Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Freedom to Refuse Love

I am often reminded that God gives us the freedom to refuse love when I spend time with my family.  Over the years, there have been times when I have hardened my heart to family members whose own pain and insecurities at different periods mirrored those I kept deeply hidden in order to cope. 
To those whom I kept at a distance, it probably seemed that I was judging them.  Sometimes that’s precisely what I was doing, being hyper-critical of others as well as of myself.  Other times, the true motivation was hidden even from me.  In order to continue putting one foot in front of the other when I believed so many lies about myself, God, and others, I’d push people away.  
Anyone who made it virtually impossible for me to remain undisturbed, especially emotionally or spiritually, I attempted to keep from getting too close.  I didn’t want to have the pain and hurt I was feeling be triggered or exposed by what they were going through.  I also feared what might happen if I was honest about what I was thinking and feeling.
Harsh criticism, judgment, and subsequent rejection were/are a few of my most prominent fears.
I offer my feelings of rejection, humiliation, and inadequacy to Christ on the cross.  He alone understands the depth of the pain each one of us has gone through.  He’s the only one who hasn’t walked away for a time or forever when we have been nearly consumed by suffering in mind, body, and/or spirit.  

As hurtful as it is to find out that the homemade gift I spent days working on is in the back of a closet or that the letter that I spent hours composing carefully and prayerfully was never even opened, I know the rejection of God’s unconditional love has to be the most excruciating.  Nothing I’ve said, written, made, done, or could do would ever match or even begin to express the magnitude of love God has for each one of us.  
His gifts of unlimited love and true sacrifice through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, His life, Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection are the only unblemished offerings that exhibit the virtues of selflessness and charity, mercy and forgiveness at their best.  I find myself wanting more than anything else to be able to love others as God loves us, at the same time that I see how each and every one of my attempts has and will fall short. 
The best I can ever do is to accept God’s love for me, so I am able to pass it on to others.  This has been one of my greatest stumbling blocks.  I can so easily see and even feel the love God has for others.  I often have no trouble at all sensing that the Lord is at work in and through others. 
Though I’m undoubtedly still my own harshest critic, I have had quite a bit of feedback over the years about who I am, what I say, write, do, stand for, etc. from my family members.  I’m most definitely guilty of spending more time judging people than loving them, myself included, so it’s not a huge surprise that same tendency is true of others close to me.          
I sometimes feel a bit uneasy when I get together with relatives, as their criticism of me seems to be the most poignant and the most hurtful. A number of times my attempts to reach out to them have been met with silence, which can sting as much as outright rejection. 

Lord, open our hearts to Your Love, so that it may pour forth in abundance over all those whose lives we touch.  Give us the courage to be vulnerable, especially when we are most likely to be rejected, keeping in mind that all love given in Your name can be used for the salvation of souls in time and eternity.  Amen.

Note to Readers:  The title and subject matter of this piece were inspired by the daily mediation by Henri Nouwen with the same name, which you can read in its entirety here.  For several months now, I have been receiving daily meditations by Henri Nouwen, e-mailed to me by the Henri Nouwen Society.  Henri Nouwen is definitely one of my absolute favorite authors, so when I discovered that I could have reflections taken from the many remarkable books he wrote during his life, I immediately subscribed.  (You can subscribe to his daily meditations by clicking here to sign up.)
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