Romans 4:13-25 calls us to put aside both our perfectionism which judges ourselves as unloveable if we don’t jump through hoops of performance or its twin judgmentalism that condemns another for not living up to some standard we or a religious establishment has set up. Instead we are called to recognize our relationship with God and the transformations it brings as pure gift, flowing from an abundant and overwhelming grace.
No amount of diligence and perfectionism can earn love. All it can do is get nearer or further to some mark of accomplishment, building up feelings of either self-condemnation or judgmentalism against those who are not doing as well as you. Both are like an acid burning down the bonds that tie us together with those around us in community, eroding the warm feelings we have toward them or, worse yet, toward ourselves and toward God.
Love comes often unexpected, and always freely. God’s love, like the love of a mother, comes not because we have done anything good or bad to earn it, but simply because we are God’s children. In fact the Hebrew word for God’s loving compassion is derived from its word for womb: God feels a womb-love for us, that feeling of love and compassion that whips up in a mother the moment she feels her child moving in her womb. It is not earned but free, a commitment to that child simply because they are hers.
Experiencing such a love frees you and frees me to set aside all idea of condemning judgment, and embrace the sense that we are worthy. We are accepted. We are loved, just as we are, and delighted in, imperfections and all. After all we do not wait to love a child until it can talk, walk, dress itself, and clean its own diapers. We love it, imperfections and all, and embrace that which is not full-grown as a part of the beauty and wonder of childhood.
This is how God looks at you and your imperfections. Embracing that free grace frees you to see yourself as you fully are, not hiding either your strengths and weaknesses. It frees you to ask God and others for help in the areas you are weak and also to not hide your candlesticks of strengths under bushel baskets.
Perhaps most amazing of all, it enables you to begin to more fully embrace others, just as they are, realizing they are loved, they are worthy, they are accepted without condition too. You are freed to see them for the value they are, strengths and weaknesses together.
Finally this grace coming out of God’s love freely also is life-giving. St. Paul uses the example of how Sarai and Abram experience Sarai becoming with child when she is past child bearing age and her body is good as dead in that department, and likely Abram’s is too. Yet God is able, as free gift, because God is the fountain from which all life, healing, liberty, and strength comes. Ultimately new beginnings, new opportunities, new identities all are possible even in the most dead-end points in life and when we are the most powerless on our own, simply because God who brings the power of life in the midst of death is the one whose love now animates our lives.
May you experience more of this love, and this life-giving energy that flows from God’s love, this day.