Can you let yourself be loved?

Remember this, my friends: God is love, God cannot not love. Peter van Breeman says it much better than I can.

If we think God is a person who can divide his love, then we are thinking not of God but ourselves. God is perfectly one, the perfect unity. We have love, but God is love. His love is not an activity. It is his whole self.

It takes a lifetime to let ourselves be loved by such a fierce and tender God. God, though is a patient lover. We resist, we throw out the reasons we are not worthy of such a love and these excuses are swatted away by God’s gracious hand.

I was totally taken by surprise when my husband, Jack, proposed to me. I was still dating other men at the time, so obviously, he was much further along the relationship road than I was. In my shock, I asked him why he was proposing to me at this early stage of our relationship. He answered, “You’ve told me that you hold back your heart because you are afraid of rejection. I just want you to know that if and when you are ready to let your heart venture out, I will be there waiting for you.” Wow.

I had dated other men and had friends who had told me I was attractive, or had gifts to offer the world, but in my heart I thought, ‘Yeah, you don’t really know me, I’m actually quite ugly and selfish inside.’ But when Jack told me these things, I believed him. His love for me helped me believe God’s truth about myself. I decided I needed to let myself be loved by such a man. I agreed to marry him and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Such is God’s love for us. God knows we’ve been convinced through any number of circumstances and relationships that we are fundamentally unloveable. Yet God never forgets our true self, the beautiful soul he had in mind when he created us. He calls, invites and woos us into daring to believe his image of us is possible. Slowly, his love wins us over.

Anthony de Mello is quoted in Father Gregory Boyle’s book, Tattoos on the Heart,

‘Behold the One beholding you and smiling.’ It is precisely because we have such an overactive disapproval gland ourselves that we tend to create God in our own image. It is truly hard for us to see the truth that disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. God is just too busy loving us to have any time left for disappointment.

and again, Fr. Boyle,

God, I guess, is more expansive than every image we think rhymes with God. How much greater is the God we have than the one we think we have. More than anything else, the truth of God seems to be about a joy that is a foreigner to disappointment and disapproval. This joy just doesn’t know what we’re talking about when we focus on the restriction of not measuring up.

We need to let ourselves be loved by such a God.

With you on the journey,


This is part of a series entitled  The New Old, a look at familiar things God wants to make new. It begins here.

Who is your Gut god?

head vs heartThe God of our heart is not always the God of our head. Our minds may agree with the scriptures that declare God is love and God forgives; but our gut doesn’t necessarily trust these statements. Doubts about our value, our inability to forgive ourselves (just to name a few) evidence our disbelief. In our best moments, we know that God is indeed love; his presence is palpable. But in our worst moments, down in our gut, these truths become translucent, we question and doubt.

The proverb says, “a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link” and our faith is only as strong as our greatest doubt. In the light, we can believe God is love, in times of crises or darkness a different god rules our thinking and actions. The ‘god of our gut’ more frequently than not, determines our identity. We need to figure out the nature of this god. Toward this end, I’m going to ask you to reflect on some questions I pose. They are worded to help you identify ‘the god of your gut.’

I’d love to read your responses in a comment, if you feel comfortable sharing them publicly, or email me for a more private exchange. My responses are written in italics below the questions.

Please, spend a few minutes recording your responses to the following questions, try not to overanalyze your responses, just let your answers flow.

  1. What are my worst fears about God?
  2. When I find myself avoiding God, what thoughts and feelings about God are causing me to pull away?
  3. At my worst moments, how do I think God feels about me? or relates to me?
  4. What pictures come to mind when I think about God?
  5. What do my behaviors and feelings tell me about how I see God (who is your gut god)?

1. I am afraid it is all a joke, that Jesus isn’t the savior, that I’ve built my life on a sham. 

2. I avoid God when I am doing something that is unhealthy (emotionally, physically). God wouldn’t approve of what I’m doing/thinking/feeling, and I want to keep doing/thinking/feeling this so I ignore God. Deep down, in my better self, I want to quit these unhealthy actions, and I know God’s power could carry me away from them and that’s the very reason I avoid him. I want to be healthy and whole, but not today; today I want to hang on to these unhealthy, but satisfying habits.

3. I think God sees me as his beloved, screwed-up daughter; the one who is never going to get it together, and needs to be constantly rescued. God willingly does the rescue, but with a tsk-tsk in his demeanor. “When are you going to learn, Debby?” Secondly, the Psalmist felt forsaken by God (Ps. 22). I have never felt deserted or abandoned by God, but often, I feel set aside, or put on a shelf. I’m sure this is born of my own neurosis. I fear I am unneeded by God, useless; like an old pair of shoes, I am kept but never worn. I am inconsequential to God’s plan. I fear I am like an item purchased because it was on sale, an un-resistable bargain, but not really needed or useful.

4. When I think about God I see Jesus – loving, accessible, truth-telling, righteous and requiring righteousness of me. When I’m in my dark place, I see God chuckling over my failed attempts at righteousness. God doesn’t take me seriously, I’m an amusing anecdote to the Trinity. (Again with the tsk-tsking.) 

5. My gut god is loving, yet detached. Loves me because he has to (it is his character after all) but probably wouldn’t choose me. My gut god condescends toward me and my “cute” little attempts at pleasing him.

Who is your gut god? One who…

…minimizes you
…tolerates you
…punishes you
…doesn’t get involved
…is indifferent toward you
…demands perfection?

This is an interactive post, let me know your response. Next Monday we’ll begin to let God speak for God’s self.