More and more lately, I’ve been greatly aware of people simply being people. What I mean is that no one is better than or less than anyone else. Our culture, and some other cultures in the world, try to get all of us to live as though we need to always try to be better than others, and the idea that there are those who are less than us somehow makes us feel better about ourselves.
I believe I’ve wrestled with this within myself my entire life. I’ve tried to do what I could to see myself as deserving of love because of my actions or personality, talents, skills, demeanor, etc., yet, most of my life, I’ve felt I must not be measuring up in some way or another because I don’t have the things, relationships, or opportunities that others do. There is always an underlying current in my mind that has made me think I need to do something more to be better and for the world to see me as deserving. I’ve considered myself as less than much of the time, even when I do something well or achieve an honor.
On the flip side, I’ve also felt guilty many times for thinking of myself as a better person than someone or perceiving that I do something better than another person does it. In my ego , I’ve felt justified or that I have worth because of those situations and comparisons.
The fact is, in my heart of hearts, my true self knows we all have worth because of God’s love for us. As I once heard a preacher share, ‘the ground is level at the foot of the cross…there are no better thans or less thans in the Kingdom.” I’ve tried to live in this reality for a number of years.
Recently, this has been running through my mind constantly … when I drive through the “bad part” of town or the “rich neighborhood”, when I check out at the store or speak with someone on the phone for work, when I fail or when I succeed. God loves us all the same, and for the most part, we’re all just people trying to make the most out of our broken lives, no matter what our bank accounts or homes portray about us and no matter how many goals we meet, failures we taste, how we look or who we know.
Just as each of these photos displays the beauty of an individual event, flower, and bird, we each have our own individuality and
beauty, our own value and worth, simply because we exist. May we all rest in this within ourselves as well as look on each other in the awareness of this truth….and love all as God loves us.
“I LOVE REMBRANDT’S painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The father holds his child, touches his child, and says, “You are my beloved. I’m not going to ask you any questions. Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you’re my beloved. I hold you safe in my embrace. You can come home to me whose name is Compassionate, whose name is Love.”
If we keep that in mind, we can deal with an enormous amount of success as well as an enormous amount of failure without losing our identity, because our identity is that we are the beloved. Long before our father and mother, our brothers and sisters, our teachers, our church, or anyone else touched us in a loving or a wounding way—long before we were rejected by some person or praised by somebody else—that voice was there. “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). That love was there before we were born and will be there after we die.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen with John S. Mogabgab, Series Editor
A Spirituality of Living” (The Upper Room Daily Devotional Email, July 27)