Remember a few weeks ago when I shared about learning to shower some love on myself? And how I facetiously promised to share the 10 Easy Steps to Learning to Love Yourself if God granted me wisdom to learn them?
I really was only kidding. But God is amusing Himself by actually taking me seriously. So here it is. Ready?
Step #2: Share Grace
I’ve not always been entirely gracious. No, really. It’s very kind of you to disagree with me as if I’m fishing for some praise, but it’s true. I haven’t. I have impossibly high standards that no one could possibly dream of meeting–my friends, my kids, my husband, myself. I even had the highest expectations of my dog, who sadly didn’t live long enough for me share some of my new theology of grace with her. And when one has unreasonably high expectations, it is certain that one will be disappointed. I do. And so I am. And instead of being gracious when my expectations aren’t met, I whine and I complain. And where I should give grace, I give guilt.
I’m finally reading this little gem* that’s been on my TBR (to-be-read) stack for well over a year. I wish I’d read it sooner. I actually wish I’d read it 20 years ago. I have lived the good girl life, doing good things, and never really suspecting that I was in need of grace. Because, well, if I’m following the rules and being nice and doing good, and expecting everyone else to do the same, who needs grace?
There is this fabulous little chapter in the book where Emily unfolds and examines Adam and Eve’s encounter with the Tree of Knowledge. As I was reading this, my mind took off and ran about 5 miles down the road ahead of me. I had to set the book down, close my eyes, and pause so that the rest of me could catch up.
You see, I never really understood what was so wrong about that Tree of Knowledge. What was so bad about wanting to know the difference between good and evil? Didn’t Solomon pray for wisdom (2 Chronicles 1:7-12) and didn’t God call it “the right choice”? And aren’t we exhorted to discern between what is good and evil, to know what is pleasing to God (Hebrews 5:14)? So why would it be such a bad thing to eat from this tree, and to know what is good and what is evil? In fact if Eve had already had that knowledge of what was good and what was evil, she would have known that that serpent was up to no good and wouldn’t have listened to it in the first place. Surely, there is room in the Christian life for knowledge of good and evil?
So what was so bad about that fruit?
I started with this question, and chased that winding thought all the way to the end. And I finally understood. If Eve gained the ability to discern between good and evil on her own, she would no longer be looking to God to show her what was good and what was evil. No longer would she look to Him for direction, or advice, or counsel. Because she knew for herself what was good, and she could figure out how to achieve it, and she would go out and do it herself, thank you very much. No need for those daily walks in the garden with God. Just a perfunctory checklist of Good Things To Do.
And this is the trap in which I’ve lived my life. Knowing what is good, doing what is good, asking good things of other people, and continually being disappointed. And then heaping shame upon myself for being unable to achieve that goodness. My dependence on this self-sufficient goodness has kept me apart from God. Hear me correctly, I’m not cut off from God and I’m not distant from Him, but I’m not in Him in the way that He wants me to be in Him. In order to be in God, I have to be willing to be completely consumed by Him. I have to give up my white-knuckled grip on my self-controlled life. Even the parts that are “good”.
Being in God means accepting the fact that no matter how good I am, and no matter how much good I do, it doesn’t matter. Because my own goodness is never enough to win God’s favor and earn my salvation. It also doesn’t matter because my own goodness is too much to win God’s favor and earn my salvation. Do you see? I can’t do it, but I also don’t need to.
Grace, my friends. He gives us grace. So that we can stop striving and trying to win His favor. So that we can sit under His wings and at His feet to be assured that it is not what we do, it’s where we are.
And what does all this talk of grace have to do with loving myself? I’ve been asking myself that same question for over a week. I’ve been typing on this post for several days now, trying to figure out exactly where it ends. What does grace have to do with love? I’m going to go out on a limb here, and venture a guess. I’m beginning to think that you cannot properly give love, without giving grace. And also, the inverse: you cannot receive love, without receiving grace. And so these grammar lessons in grace, usher me into a depth of love that I haven’t known before–love from God, love for myself, love for others.
The sharp edges of impossible expectations have pierced holes in the waterskin of my soul, and I have been wrung dry by the shame of not measuring up to my own standards. And now, He showers me with His grace and love, and I am being revived.
Could I get an “Amen”?
* My friends, I am so excited to share with you a copy of Emily’s book, Grace for the Good Girl. Please, won’t you pop in again tomorrow for all the details? I just know that you will be blessed and refreshed by her writing.