A couple months ago as I sat in my church’s parking lot waiting for Rowan to emerge from confirmation class, a long-lost prayer from my Catholic days rose up in my soul.
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
I remember dutifully reciting those words during Mass when I was young. Back then I didn’t think about them; I didn’t ponder what they meant or why we prayed those words before receiving Communion. But that evening, sitting in my car as the sun set over the wide plains, those words spoke to me.
We are worthy not because of what we do or because of the things we accomplish. We are worthy simply because God deems us worthy. His word for us is Love; he calls us Beloved. And it is only when we receive this — worthiness as God’s beloved — that we are truly healed.
The trouble for some of us, of course, is that we resist the receiving.
The truth is, to receive is more difficult than it might seem at first glance. Receiving is a posture of openness — arms open, hearts open — which means it’s also a posture of vulnerability. To receive a guest in your home is to open your home and yourself to another. To receive God is to open your home — yourself — to him.
Jesus’ words to his followers in the Gospel of John ring startlingly true:
“Here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.” (John 5:40, Msg.)
Why are we not willing to receive from God the life we say we want?
Because to receive is to step into vulnerability, to step into trust, to step into surrender. To receive from Christ the life we say we want is to lose the life we have right now.
It’s not easy to relinquish the scaffolding we have constructed around ourselves as both camouflage and protection over a lifetime. It’s not easy to cut away those parts of ourselves we have created and perfected to present to the world.
And yet, this cutting away, this relinquishing and releasing, is the only true way toward fully receiving.
As David Benner writes in The Gift of Being Yourself, “Paradoxically, our fulfillment lies in the death of our own agendas of fulfillment. It also lies in the crucifixion of all our ego-centered ways of living apart from complete surrender to God. It does not lie then in any of the places we would expect to find it.”
Our fulfillment does not lie in any of the places we would expect to find it.
This goes so against the grain, which is what makes it so hard. Our culture tells us we will find fulfillment in any number of ways — in achievement, success, prestige, power, wealth, control, security. From nearly the moment we are born this is the message coming at us from all sides: be more, greater, better, bigger.
And yet, in the end, this way of the world fails us. We’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places.
Turns out, everything we have learned about fulfillment is wrong. We need to unlearn it all. We need to shed it, prune it away, as I write in True You, crucify our own agendas of fulfillment. Only then, as Benner says, can we begin to seek true fulfillment in the places we never expected to find it: in the small, in the quiet, in the unnoticed, on the margins.
I’m in my late forties. And while I am glad God is revealing this deep truth to me now, part of me frets. Am I too late? Is it too late for me to receive and live fully into this truth God is inviting me to?
Paul, however, assures me I have plenty of time. “God made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near.” (Acts 17:26, Msg.)
No matter what our age, there’s time and space for living into God’s truth. The key, of course, is how we choose to spend whatever time remains. Do we spend it scrolling, comparing, envying? Do we spend it in empty busyness and shallow distraction? Do we spend it striving to fulfill our own agendas?
Or do we spend our time seeking his presence, resting in his nearness?
God has already said the word. He has already invited us to receive him and be healed. He has already, as Paul reminds the Romans, “thrown open his door to us.” (Romans 5:3, Msg.)
God stands before us, offering us the life we say we want. We have the time and space for truly living, and nothing but our own self stands in the way.
Let us cease resisting. Let us receive and be healed.
If this post resonated with you, you might be interested in my forthcoming book, True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created, releasing January 1. In it, I dig more deeply into some of the themes in this post, like dismantling the protective scaffolding we have hiden behind over the years and coming to know ourselves as worthy of being called God’s beloved.
If you pre-order before January 1, I also have some lovely free gifts that nicely complement the book:
– a companion journal
– a guided audio meditation
– and a series of beautifully designed Scripture cards.
You can find out about where to pre-order True You and how to receive the free gifts over HERE.