I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gone throughout my day feeling like either a failure, an idiot, a disappointment, or a just plain guilty. These feelings come from lots of different causes in life. How many times have you felt that way? Have you ever felt like such a screw-up or disappointment that you just wanted to walk away from the world, become a total recluse and hope to never have to face anyone again? I have. I have had days where I just wanted to hide. I wanted to hide from the world…from family, friends, co-workers…even God.
I’ve begun to ask myself why these moments come over me. While I don’t think there’s necessarily one root cause for every situation that brings this about, I do think there is a central issue that all of these struggles have in common. I think that we all are constantly missing what it is God really wants from us. We think He wants our best. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to people regarding lifestyles and/or choices and they nearly always say something like, “I know I’m not living the way I should.” When I was a pastor and would ask people where they attended church or if they did, they would often respond with, “No, but I know I need to be doing that. I need to be back in church.” Sometimes, when not even speaking about faith or religion, I would find that many people just experience a lot of feelings of guilt or inferiority. They seemed to think they weren’t good enough for much of anything.
These issues have much deeper origins than I have the training to explore…but there is a common thread in many of our lives. Most people do not feel like God would want them because they are not good enough or haven’t been on their best behavior. In my ministry work, I never felt like I accomplished much of anything. I always looked upon myself as a failure. This is not me looking for sympathy or words of encouragement. I’m just being honest. In my personal life, as a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend, neighbor, co-worker…etc., I have always felt as though I didn’t measure up. (To my family and friends: Don’t worry about what I’m saying, just relate to it. I’m fine. Love to you all.) This isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just something that I’ve struggled with.
I’ve shared all of this in order to find some common ground with you. Have you felt this way? Do you struggle with serious guilt over a past mistake, present circumstance, or future intention? What I’ve found is that, ultimately, I tend to believe myself to be unlovable. I think we may all do this to some degree or another. We mess up a lot in our lives. We hurt people. We fail at goals. We shirk responsibility. We center in on ourselves. We lie. We cheat. We steal. We do all of those things that we actually hate. And then we do the one last thing that destroys our understanding of whom we are: we hate ourselves.
Hating ourselves is a seriously destructive coping mechanism for guilt or shame. We don’t think it through like this, but it seems to me that we do it in order to try and make up for the wrongs we’ve done…some sort of penance. However, as I said, it’s not actually a productive solution. It’s quite destructive. Someone that hates themselves cannot understand or accept love from anyone else. Someone that hates themselves cannot grasp the love of Christ, nor can they live in it. Peter denied Jesus three times, just as Jesus predicted he would. Then he heard the rooster crow and walked away in grief and self-loathing. Jesus appears to him after the resurrection and reproduces some of the same atmosphere that was there when he denied Him…familiar smells…settings. (John’s Gospel). Then Jesus asks Peter THREE times if he loves Him. Peter gets irate during all of this, saying, “You know I love you!” I personally think there was a moment when they locked eyes and perhaps, as Jesus peered into Peter’s soul…Peter felt that same feeling of shame…but then…something was different. In Jesus’s eyes, there was no anger, no disappointment…no judgment. There was only compassion. Peter had failed and forsaken Him. But that didn’t matter anymore. Although Jesus was having a moment of reckoning with Peter, He was communicating to him that He still loved him. He had never stopped.
Jesus still loved Peter because His love for Peter wasn’t based on his actions, attitude, or successes. He loved Peter because that’s Who Jesus is. He loves you and I because that’s Who He is. Peter was never able to bring Jesus his best. We in the human family have a terrible tendency to think that we must always be good for God to love us. We think we must bring Him our best. Ironically, the best we can bring to Him is simply us. He values our stained lives. He loves us even though we reek of the garbage of this existence. We are like gross, sticky, disgusting little kids that He picks up and hugs and kisses…not caring for a moment that we stink and are covered in slime.
Freedom to stop hating ourselves has been totally granted. He’s not looking for my best day. He’s not waiting for me to get everything straightened out. He just wants me. He could care less about my best efforts or my best performance. He simply wants me. He wants you. Because you are not unlovable. You are a jewel of immeasurable worth…especially to the One that crafted you.
*Image taken from: http://pastorscottz.com/2015/09/10/what-does-god-want-me-to-do/