Many have never heard His call. Some hear it, but turn away. For some, recognition happens all at once. For others, God’s call is revealed more slowly and in stages.
God’s love for us is perfect. Can there be any question of His love for each of us as we read Jesus’ prayer in John 17? *
But God’s plan for us can only be completed by our acceptance of His love.
What’s involved in accepting?
For me, there was an early sense, a kind of inner certainty – a first holy recognition, maybe – that He is and is watching out for me personally. It was a belief based on personal knowledge and experience that He is accessible and ready to meet me wherever I am…to be there for me. That specific experience was in my mid-life, some 30 years ago.
More recently, a time not so long ago, I began to sense a deeper, more mysterious, more miraculous gift being offered. This was when I finally surrendered myself completely. I finally said, ‘yes, Father, I’m yours. Everything about who I am comes from You; every grace of understanding I’m given leads me back to You.’
There was the initial excitement and fervor associated with this sense of our “first love,” as Henri Nouwen calls it. The sense of purpose and understanding, a deepening desire to know more, do more in service of Him, to share my growing faith in the hope of spreading hope to others.
Readings over the last several days have triggered something more on the edges of my mind…almost beyond my grasp, but I want to capture it now before it hides again, burrowed somewhere in my sub-conscious mind. I’ve come close before to this… what?…this deeper understanding of something tremendously spiritual, deeply foundational to my own growth. I’ve read others’ writing. But this time I seemed somehow to internalize some greater personal meaning:
The ability to accept God’s love, the ability to choose to be loved, to be one of His chosen, requires at its very core my ability to love and accept myself …
to love and accept this person that He made and that He loves so dearly, so completely. It requires that I, at last, see myself with His eyes, so that I can comprehend His vision for me.
I spent many years ignoring His call. More accurately, probably, the cacophony of the world around me was so loud and disorienting that I couldn’t hear Him…I couldn’t hear His call; I didn’t have the discipline to avoid the myriad distractions keeping me from His way.
Oh, a few times when I became physically ill with some bug going around, I would be forced to spend enough quiet time alone that I would find myself inexplicably drawn to attend church or go sit in an empty chapel. On at least two of these occasions I remember being afflicted with such a hacking cough that I felt I needed to leave in order to not disturb others or bring attention to myself.
I’ve thought since that one of Satan’s demons was on full alert during those times, intent on defending his claim on one whom he was certain was securely under his control. [C.S. Lewis’s Uncle Screwtape underscores this demonic strategy in his letters to young Wormwood.]
Looking back on those years, it is tempting to believe that I made such a hash of God’s gift of who I am that that’s the end of the story: She didn’t get it right in the first, second or third opportunities, so three strikes, you’re out. No more chances. You’re done.
Even more difficult in many ways is the recognition that despite all my feebleness, I’ve been so richly blessed over the years. Recognizing all the blessings of my life and despite all my shortcomings and failures of faith…knowing I don’t deserve the all the goodness and bounty that I already have in my life…how can I now possibly claim the additional grace of being His beloved; how can I accept my own ‘belovedness.’
And yet, He conceived me to be one of His own. To be loved completely by Him. Loved divinely. Loved perfectly. And if I am to choose to be one of His chosen, I too must somehow come to accept and love completely that person, that woman whom He conceived me to be.
What of my dark places? Those memories, desires, acts, weaknesses – those sins against the very One who loves me so perfectly – how do I accept and love those parts of her?
Through God – only through God – through His deep love for me (and for each of us) can I begin to open the doors of those long-barricaded dark rooms within me where I have conquered and captured and sequestered my various demons.
Through His grace and in answer to my prayers for forgiveness, He shines His light into those rooms and the evil one shudders and cowers and looses one by one by one its holds on me. Like opening the curtains and the doors of an old cabin, sweeping out the accumulated debris, scraping away the rough bits that have rotted with disuse, I uncover treasures I’d forgotten I possess; I’m given new understandings and insights I’d lost hope of ever attaining.
Through Him. Only through Him and His love for me – for us…only through this divine love that forgives completely and invites us to join Him in celebration at His Holy table – can I begin to grasp what it means to love the woman He created and to choose to be one of His chosen.
Only when we grasp this love for and acceptance of the part of God’s creation that is me (and you), can we begin to see what He sees in each of us. Then we can begin to see what He sees as good…even very good.
And in the end this wisdom allows us to comprehend the goodness and love He has planned for each of us to share with others.