I recently had the privilege of partaking in a small group study of the book "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality" by Peter Scazzero. There is SO much to be gleaned from both Peter and Geri Scazzero in terms of recognizing how our emotional immaturity manifests itself in various destructive patterns of thinking and behaviour.
One of the sections that made my own heart skip a beat and do a double-take was a section entitled The Gift of Anchoring in God's Love.
Peter begins by saying that "Christianity is not about our disciplined pursuit of God, but about God's relentless pursuit of us. Most of us believe this intellectually....Experiencing this infinite love in our hearts is another matter. The sinister voices of the surrounding world and our pasts are powerful. They repeat the deeply held negative beliefs we may have learned in our families and cultures growing up."
Peter identifies a few of these sinister voices/lies in List #1:
"I am a mistake.
I am a burden.
I am stupid.
I am worthless.
I am not allowed to make mistakes.
I must be approved by certain people to feel okay.
I don't have the right to experience joy and pleasure.
I don't have the right to assert myself and say what I think and feel.
I don't have a right to feel.
I am valued based on my intelligence, wealth, and what I do, not for who I am."
Peter goes on to describe in List #2 what the self-talk of an emotionally healthy individual would sound like. To be honest, at first glance, I actually thought I was reading the bad list, the list of what we're NOT supposed to think about ourselves. My gut reaction immediately categorized what I was reading as "Prideful" and therefore catering to the "entitlement mentality" so pervasive in our culture today. Yet it was this reaction, in and of itself, that revealed to my own heart that I still have a ways to go in my journey towards emotionally healthy spirituality.
"I hold myself in high regard despite my imperfections and limits.
I am worthy to assert my God-given power in the world.
I am entitled to exist.
It is good that I exist.
I have my own identity from God that is distinct and unique.
I am worthy of being valued and paid attention to.
I am entitled to joy and pleasure.
I am entitled to make mistakes."
If we spend most of our time thinking, feeling, and defining ourselves according to the first list, it's no wonder that the love of God seems so distant and far removed from our souls. It's no wonder that "freedom of spirit" alludes us. It's only as I began to meditate on the second list, allowing those truths to filter down into the deep recesses of my soul that I caught a fresh glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you FREE." It was in my sheer acknowledgement, "Hey, these truths are true of ME", that my spirit found wings and soared right into the loving arms of God.
The command to "love our neighbour AS we love ourselves" will be better lived out if we can all learn to lovingly declare these truths over ourselves as well as over others.