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We accept the love we think we deserve.

I met these words scrawled on the bathroom wall at a diner in the Twin Cities about a year ago.

Quote is from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Quote is from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I found the statement so confronting, so profound that I felt its truth before I had the chance to process it. All I could do was take a picture, and return to my late night eats with my friend. We talked and people watched into the early hours.

Days, weeks, months later, the words wouldn’t leave me alone. They invited me to dig deeper.

What kind of love have I accepted? What do I think I deserve?

I reflected on earlier chapters of my life and different kinds of love I’d accepted in relationships and friendships. I sometimes accepted a love that required that I gave much more and accepted a lot less in return. When that love was withdrawn I was distraught. I’d work hard to change, to improve. I needed to prove I was worthy to receive that love again. I was insecure and it was exhausting.

That was then and this is now. Isn’t it?

I reflected on my relationship with God. His love found me before I knew I was lost. He paid a debt I couldn’t pay, gave me peace instead of punishment. Mercy. A love I know I don’t deserve. Grace. When I accept the love God actually has for me, I’m overwhelmed by its disorienting, relentless abundance. Love fills in the cracks in my heart and it satisfies and secures. Then it overflows, defining my relationships and my worldview in entirely new ways.

Yet there are still moments that I interpret God’s love through human filters – cultural pressures, and echoes of past brokenness. When fear and shame, scarcity and insecurity dictate the love I think I deserve:

Its a love that says He’ll love me more if I pray harder, read the Bible more, give more money and time and effort.

It also says that yes I’m forgiven, but it’s not forgotten so, just to prove how sorry I am I’ll not quite forgive myself and try to overcompensate for my past failings.

It’s proud of me when I do well in Christian things and live the “right” way.

It’s exhausting.

We accept the love we think we deserve.

Those words weren’t just scrawled on a bathroom wall; they’re written all over the walls of my heart.

They were a timely reminder of the truth I’ve been completely loved before I could even try to deserve it.

They remind me of the way that Grace overcame my guilt and my striving, my need to prove to earn, to improve.

They return me to a love that heals and cleanses and satisfies, that overflows into how I live and love and grow.

They tell me that I don’t need to look back.

That was then. Grace is now.

 

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