This particular dinner could have won the award for the worst family dinner ever. I had been anticipated a happy occasion with a few of us gathered around the table talking, and laughing, feasting on tacos made by my wife. Instead it was a complete disaster. Minutes prior to the arrival of our guests we received a phone call informing us of a situation that we were unaware of. This heartbreaking revelation, quickly transformed my “almost constant” smile into the shape of frustration. As hard as I tried to pretend that “all was well”, there was no way to disguise the pain that I was feeling. One gaze into my eyes and you could see that I was in a state of affliction .
Slowly and laboriously, I made it through the dinner. Unbeknownst to everyone, I was literally choking on every bite that I took. My heart felt heavy and it was pounding louder than the one found in the story of the Tell-Tale-Heart. My usual laughter was overcome with silence as I struggled to carry a conversation. Finally I couldn’t contain the sadness any longer. I told those gathered the news that I had just heard and expressed my concern.
In a perfect world, the moments that followed would’ve filled with confession, love, sharing of the gospel, and repentance. However, the exact opposite happened. The minutes that followed burst into a blame game of nuclear caliber. What should have been a peaceful evening had, instead, become a war zone. Without warning, one of our guests turned towards me and began to make a verbal list of every mistake, failure, and poor choice that they had ever seen me make. To add to the experience, this guest interwove words more colorful than the colors found on the face, and wardrobe, of a Hollywood Boulevard lady-of-the-night. My plans for a fun-filled night had topped over like a drunk-groomsman into a wedding cake. It was ugly and there was no going back.
My first reaction was to remain frozen and speechless. I felt as if I was standing before the great throne, on judgement day, with a great serpent reading all my sins before a Holy God. I felt exposed, naked, and full of shame. Although I was aware that the rant was saturated with that person’s personal narrative and opinion, I could not deny the part of the discourse that was true. Once again I was confronted with the fact that, although I had made significant progress in life, there will always be someone who will see me as the person that I used to be. The acknowledgement of this sent a flash-flood of regret, shame, condemnation, and self-hatred my way. I felt like I was drowning and longed to be rescued from the waters that were tormenting me.
Although my guests left, the war that began that night remained. It became impossible for me to close my eyes without seeing the face, and hearing the words, of the person who had accused me. Although, my first reaction was to turn to God and ask him for help, I knew that I could benefit from the support of my tribe. Embarrassed about what had just occurred, I didn’t go into detail, I simply sent a quick text to three of my friends asking them for prayer. Within minutes I received a several text messages and a phone call reminding me of the gospel, God’s love for me, and my identity as a child of God. These texts and phone calls were brief, but significant, and they continued for the course of a week. Although these texts were rather simple, they carried with them a profound truths that I needed to hear and rest on.
The vicious expressions of the person who had yelled at me were abruptly muffled by an outpouring messages that reminded me of the overwhelming and radical love of God. I was reminded that God loved me even when I was at my worst. I was reminded that God, in His love, no longer sees me as I once was. I was reminded that He has plans to prosper me, and to give me hope…. and a future. I was reminded that in His love, He protects me and fights for me. And greater yet, no matter what I might face, in His love, He will always work everything together for my good….. Then the thought came to my mind, If God loves me, in spite of my short-comings, why can’t I love me?
I chose to confront this question with a clear and conscious decision to love myself regardless of the opinions, or judgement, of others. I concluded that the gospel is much more than a “get out of hell for free” card. It is an invitation for me (and for others) to live, walk, and move in hope, healing and freedom. As I listened to the Apostle John’s instruction to walk as Jesus walked, I made a choice to love myself in the same manner that Jesus did. Furthermore, as I am living in my new-found-freedom, I am determined to teach others how to radically love themselves too.
I leave you with the following challenge.
Identify any voice in your life that is causing you to resent yourself. (It may be someone else…. or it could possibly be you.)
Give yourself permission to distance yourself from, or extinguish that voice.
Identify one way that you can start to demonstrate love to yourself today.
Tomorrow, when you wake up, identify another way (or the same way), that you can demonstrate love to yourself (Repeat until it become second-nature to you)
Identify someone else that might benefit from this challenge and share it with them.
John Eli Garay
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