love you all, and I’m praying for all of you daily.
Love and blessings,