I Love The Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who Lives Within Me, Now and Forever. Amen

Friday, December 01, 2006

Don't Settle For Anything Less Than Real Love

By Grace Abruzzo - Love For Life Inc.

Dear Alex,

A million and a half years ago or more, before the first stars were hung in the sky, God saw you at this moment in time. He knew the clothes you are wearing, the thoughts you are thinking, the concerns that flood your mind. He knew your secret pain, and saw the plastic smiles and faces you put on. He felt your fears, your hopes, your dreams.

And He thought you were beautiful. He willed to love you into existence, choosing just the right time for you to be born in human history.

Right now that might seem a little far-flung. Perhaps you aren’t so sure about God—more likely, if you are anything like me, you aren’t so sure about yourself. You don’t see yourself as all that beautiful, or lovable; certainly not by God. He is/was aware of those thoughts too, and the reasons behind them.

So one day He chose to show you just how much He loves you. He stretched out His arms on the Cross, and died. As He hung there in agony, He saw all of your sins that made such a death necessary. He felt your guilt, your pain, your misplaced desires. He also felt all of the love that you are capable of; love that you have not even felt yet yourself. He wanted you to know what you are worth to Him. You, Alex. Not humanity in general; not only those who are good or whose sins seem to be less than yours. It is your particular face He was gazing at then, as now, with a love that would quite literally rather die than live without you.

* * *

I know it is a bit much to process. It seems in society today there are two options. Either we doubt God’s need to forgive us, or we doubt His ability to do so. We say either our sins are too little to need it, or too big to receive it. Both attitudes are equally wrong and dangerous.

“Do not think that you are so wicked, or your power to sin so great, as to exceed God’s ability to forgive you.” It’s a line in my journal, taken from a novel called Kristin Lavransdatter. At the time I first read it, it shook me to the core and challenged my attitude towards God’s mercy. I thought that I was being humble in my sorrow over my sins, in my hesitation to believe myself worthy of forgiveness. I realized it was in fact not humility but a form of false pride, arrogance if you will, to presume that somehow my sins were bigger than God. Yes my sins were great; but God’s love is greater. In refusing to accept forgiveness, I was saying, essentially, that the Cross was meaningless, just a nice show, a divine visual aid.

Someone pointed out to me that in the Gospels, both Peter and Judas denied Christ. Judas betrayed him with a kiss in the Garden; Peter three times claimed he never met the guy. Both sinned greatly. However, when Peter realized his sins, he wept and repented. Judas, despite having traveled with Christ and witnessed so often His love and forgiveness, refused to believe it would apply to him. Peter became the head apostle; Judas went and hung himself.

Neither Peter nor Judas was there under the Cross when Christ died. Instead, there was a young woman who for years had been searching for love in all of the wrong places. She thought she would find it in men, and even gave her body to them in exchange. In the end, she only felt used. She couldn’t even love herself. She became the local prostitute, called all sorts of names, considered unclean by the “holy” men of the town, (who, when it came down to it, were also ready and willing to use her when it suited them).

Then one day, she met the only man who ever really loved her. He looked into her eyes, and saw the beauty behind the pain and the scars. He said to her, “Your sins, and I know they are many, are forgiven you because of your great love.” From that day forth, she abandoned all of the other counterfeits and false lovers, and became one of Christ’s closest friends. It was to Mary Magdalene, a former prostitute, that Jesus chose to first appear after the resurrection.

One of my professors used to say, “God loves you just the way you are, but too much to let you stay that way.” Christ lovingly calls us to repentance—to turn away from our sins, and choose Him instead. This means, of course, that we should stop sinning. It also means that we should stop looking back at our sins, and look instead to His love for us. This can be almost painful at first, as we tear away from lies that have held us down for so long. It can be hard to let go; it is almost as though there is security in being kept down. But we are called to rise with Christ to something better.

The “Greatest Commandment” is to love God (with all our heart, mind, soul and strength) and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot truly love God if we do not admit His love for us, or His power to forgive and transform us into something literally quite new. We cannot love ourselves if we do not receive God’s love, and we cannot love our neighbor without loving ourselves.

When we allow ourselves to be used, put down, made something less than we are—whether out of guilt or a false sense of humility—we fail to love not only God and self, but those we allow to use us. Real love wants the best for the other. To love another is to want for them what is best for them, including what is best for their soul. When we enable other people to use and hurt us, we prevent them from becoming the loving people God wants them to be, and from achieving the goodness that is necessary for their own transformation and salvation. It is never loving to allow someone to sin against you. Real love is rooted in truth.

The Gospel can be quite challenging. It is at times so familiar that it seems to have lost its power to shock us; at times it is so shocking that it makes us almost afraid to take it seriously. I urge you therefore, to ask God what it is He wants from you and for you. Allow Him to surprise you. By definition and nature, God is incapable of willing evil for us. Trust Him.

My wish for you is that you may see yourself as you really are. Sins and scars not withstanding, you are a child of the King. You deserve nothing less than real love. Any attempt to convince you otherwise is a lie from the deepest pit of hell, unworthy of you and of God.

I will close with one last story. A Christian missionary was training some new recruits. To their dismay, they saw him approach a prostitute, and ask her, “How much?” She answered, “Fifty dollars.” He replied, “Oh no, a woman like you? You are worth much more than that.” Sizing him up, she said, “Ah, an American. For you, one hundred dollars.” Again, he shook his head, and said, “You are worth more than that.” Incredulous at both his stupidity, and her good fortune, she said, “Alright, two hundred.” Again, he said, “You are worth more than that.”

At this point, she became somewhat annoyed, and asked him to name the price. He said to her, “No amount of money could ever pay what you are worth. You are worth nothing less than that a man should give up everything he owns, and lay down his life for you. And do you know what? One already did.” And with that, he proceeded to tell her about Jesus Christ.

Do not settle for anything less than Real Love.

Love, Grace


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