What if the only person hindering my ability to receive love is...me?

As I begin to allow God's unconditional love to heal up the raw, aching wounds in my heart, I'm experiencing an unexpected shift of perspective:

I see the good in people.

I even (dare I whisper this?)....see that perhaps I am not a totally ugly, depraved, awful human being. I can see the good in myself, too. I can see that I am worthy of love.

When we were in Bolivia, I was repeatedly surprised by my teammates' compassion not only for the children we visited but for each other. I was even overwhelmed by their love for....me. Do you know how powerful it is when you look in someone's eyes and intentionally ask them: What are you feeling right now? How can I be here for you?

This is the kind of love my Bolivian team-mates showed for me and it made me feel so safe, valued and appreciated. I was folded in with love and it was almost more than I could bear. It sounds strange to admit it, but the outpouring of love was so abundant I didn't know what to do with it. That's when I realized:

I don't know how to receive love.

Has love been here all along and I've been so busy pushing it away that I've never let myself receive it?

I remember this one time in Mass when I felt such an abundance of Jesus' love for me that I got almost embarrassed. I was like: "OK, OK, Jesus! I get it! You love me. Sheesh."

I'm beginning to think that the only one standing in the way of receiving love is....me. I have all these thoughts of my unworthiness, my vile worminess, my desperately wicked heart. I've listened and believed when pastors told me that God loves me and also hates me.

When I first encountered the unconditional love of God, I didn't believe it. It was too good to be true. I'm slowly beginning to understand I am not inherently evil but that there is an essential goodness to my humanity.

What really amazes me, here, is how bad theology can have such damaging effects on something as fundamentally necessary to well-being as the ability to receive love. I have been so persuaded of my inherent, total Depravity that I simply assume I'm not worthy of being loved and I EXPECT rejection. This is why I'm always surprised when my friends keep loving me, when my husband doesn't leave me, when my children spontaneously hug me (when readers on my blog leave gracious comments--even when they disagree). :)

As I allow compassion and deep, unconditional love to root me safely and deeply in God's love, I am able to write with emotional honesty. Love is freeing my voice. Love is gently unwrapping the bandages around my heart and letting me share love with you.

There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun...I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.  If only they could all see themselves as they really are.  If only we could see each other that way all of the time.  There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…” --Thomas MertonConjectures of a Guilty Bystander