This is the second post in a series on Letting Love In. If you missed the first installment, check it out here.
Receiving the love of God heals our wounds and makes us whole. The Greek word that we translate as “salvation” literally means “to be made whole”. To receive the salvation of God is to be made whole. God’s truly unconditional love heals the damage done by hatred and injustice. It breaks the power of insecurity and sets us free from the expectations of others to finally become in public who we have always been within.
Sometimes, this awakening happens all at once. We’re overwhelmed by the extravagant love of God and it shines through all of our pain within. For others, it happens more gradually. My own faith journey started at a children’s revival when I was seven years old and heard a “gospel” message that scared the hell out of me and sent me running to the alter to “get right with God” and to apologize for all the ways I’d failed Him.
Because my new faith was built on a foundation of fear, a fatal flaw was built in that kept God’s love at arm’s length. A huge shift took place when I was twelve years old in an operating room near Dayton, Ohio when I died on the operating table during a routine tonsillectomy. While clinically dead for minutes, I had an encounter with the love of God in human form. In the warm light at the end of the tunnel, I knew that I was fully known and completely loved. I also knew that everything I had done up until that point–and everything I would ever do in life–mattered.
We ran in some pretty legalistic religious circles back then, so I was immediately dragged back into a religion of trying harder to do better to make myself acceptable to God. My entire local church ministry later in life–which spanned more than twenty years–was a constant tug of war between knowing the genuine love of God and believing I had to earn it. It was exhausting.
I’ll never forget that fateful day when I started walking the track at my local gym believing billions of people would spend eternity in Hell because they hadn’t said the magic words. Thirty minutes later, I had been so overwhelmed by the love of God that I just couldn’t believe in eternal conscious torment anymore. I knew with every fiber of my being that there is room in God’s heart for every single member of the human family and there is nothing that any of us ever have to do to deserve it. More than that, I came to believe that there had never been a time when we were separated from God in any way.
Think about it–how could any of us be separated from a God who is everywhere?
Being overwhelmed by the truly unconditional love of God set me free. I no longer feel the need to earn God’s approval or prove myself to anyone. I can be myself anywhere and everywhere because I know that I am fully known and fully loved.
“Love is the reason we happened at all. It paid for the damage we’ve done. It bought us the freedom to fall into grace. On our way to our place in the sun.”-Kris Kristofferson, “The Burden of Freedom”
For Further Reflection
This series is drawn from a message I shared at Eternal Hope UCC in Mary Esther, FL on Sunday, August 2, 2020. You can hear a rough audio recording of that message on The Messy Spirituality Podcast.