The Confluence of Grace, Acceptance, and Love in the Face of Worthiness – Part 1
Do you have days where you are looking for some inspiration, or you are trying to connect some dots in your life? What do you do during those moments? What I find myself doing is trying to get off by myself and allow the ‘universe’ to speak to me.
For the past several months I have been incubating thoughts, ideas, feelings about the notion of worthiness, grace, love, and acceptance. The incubation has been full of tension. Tension between what I ‘learned’ growing up in the church and in my home, and my spiritual evolution over the last 20 years.
Because this evolution has been highly personal, I have resisted sharing it, particularly in writing, for fear that people would view this as some sort of conversion story, or that I was trying to evangelize others in some way. The conclusion I came to embrace is that within this story there might value for you and others. I share it with you in that vein. As always, you will be the judge.
My writing on corporate and self-care had meaning for some of you. Thank you for sharing with me your stories. Those stories are part of what motivates me to continue to help people integrate a higher degree of care in their lives.
Do your best and be well…
The Confluence of Grace, Acceptance, and Love in the Face of Worthiness
Twenty years ago, I was still hanging onto the notion that I must improve my behavior to be more ‘worthy’ of God’s love. It is my belief that the genesis for that notion came from the church. Shortly thereafter, I began volunteering at a men’s shelter and all of my thoughts about ‘doing’ began to change. At the shelter I was introduced to a philosophy “we come here not for the men, but for us. In this space we meet our humanity.” The lead outreach minister shared some crucial insight about the biblical story of the ‘vine and branches.’ He told me that as we come closer to the ‘vine,’ and allow His/Her love to transform us, that we will then act out of that love not out of ‘obligation.’
The power of that type of transformative love stayed with me. Little did I know that I had experienced that transformative love 10 years previously when God introduced me to the woman who would become my second wife. At the time I felt grateful, but unworthy. I know that I am not recalling all the other moments of love that have been helpful in my evolution, because acts of love have been around me frequently. I believe, however, that the terms ‘transformative’ or ‘transformation’ are overused; true transformation (dramatic change) ‘is much more rare.
It was not uncommon for me to periodically say to God, “What do you want me to learn from this moment or experience?” That prayer was uttered right after my surgery for prostate cancer. What I experienced was the number of people that showed up to share their love and concern. Six months after the surgery, when all was well, I felt like I hadn’t ‘learned’ what I was supposed to. So, I asked. In a short amount of time what came back to me was, “I wanted you to know how much I love you.”
There was nothing complex that I needed to learn, just feel God’s love. In that moment I recognized that God’s love wasn’t dependent on anything that I needed to do. My life wasn’t based on ‘doing’, but based on grace. I realized what Chris was telling me earlier (vine and branches) about God’s transformative love – it enables us and energizes our change.
Experiencing this grace reminded me of something my grandmother used to say, “Here but by the grace of God go I.” It took me awhile to understand that what she was saying was that I could be the one experiencing whatever challenge/tragedy another person was going through.
Over the past 10 years I have continued to work on my need to be ‘worthy.’ The truth is, that I am likely ‘not worthy’ in any given moment, but because of grace I am accepted just as I am. I am still evolving in how I put all that together in my head and heart. I am still challenged by this shift because for most of my life I have experienced myself and others through a lens of ‘worthiness.’
The current chapter of growth has gotten a whole lot bigger over the past four years, and particularly after George Floyd’s death. The divisiveness I was experiencing around me, seemingly emanating from our political arena, and spilling out onto our streets had me desiring to be more inclusive, not more exclusive.
George Floyd’s death accelerated my examining how I contributed to an elitism around the white race, and how I have contributed to racism; perhaps unknowingly but contributed. These disturbing thoughts were paralleled by the notion that a God of love as exhibited in my life and others would be a ‘big enough’ God to be present in everyone and every living thing. The ‘working hypothesis’ is that God, the creator, created ALL of us, and all of this and ‘dwells’ in His/Her creation while we dwell in Him/Her (sometimes referred to as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, depending on your faith tradition).
This ‘indwelling’ thought is transforming how I see others and how I see nature. It calls me to see a much bigger world and a much more interrelated world. It is challenging me to see myself as one of many, not one of few. It challenges my notions about ‘accepting others.’ It has exposed my biases in a way that is disturbing. It is challenging me to be less judgmental, to let go more and more of the notion that ‘you don’t look like me’ so therefore I can’t trust you at some level. What is emerging is a language of curiosity – tell me about your story, where you come from, what do you believe and want from your life. When I approach others with curiosity, I am finding more of our similarities than our differences, whether that is about race, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, whatever.
The scariest part about sharing all of this – knowing that there are people who when they become aware of how I am evolving, will choose to disassociate themselves from me, and perhaps me from their ‘group.’ That will be sad, but the by-product of change is that I honor that change in me, regardless of where it may lead.
I have no idea where I am in my evolution. I know there is at least one more post to explore a few more ‘branches’ of what is emerging within me. Much of this feels like there is so much more integration to take place. I am hopeful that there are others, many others, who are in some ‘disturbed’ state, looking for a better way to ‘live’ into this world in a more diverse way, not a more segregated way. I happen to believe that my evolution is taking me closer to a place that looks like a more hopeful in how we love and care for one another.
Toward a better you…