We’re profoundly shaped, whether we know it or not, by the people who surround us in life. In my initial group of friends I was shaped by a spirit of jealousy and competition. We competed with each other for attention and for invitations and even for intimacy. This simply didn’t work. We always had some kind of subtle or passive aggressive fight going on between two or more members of the group. In short, we all kind of learned various roundabout ways to hate each other and tear each other down.
In my second group of friends, I found people who had also struggled in their lives. They saw, in me, another person who was struggling. Rather than to judge me for my struggle they engaged me in conversation and relationship. They shared their struggles. They listened. They encouraged. They accepted. I never felt like I was on the precipice of losing their acceptance. It felt like it was just there. I had it. Because I had it, I could live as a victim no more. Part of this is because I saw within myself the capacity to cause a great deal of harm. Part of it was because acceptance is so freeing.
I was freed from the desire to compete for relational resources and to simply exist in the world as a person attempting to mirror God. I was no longer distracted by petty things. This doesn’t mean things were perfect for me or that I was never jealous or never distracted- it just meant that these were no longer defining qualities of my way of being. These things happened, but they came across as random rather than as signs of my identity as a competitive and jealous person.
I suspect that this experience is what the kingdom of God is meant to feel like. We’re awakened to the reality of ourselves…and it’s okay. When I say that I don’t mean that it’s okay to be awakened and never change. I just mean it’s okay to realize that you’re human and not be ashamed. Then, the awakening creates a freedom that leads us into new places in our transformation. This happens because we feel safe. We’re not nervous or worried about being expelled or rejected. We’re loved, therefore we can freely pursue the best aspects of our humanity rather than to devolve into the worst as we engage in jealousies and competitions.
Do you feel loved? Do you feel accepted? Do you feel free?
Where are you trying to find these things?