I think it’s true to say that all of us, without doubt, want to feel loved and accepted for who we are. We want to feel loved and accepted by our parents, by our spouse, by our friends, by our church leaders and those we lead, those we serve and those we work with. Feeling accepted, helps us to feel validated and ‘OK’ about ourselves.
Some relationships don’t matter so much and some people – a few – can genuinely say, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me”. Even these people, who would say that the opinion of others doesn’t count for a great deal, probably know that the opinion of those on whom they feel dependent, like an employer or someone who is going to assess them in some way, does matter.
For the vast majority of us however the desire to be accepted, and to feel as if we belong, is of great importance and can affect, in many ways, how we conduct ourselves. We see it in the gang member, the pupil with their class mates at school, the family member, and the church member. Feeling unaccepted, is a lonely place and not a position that many of us want to fill.
One of the difficulties for us as human beings is that we are flawed. We are ‘noble but fallen’, as CS Lewis would say. Therefore, although we long for acceptance and the feeling of closeness that it brings, it can be the case that, the closer we get to others, the more our weaknesses and failings can be seen, and not many of us want to experience the rejection that that might precipitate.
When we are children we long for affirmation and acceptance from our parents and primary care givers, but of course they see us at our best and our worst. Loving us includes the task of disciplining and training us, as well as caring, protecting and providing for us, and so we can grow up feeling that there are things about us that are unacceptable. That can then be reinforced by teachers, and other adults in our lives, who bring correction at various times.
If that is so we sometimes learn to hide, to keep our distance from people. We learn to make sure that people see our acceptable face, and maybe we find it hard when some part of us, that we are not so keen about, gets exposed. Some of us work hard to ‘please’ others, living to gain approval, but then that in itself does not give us a secure relaxed place in life because there is always the risk of being ‘found out’ if people really get to know us.
Well the amazing thing about our wonderful heavenly Father is that He knows us completely and utterly, even better than we know ourselves, Psalm 139:1-6, and yet we are totally ‘accepted in the beloved’, Ephesians 1:6. The Passion Translation puts that very mystical passage in these words, ‘Because of His great love, He ordained us, so that we would be seen as holy in His eyes with an unstained innocence. For it was always in His perfect plan to adopt us as His delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the anointed one, so that His tremendous love that cascades over us would glorify His grace – for the same love He has for His beloved one, Jesus, He has for us.’
It’s not a case of ‘love is blind’ with God, nor is my acceptance with Him based on my performance, but it is because I am now united with Christ, My heavenly Father can see the problem that I am, and the problems that I have; He can discipline and train me, use every circumstance to make me more like Jesus, and still accept and love me totally and completely as He loves Jesus. Quite amazing!!
If holiness, as we wrote yesterday, is being set apart and special, and we are ‘God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved’ Colossians 3:1, then we can revel in His acceptance of us. We have no need to ‘hide’, we are in a relationship where He knows everything about us, and loves us still with a relentless and undying love. Giving thanks for this wonderful truth, helps me to absorb it deep into my being, and the acceptance for which I long will become more and more real in my experience.