Am I Loveable? Part 2

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Stanley Park Pool — Vancouver Public Library

I used to play what could be called a “game,” but it was way more serious than the light-hearted approach I took with it showed my kids. We could call it “Who loves you?” When I was driving the kids to school, I would asked them a simple question, “Who loves you?” And they would answer with a sing-song list of those who had shown them love – parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, neighbours, Jesus. We had fun. We laughed. They teased me with their answers. But I knew something they may not yet have grasped:  the very quality and trajectory of their lives rests on the answer to that question.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus – reading from the scroll of Isaiah.
(Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

 

Our sense of place in the world is dynamic and subject to change. A traumatic event can shake our confidence of love-ability. But trauma is not required in order for us to be plagued by shame, guilt and fear. The “normal series” of events common to life can create disappointment among peers, teachers, and bosses leading us to shape a negative view of ourselves. To be taken over by the belief that we are not loveable  profoundly affects our capacity to love others and to receive the love of others.  In this situation we have actually been taken captive by a lie.

The truth: The love-ability factor does not ultimately sit with us — it sits within God who has made us and acted on our behalf. God is the supreme lover of our souls.

Jesus includes an understanding of our love-ability in his conversation with a lawyer about the greatest command:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

 

When we are locked up in a love-ability deficit, it creates a cascade of insecurity resulting in desperate acts of self-improvement and even despair. We may severely limit our engagement with people, hiding the truth about us, in order to manage pain and avoid anything that might bring up fear or the shame of not being loveable or powerful enough to command adoration. Though the sources of darkness ravaging the soul are varied, the experience of not feeling loveable or of believing you cannot be loved is common.

We must see Jesus acting decisively for us. 

Jesus has a larger narrative for the glory of God. He understands that we are participants in a cosmic struggle against the knowledge of God. He says, “the thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He was aware that the Evil One seeks to destroy people. What better way to alienate people from God than to attack our very receptors for the love of God?

Jesus’ life, His death, and His resurrection are an announcement of God’s love for us and the simultaneous in-breaking of God’s power ushering in His rule and reign. He is overcoming evil with good. He desires to make healing and the progressive health-making work of God available to you so He took up the Cross. Believing God, as He revealed Himself  in Christ Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, is to grapple with and accept a profound truth question:

Who loves you?

The girl at the entrance to aisle seven.

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3May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 4Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. 5All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. Galatians 1:3-5

I’m waiting patiently. She’s standing there confused, not sure if this is the aisle she wants. When she realizes I’m standing there, she doesn’t say “oh excuse me.” Instead she curses me and jumps down my throat for not asking her to move.

Always someone else’s fault. So it continues: all the blaming, shifting, and squirming under shame. That’s what its like to live in this evil world. God’s ready to meet us on aisle seven but we are embarrassed that He was waiting for us to turn and notice Him. So we curse, blame, and shift under our shame.

These are the moments when we need to know the grace and peace of God. These are the moments when faith smashes through our shame and we give glory to God. It’s not about me. This life is about Jesus— the One who gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned in order to rescue us!

Glory to God! For ever!

Brokenness, shame and the cover-up.

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6The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. Genesis 3:6-7

My professor Dr. Hunt described this snapshot of The Garden days in the alliteration of preacher-speak: “They listened, looked, lusted, and lunched.” That’s the common progression we have inherited from Adam and Eve when we give way to temptation. But that’s not all we share in common.

What is not yet seen in this moment is the depths of brokenness that will infect all of their relationships. A great shift has happened in respect to themselves as they have abandoned trust in God. “They suddenly felt shame.”

Their capacity for industry latched on to it (shame) and the cover-up began. No shouting voices, no pointing fingers were required. They knew shame. Shame infected their psyche as a consequence of their break away move from God.

Relationships without shame.

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18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

23“At last!” the man exclaimed.

“This one is bone from my bone,

and flesh from my flesh!

She will be called ‘woman,’

because she was taken from ‘man.’”

24This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

25Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. Genesis 2:18-25

Shame hides. Shame creates a compulsion to hide either by overdoing togetherness or separateness. Shame is an enemy of communion. But shame is not the product of separateness or of union.

No shame. We have difficulty imagining such a condition.

God intended for Adam to discover his aloneness or difference from the creation. I believe the naming process created an awareness of self and of the other; or perhaps I should say the naming process engaged Adam with the stuff of earth and created the awareness in Adam of the absence of the “other” who was “just right for him.”

When Adam saw the woman, he recognized and rejoiced in her. His poetic explosion highlights their connection and their separateness. True communion must be permeated with the grace of God; it is the condition required for the strength and glory of an eben-ezer (strong help) to be received and cherished without fear, guilt, or shame. In the backstory of the Gospel its hard for us to imagine relationships without shame.

Honour and Violence

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6On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6:6-11

Jesus did not compel all He met to honour Him as Lord of the Sabbath. However, He would not be denied. With or without honour the mission of establishing His kingdom would go on. He did not allow this man with a withered right hand to remain in his corner of shame to be used by those who sought to accuse Jesus of wrong-doing. With only a functional left hand this man was caught in a perpetual state of uncleanness and social estrangement. And now he was being used as bait.

Jesus called the man up and healed him. “Stretch out your hand.” In that moment Jesus disrespected the sacred conventions of the religious; and by extension he was a threat. If an honour deficit is allowed to rule the heart, the heart always moves towards fury and violence.

But, Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, more than covers the shame of honour deficits. The One who healed in the moment He said, “Stretch out your hand,” stretched out His own hands on a cross and carried our shame, our honour deficits, for our healing.

“22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:22-25