I remember my early years, with three older siblings and strict parents, as a curious mix of carefree play and tension. My father worked hard, putting in long hours on his job and often working on holidays for the bonus pay, and not having much patience for me when he was home. My siblings and I were very competitive, arguing daily over who was right about something (always trivial, of course!), what was “fair,” and who got to have the toy or the prime seat. We must have driven our mother to distraction, and sometimes she made us all sit down without talking for a while, and sometimes threatened us with the punishment we would receive “when your father comes home.”
Those conflicts diminished my view of the love that was also in the home, and the God I was taught about at church was even more judgmental than my family, so there was no refuge in him. As an adult, when I started learning about the endless love of God and something called grace, it was too good to be true at first! Even after accepting the doctrine of grace, the reality of grace was hard to swallow. Slowly, the reality of his love started to seep into my own emotions, persuading me to accept, believe, and live freely within, the love of God and to love others, a process that is still going on.
That’s why core scriptures like Gal. 2:20 have such impact, not only on me but I’m sure, for others too: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Jesus’ gift of himself for me came long before I could see what he had done and respond to him. Even the faith I need to live this life, following after him, is a gift from perfect Jesus to very imperfect me, out of his deep love for me. There are no conditions on his self-giving, no calculation as to how it will work out, just giving. Even today, when I look at my many failings, it is difficult to imagine why God would love and accept me — but he does. The key to living freely in that love is simply to agree with God that he loves me, as he tells me over and over and over in the Bible.
He loves you too. You may not normally tell yourself that, but it’s true. He accepts you completely, right where you are, without forcing you to improve yourself first, or win him over. If you have trouble accepting that, perhaps for the same reasons as me, or other reasons out of your past, it’s okay to be honest with him about all of that in prayer. He understands completely, and he even forgives your (and my) inability to accept his love freely, and is patient with us. Yet, the freedom that comes with saying “yes” to his love, including the freedom to love others right where they are too, is a priceless gift! It’s well worth pursuing, no matter what it takes. Prayer and study and asking others to pray for you to receive it, can help. God loves you. Will you accept his love and live freely?