I took a very long trip a week or so ago. By long, I mean I drove over 5,000 miles, through 15 different states and back, with my three small children, in a tiny car, all by myself. Sir Smiley flew out to the ultimate destination for a few days and flew home. When I got back I experienced a drain that I have never experienced before. I’m an introvert who spent over two weeks with absolutely no time to myself. Add that to the fact that I had an ablation three days before I left means I was physically tapped out. I had no energy reserves…mentally, emotionally, or physically. The result was a very disconcerting week. I have always struggled with feelings of self doubt…but they always sit in the back, hidden. But I was faced with a situation that brought it glaringly to the surface. I was so exhausted that I was relying on my husband and others to do it all while I kept having to sit and rest. The kicker was there was no real medical condition, no surgery or illness, to justify my “laziness” (as in my mind that is how it felt).
I could no longer earn love. I had to just receive it.
I’ll let that sink in because I am betting that a lot more of us suffer from this than would care to admit. Those of us who keep a hidden tally, a mental scorecard, and make sure they’re always ahead. Who work so hard to keep others happy so that in the end any affection and love they receive they can be comfortable with…knowing that they deserve it.
But this is the complete opposite of what God wanted. So far from the truth. As Martin Luther put it, “The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”. I was falling prey to this sin. I had never felt so vulnerable when I realized how much I was motivated by this very wrong perception. I knew the truth in my head, but wasn’t following it with my heart.
And beyond earning my husband’s love, I wanted to earn God’s love. But to rely on my own actions and behaviors is an unstable place to rest. Every mistake, every moment of weakness is more crushing because I’m resting my worthiness on actions I can never fully live up to. In a way, I’m treating other people as though I have to buy their love in some way. Their love is for hire…and I want to be the highest bidder.
Of course, I didn’t see how much I was relying on myself and what I do to create my worth until I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t see because also thrown in the mix is my honest love for God, for my husband, for my kids, for my friends and family. In part, I do things for them because I love them. There is nothing wrong with that. I will continue to do things out of love for them. But I need to learn to accept their love. Not a love that is a response to what I’ve done…but a love that is a response to who I am. I can only accept love when I accept the truth. God loves me. He will not love me any less if I mess up. He will not love me more if I achieve some new level of greatness. He will feel pride and pleasure in my accomplishments, and will be my unwavering support when I fall. He does not love me because I am involved in my church. I could be a CEO (Christmas and Easter Only) Christian and he would love me the same. He does not love me more than others who “do” less. If I can truly learn to accept this truth, the more free I will become to love Him back…and other’s as well.