The essential goodness of the human person
The love of God is greater farthan tongue or pen can ever tell It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest Hell. -- from the hymn "The Love of God" written by Frederick Lehman
I think I'm finally reaching a point where the anger I've felt about my experiences inside an abusive, fundamentalist cult is slipping away, melting off my soul.
If I had to define the reason for this change, I would say it stems from my growing understanding of just how much God loves me.
When you are raised with the “I am a worm” theology, it’s easy to understand God’s love as tempermental, conditional, easily revoked. In this theology, God is always turning away from us, hiding His face from us. It was a confusing paradox: I could neither earn God’s love nor could I retain it. What I knew for sure was that I was undeserving of His love. Therefore, I was never convinced God really loved me.
I think a lot of my anger in the years since leaving the cult had to do with being angry toward THAT God—the petty, tempermental one Who took meticulous notes about my failures and threatened me with punishment should I forget to confess them.
But now, as I’ve slowly (veerrrrry slooowwwlly) come to catch glimpses of the magnitude of God’s love for me, I’m surprised to discover the anger dissipating like fog in the warmth of the sun. I mean, I was sort of demanding about it. I was like: OK, God. Prove it! Prove you love me! And He did.
I can tell you I never expected to reach this point--a point where I'm no longer angry but almost (can it be true?) grateful for everything I experienced? Arriving here is not something I could have forced. You can't speed up the process of recovery. You have to work it slowly, gently, expecting to regress as much as you progress. And the seasons of recovery sometimes require a season of lying fallow--letting the soul soil rest.
Most remarkably of all, I've come to a point where I'm able to see the essential goodness of people. My default mode was to see the human person as inherently evil and depraved. But now, I can look at people and see the goodness--the dignity--with which we were all created. It's a wholly different vantage point and one that lends itself to compassion, empathy and hope.
Instead of seeing each person as vile, wretched and deserving of Hell-fire, I see each person as inherently noble, beautiful and deserving of God's love--simply because each of us are made in the image of God.
Yes, we make mistakes and fail, yes we stumble and don't live up to the image of God within us--but this does not change our essential makeup. Nor does it change God's unwavering love for us.
I'm reminded of my love for my children. Yes, they stumble and make mistakes. Yes, they sometimes make bad choices. But this does not change who they are (they are still my children) or how I love them (unconditionally).
Could, perhaps, God loves us like this?
I love the way Leila wrote about this here:
Human beings are essentially good. God did not create anything that was evil or corrupt. Tragically, sin entered the world by our first parents' choice, and mankind fell from God's grace. Since then, humans have been afflicted with concupiscence; ie. the tendency to sin. Where once humans had perfect integrity of body and soul, we are now easily tempted to evil. However, human beings, who are made in God's image and likeness, are still essentially good. Every person, without exception, has inherent dignity and was made for the glory of Heaven.
Yes, the love of God changes everything. It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest Hell.