February 6, 2015
Look at how tender and beautiful and vulnerable and powerful this little sprout of bean is. What force allows it to push its way up from the dark earth? Look at the gracious beams of light showering down upon it. Look at the life-giving water droplets that cling to it. My heart feels so tender towards this burgeoning bit of life, this newborn possibility. I want to protect it, to beam upon it, to whisper gentle words of encouragement into its little bean ear.
This little plant will grow to nurture others if it receives all that it needs, and it is already beautiful.
The other day, my friend Tori showed me a really cool church website (www.sojourngrace.com). A section of it struck a chord within me immediately, and its message has lingered within me, stirring something. It was a triptych of intent, and the first two are perfectly familiar to us: Love God and Love Others.
This is how Jesus summed up the teachings of the Torah and the call of the Prophets: Love. Got it.
But there was a third challenge listed: Love Self.
The website explains these calls to action this way: "We orient ourselves around the way of Christ, extending God's love to every person, flowing from a healthy love of ourselves."
Now, I get this. I mean, my brain is all over it. I've taught this for years: you can't love others if you don't love yourself, if you don't tend to yourself so that you have the resources to love. And I fully believe that when we know ourselves beloved, then we are set free to risk and to do and to be.
But this call from this website to love myself rippled and rippled, as if it were a great stone thrown into a pond.
The truth is that I spend a lot of time and energy trying to change myself. And I think this stems, at least in part, from believing that I am not good enough as I am.
So, I have been wondering. How can I both pay attention to all the ways in which I am called to grow and do that from a place of loving care for myself?
You see, I think that Murray Bowen quote from the top of the page is really true: you can't make a bean plant grow by pulling on it.
Lecturing myself, bullying and threatening myself, reciting lists of insufficiencies and failings -- all that has never worked. These things have never helped me change. I cannot get to my True Self, my made in the image of God Self this way. It does not work.
Okay, so, theologically, I know that it is the Spirit of the Living God in me that pulls me into change -- just as it is some inscrutable and invisible force inside the bean plant that calls it to become. The change I'm after is, in fact, a becoming. I am not trying to morph into some other being. I am trying to become myself. And I already am that. I am my beloved, becoming self. God's got that.
All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord
as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed
into the same image from one degree of glory to another;
for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
If I really believe that All-That-Is is emanating from the God -Who-Is-Love, that everything is being pulled into a cosmic dance of outpouring and receiving love, then maybe I can relax a little. Maybe I can enjoy more. Maybe I can even enjoy myself.
Maybe I can even enjoy myself.
So, on the treadmill at the gym I am listening to a book by Thomas Merton that reminds me of all this, and then when the speed increases and my heart rate is up, I switch to my favorite music, and I beam while I sweat. I realize that I am happy, and I can feel the love of God flow in, around and through me. I feel myself connected to all the other sweaty people, and I beam some more. And when I'm done, I make sure I have time to head over to the massage chair, and I revel in sitting there and feeling my muscles tended to, and I know that I am worthy of love, and that I am loved, and that I belong. And I know that this is true for all of us.
For a long time exercise was this thing that I needed to fit into a schedule that was already too full. It was a reminder that I was not good enough the way I am. Suddenly, it is no longer that. Now exercise is a gift to this precious me, this version of Love Becoming that is me. Exercise is a way to care for all I have been given and for who I am. I can do it in ways that make me happy, for the sake of myself, and for the sake of myself in the world.
Ourselves are good. Already we are loved. Already.
That little bean plant is adorable.