One of the things many of us struggle to fully embrace is the reality that we are loved unconditionally by God. It is hard to us to accept that we do not need to do anything to earn God’s love, that God truly loves as as we are, despite all of our imperfections.
Often, our reaction to our imperfections is one of guilt or shame. We feel unworthy of being loved because of something we did or did not do. In a piece adapted from Following the Mystics Throught the Narrow Gate, Richard Rohr talks about the danger of reacting to our faults with guilt and shame.
When people are shamed and made to feel guilty their soul closes up and doesn’t expose itself and doesn’t trust after that. It just starts pretending. It starts playing the game of religion where you go through the motions, but you don’t really feel it or believe it anymore. You hardly trust it, but you keep paying your “life insurance” or fire insurance dues—just in case the whole thing is true.
Our churches are filled with these people not because they are bad people but because they have never been told what the mystics were told and dared to believe and dared to receive. God loves you and receives you as you really are, and not as you think you should be. Until that is actively and deeply experienced, you do not move from mere religion to actual spirituality.
It is one thing to regret our wrongdoing and to strive to be the best we can be. At the same time, we need to dare to believe, dare to receive, what the mystics understood so well: we are already loved by God completely, fully, unconditionally. Nothing we do can make God love us any more or any less.