I have a lot of problems.
I talked about one of my problems yesterday (anxiety). Today, I want to talk about one of my other problems–in fact, I would call it my biggest problem. That problem? Shame.
Despite the best efforts of my parents, who were incredibly supportive and positive, I am incredibly critical of myself. I’m probably the biggest critic of myself, in just about every way. There is nothing that anyone else can say that can cut deeper than the barbs I hurl at myself. When I make a mistake, I’m the first to fall on my sword. When I don’t even do anything wrong, I still have an impulse to apologize. Even if I do something right, I don’t believe it, and my mind quickly leaps to something that I should have done better.
This is no way to live. I know that. I’ve worked on it, too. I actually used to be much worse about it than I am now. I blame myself for all kinds of things that I had nothing to do with. I have somehow internalized the message that I’m a horrible person, and that nothing I can do will ever be right. I live in a recurring state of regret and fear, shame and despair, which creeps up on me when I least expect it. In almost everything, I blame myself.
So when I read the letter to the Ephesians, what do you suppose is the first thing I gravitate towards?
Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. 4 God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world.5 God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan 6 and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6, CEB)
God chose us to be God’s children. God chose us to be blameless. Without blame, without shame. God chose to give us grace.
So why is it so hard for me to have grace for myself?
If the message of Jesus is grace, and if God loves me despite my flaws, why is it so hard to love myself?
I guess it’s probably because of those flaws that I have a hard time dealing with this blame and shame that I heap upon myself. You ever look at yourself in the mirror really really closely? I mean almost-smash-your-face-against-the-mirror closely? Focus on the individual bits, see all your pores, and hair follicles, and scars, and wrinkles, and contours, and everything? After a while, it can feel like you’re no longer able to recognize who you are, because you’re so focused on the flaws.
It feels like, in my life, I live too close to the mirror.
Thankfully, God has a different perspective. God sees me as a loving parent sees their child, filled with potential, beautifully made, and special in an unnameable way.
Hopefully I can live to see myself the way God sees me.