An Invitation to Let God Love You
I am a caregiver. I come by this naturally since I am a “2” on the Enneagram personality profile: The Helper. I am also a caregiver in fact, providing daily care to my ex-husband who has lived with me since his original cancer surgery three years ago. One might imagine the wide range of emotions I have experienced in this role, as well as the times I have had to put his needs ahead of my own. Have I always done this with grace and with a peaceful heart? Hardly.
Learning to take care of myself and value my own needs had been a journey of transformation. I have learned to love myself as God loves me. It all began when I had the good fortune to attend a seminar by Ruth Haley Barton. She shared her toolbox of spiritual disciplines which have allowed her, and many others, to live a more balanced life. In her books, Invitation to Silence and Solitude and Sacred Rhythms, she outlines the benefits and the path to include a time of silent contemplation in one’s busy life.
Silence and solitude became a life-giving practice for me. Through the intentional practice of contemplation, I learned I was starved for intimacy with God. I needed to know God in all his mystery. Oh, I was always a busy little Christian soldier. I had my daily Bible study, my heartfelt prayer time for others, and volunteered in multiple capacities at church, at school, and in my community. I was always “doing for God."
When we encounter bumps in the road of life, it is possible to keep our deepest feelings at bay (e.g. anger, fear, shame) by staying busy. I was a pro at this! Then one day, an escalating series of life-shifting crises, culminating in Randy’s inability to care for himself, made life as I knew it come to a screeching halt. I could no longer put a face on it, pull up my big girl panties, and use my own resources to continue my journey. I didn’t like the me I saw.
It was time to acknowledge my real self to God. It was time for me to admit that even some of the nicest things I had done were often done with mixed and selfish motives. My need for mercy, and to see myself with the love through which my Creator sees me, drew me close to him.
Fast-forward to the comedy of my first attempts at contemplation, just doing nothing and sitting in the presence of God. I had the intention; I made the decision. I lit the candle, took three slow deep breaths, and I invited him to be present with me. And...that’s when every item on my to-do list list rolled through my mind, followed by every worry about the past and every concern for the future, which all began vying for my attention. Friends, it was noisy in there!
I remembered that I was not supposed to judge my thoughts, but just acknowledge them and wave them away. With much time and practice, this became easier. I became able to sit still for more than five minutes with my eyes closed, and just let God love me.
I am not going to pretend that I always come away from these quiet times with some marvelous, deep insight. What I will say emphatically is that I am always left with the knowledge that I was made in his image and I am his beloved. Now, I crave this hug from my Father on a regular basis, and it equips me to continue on my journey.
I invite you to consider the words of Ted Loder in his poem, “Gather Me to Be with You,” from Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle:
O God, gather me now
to be with you
as you are with me.
Soothe my tiredness;
quiet my fretfulness;
curb my aimlessness;
relieve my compulsiveness;
let me be easy for a moment.
O God, release me
from the fears and guilts
which grip me so tightly;
from the expectations and opinions
which I do tightly grip,
that I may be open
to receiving what you give,
to risking something genuinely new,
to learning something refreshingly different.
O God, gather me
to be with you
as you are with me.
Try it. You’ll like it.
Karen is a woman “of a certain age” who has been a business woman, church lady, wife, mother, and grandma. She especially enjoys being a part of the Imago Dei Hot Mess Sisters...because she fits right in!