Living loved



“Haha!” My 3-year-old son cackled and grinned at me from the opposite side of our kitchen island. Instead of going to time-out in his room, as I had directed him to, he decided to run away and play a game of chase.

“Come here now!” The volume of my voice rose with each syllable.

I stepped to the right, and he mimicked me. I leapt to the left, and he followed suit. Around in circles we went until I caught him.

As quickly as my temper had risen, it deflated. What was I thinking, chasing my toddler? Why was I so angry? Why didn’t I remain calm and show him who was in charge?

As I reflected on my rash reaction, all I could think about were the mistakes of the morning. Somehow, amidst my ruminating, I convinced myself that my frustrations were all my fault – and I could not accept the grace God offered me in His great mercy. And because I couldn’t accept it for myself, I couldn’t give it to my child, either.

Friends, when we hold God’s love hostage and hold ourselves up to impossible ideals, we are in a dangerous place. If we cannot accept the gift of God’s incredible love and forgiveness for our imperfections, then we cannot love ourselves fully, and we cannot love others, either.

When we focus on all the ways we fall short, we become critical, impatient, and unforgiving of ourselves and others.

This is not the path God envisions for us.

1 John 4:18-19 reminds us “there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.”

What a beautiful description of God’s love: we need not fear anything when we abide in Him. And when we accept God’s love for us, we can love ourselves and others out of the love with which He loves us.

How might our lives look different if we stopped fearing our imperfections and started living as children loved by God?

We might be more patient, compassionate, and forgiving. We might smile at the customer in front of us who takes a long time to unload her cart. We might say, “It’s okay,” when our child spills something on the floor. We might look our spouse in the eye after an argument and be the first to say, “I’m sorry.”

My kitchen table scrimmage with my son might have looked different had I realized that we are both imperfect and equally deserving of grace for our mistakes.

Jesus commanded us to love one another, and sometimes, we need to remember that command includes loving ourselves. When we love ourselves first, and share that love with others, we show the world the true nature of God. Perhaps that is the greatest gift we can give.