Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
We lean in closer. We need to hear it again. “You are loved. I will love you outrageously all the days of your life.”
Graham Cooke declares it. He declares it with the Voice of truth singing loud and strong: “You can only love Me as much as you love yourself. So my love comes to set you free from yourself, to set you free from how you see yourself, to set you free from the smallness of your own thinking about yourself.”
Our Father comes and frees us from the smallness of our own thinking because of the abuse, the self-contempt, the despair, the shame, the pride, the fear.
The six of us sit in a circle around the small portable speaker placed on the ottoman in the center of the room. We are hungry, searching. We are missing God. We are tired and want to lay ourselves down.
We gather, the six of us, because the lies have come again. Silently. Stealthily. They have crept in, and we didn’t even see them. But they are tangible. They are dark. We can feel them on our skin, our minds, our hearts.
I am too much. I am not enough. I live with guilt that I am not a good mom, a good wife, a good friend. I look back and regret, wishing I could do things differently. I am afraid I will fail.
So we remind each other of Truth. We ask Holy Spirit to reveal to us the obstacle stealing our joy. We give God the obstacle and ask Him to replace it with his kindness, his love. We ask Him to increase our capacity for receiving his love.
I know what my obstacle is. It is ugly. An awful word.
I listen again: We can only love God from the love He gives. Being open to more of God’s love for us is an act of loving ourselves. And loving ourselves, through the love God gives us, helps us to love God.
But this doesn’t feel easy to do.
It can be difficult to be kind to ourselves. We resist receiving the love that God wants to give us. We resist living in the freedom of His love and truth and light.
For each of us, there is usually an obstacle to receiving God’s love. There is something in our way.
In the circle, my sisters and I speak the truth of Scripture to each other. We soak up encouragement and truth. We listen for the heart of God. We go to battle for our own hearts–and for the hearts of each other. We ask God to destroy the lies. We ask Him to take away the messages we believe that steal our joy and press heavily on our hearts.
I tell my friends that I feel the spirit of diminishment upon me, or the spirit of chaos, or the spirit of distraction and comparison and envy and self-contempt. Which one? Each an obstacle to receiving the love of God.
Self-contempt prompts me toward further self-diminishment. I scroll Facebook when the lights are turned off at night, torturing myself with comparison, envy, fear. Everything in the Facebook feed looks so beautiful, so perfect. I focus on what I am not, not on whom God says I am.
Self-contempt makes me feel isolated, alone. I feel removed, far away from God. Relationships suffer. I push people away–all because my heart is suffering too.
Father, take this away from me. I give you my self-contempt. Set me free from myself. Set me free. I repent of my attitude of ingratitude, looking at what I don’t have rather than at what I have been given.
The words playing over the speaker soften my hardened heart. These words bring me Home: “He loves you 100% right now. He loves you 100%. Because that’s His nature. He loves all the way, all the time. His love is unchanging. What will change is your ability to receive my love.”
Yes, God, I open my heart to You. I want more of your love. I give You this obstacle. I see You moving it completely out of the way.
Sister, let us fight for our own heart. Let us join together, picking up our swords of truth, laying down the lies that steal our joy. Will you name your obstacle that is stealing your joy? We can pray for one another here.
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This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com