Introduction- Tuesday, October 21
I love how God has created the seasons of nature, and how these seasons provide life lessons and inspiration for us. We too, experience the cycles of seasons in our lives- winters of barrenness and rest, springs of resurrection and new growth, and summers of productivity and abundance. Perhaps because I am at this later-middle stage of life, the season of autumn especially touches my soul. The autumn season is a sacred time of radiant splendor turning into quiet surrender, as the trees transform into their true and glorious colors and then gradually, gently surrender everything to the earth.
In my next few blogs, I will be sharing some of the insights God seems to be revealing through this movement of the trees from splendor to surrender. We will consider how Jesus graciously frees us to live lives of radiant beauty, and also discern what we should surrender in order to fully receive all that he has come to give us.
THE FREEDOM OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
1 John 3:1a (NRSV)
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.
At our WELCA Cluster Women’s Retreat this past weekend, Stephanie led us through some meaningful sessions on LOVE. We spent the first day discussing the limits of our human love: the times when we are unloving, the times when our love is conditional, the times we have been hurt by others’ conditional love. As each woman shared her personal stories, we gained new perspectives and appreciation for the amazing unconditional love God has for all of us through Jesus.
God loves us completely and fully. God loves us- no matter how we have been treated, no matter how we have failed in our love for others, no matter how we struggle and fumble or learn and grow in our relationship with God and one another. God loves us all the time. Always. Forever. The telling of our stories and the lessons of the day were powerful and meaningful.
But on Sunday morning, Stephanie asked a question that moved me to tears: “How would you love YOURSELF with a bold and Christ-like love?”
As I try to follow Jesus’ example of love, I generally think about growing in my love toward others. It often feels selfish to love myself as well. And in the times when I don’t like myself very much, to know that I am still beloved seems overwhelming and undeserved. This love IS undeserved! Turning this love of Christ toward myself feels so humbling… and so completely freeing.
We were invited to write down some ways we could love ourselves with the bold love of Christ. This practice began to open new visions, new images of whom we are called to be. Knowing that we are loved by God gave us the courage to dream, the yearning to grow and learn, the desire to see our unique selves as God has created us. Like the leaves of autumn, our true colors began to reveal themselves in the light of Christ’s unconditional love.
To genuinely live in the freedom of unconditional love, we must fully welcome, embrace and absorb this love. We must also fully surrender whatever may hinder us from from receiving and radiating this love. We may need to surrender our insecurities, our doubts, or our imperfections. We may need to surrender our pride, our selfishness, or our self-reliance.
What hinders you from fully receiving this generous and life-changing love of Christ? What might you surrender today? Like the autumn trees, we are beautifully transformed when we embrace God’s radiant splendor… through our gentle surrender.