Tuesday, March 3, 2009


[Not journalling regularly, nor even reading regularly ... but I think I might be starting to get over this cold, so I will try to get back to it. Picking up with a post I started last Friday.]

I've been doing my lectio divina with the Office of Readings (see the link to universalis.com on the right), but last Thursday I actually went off on a tangent from a footnote and ended up in Genesis 32-33. Jacob had gone to his mother's family 20 years earlier, partly because his parents didn't want him marrying a Canaanite woman, but partly because his brother Esau was out to kill him for tricking him out of his birthright and their father's blessing. So in chapter 32, 20 years later, as Jacob sets off on his journey home (with his two cousin-wives and two slave-concubines, all their children, servants, livestock and all), he's very nervous about meeting Esau again. He sends ambassadors ahead with gifts, and when they finally meet he goes "bowing to the ground seven times, until he reached his brother." But "Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, and flinging himself on his neck, kissed him as he wept."

Have you ever loved someone who just didn't love himself enough to believe you loved him?

Have you ever screwed up, apologized, been forgiven, but failed to forgive yourself?

Do you really believe in God's mercy and forgiveness? Do you believe He loves you unconditionally? Or are there things about yourself that you just can't accept?

Esau asked Jacob why he sent all those flocks of livestock ahead of him? Jacob answered "It was to gain my lord's favor." Esau brushes it off, "I have plenty; you should keep what is yours, brother." But Jacob begs him to accept the gift, "since to come into your presence is like coming into the presence of God, now that you have received me so kindly." So Esau accepts.

Not saying that repentance doesn't demand some penance. Making amends isn't always as easy as saying "I'm sorry." Even though Esau received Jacob back with open arms, his brother's public penance and gifts might have served to wipe out any residual bitterness or doubt about their relationship. Or, for Jacob himself, it might have reinforced his understanding that his past behavior toward his brother was unacceptable, and kept him more firmly in a new respectful attitude. To re-start their relationship new and fresh, on new footing, required making amends for the past. But once that's done, move on! Don't wallow in it! Loving your brother is not the same as hating yourself!

Accept forgiveness, accept love, which really, to be meaningful, has to be unconditional. That means that it is precisely when we have screwed up, when we've fallen short, when we've hurt somebody, that their love is really meaningful. As God's love is meaningful. He's perfect, we are a mess, and He loves us totally, richly, extravagantly, enough to voluntarily put Himself through our sometimes miserable human existence, up to and including oppression, the betrayal of friends, public lynching, torture and death, just because He wants to hold our hand as WE go through our miseries. He doesn't love us because of our virtues, and He doesn't love us "in spite of" our flaws. He just loves us.

It breaks my heart when people don't go to church because they are too ashamed of themselves. They think they have to straighten up first, like they would defile the space by walking in as the unholy mess they are today. No, I try to tell them, you're supposed to walk in just as you are, and let God straighten you up. He already loves you ... the first step for you is to accept His love, accept that He loves you just as you are. Once you let that light in, things start to change for the better. But guess what? You will NEVER be holy enough to DESERVE God's love, and neither will anyone else. Real love is not earned, although it does inspire us to try.

Have you ever loved someone who just didn't love himself enough to believe you loved him? Doesn't it hurt? Do you hurt someone that way? Loving someone well also means letting your beloved love you. Accepting love is an act of love. That goes for siblings, sweethearts, friends, and God.

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