Welcome to February, widely regarded in America as a month dedicated to romantic love. But there is so much more to love than romance, and I thought it might be wise to meditate on God’s love. I wrote this article several years ago, but it still rings true today. God’s love hasn’t changed, and neither has the process for receiving it.
“You can’t do it right! You will never amount to anything!”
The messages repeatedly played in my mind. Un-welcomed and un-invited, they played non-stop — for years.
As the youngest sibling in my family, my older brothers had better things to do than to hang out with me. Our age difference was too significant. “Leave me alone,”… “Get out of here”… were messages I heard daily.
My father’s impatience prevented him from teaching me carpentry. “It’s faster if I do this myself,” my dad would say. It was a message that told me that my presence was an intrusion, that I wasn’t capable, and that I was unwanted.
At the age of 8, I was asked to perform a solo piece in our band’s performance. My family didn’t attend. Young and impressionable, these types of messages made it difficult for me to develop an appropriate sense of self-esteem.
Besides, my religious upbringing focused on my sinfulness. My inability to conquer sin (combined with messages that highlighted my wrongdoing), only reinforced my sense of inadequacy, undermining what little esteem I had.
“If I am to prove myself worthy of recognition, respect, and love, I will have to try harder,” I thought.
So confessing my sins became a weekly occurrence; always with a re-commitment to try harder. However, achieving better grades, excelling in sports, or making myself clean my room every day, was insufficient in bolstering self-esteem.
How could these accomplishments affirm my value if they were solely to gain the approval of others?
A lack of effort wasn’t my problem. However, a distorted belief that my worth is dependent upon how others value me is!
It’s nice to have the approval of others. There is something within us that desires admiration. But sooner or later, — despite our effort — we discover that endeavor does not guarantee acceptance.
That’s why the gospel (the Good News) is so liberating! God’s story reminds us:
“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Over the years, I’ve discovered — and continue to learn: To receive God’s unconditional love requires me to let go of seeking the approval of others.
Also, I’ve realized that I’m not the only one who struggles with self-esteem. But here’s the good news for us who desire a healthy acceptance of ourselves:
Letting go of the need for the approval of others frees us to enjoy God’s love!
No longer do we have to try harder or do more than is expected to gain love and acceptance. We are free to receive God’s love and acceptance — just as we are!
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” ( 1 John 4:9–10)
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