During a difficult phase of my life I was searching for peace in the middle of my frustration, so I started spending more time with God. The closer I got, the more I heard an invitation which can be summarized in two words: love and forgiveness. I thought these were obvious words, easy to understand and apply. So I diligently tried to fulfill the command by looking at the positive side of people, being aware of what was happening in my family and trying to be nicer. I even prayed for people I didn’t like. Basically I tried to do many “acts” of service. I wanted to tell God: “Here I am, I am trying to get to know you better. I need you now”.
These things must have had a positive outcome and they did benefit the people around me, but it took me a while to understand where God was trying to lead me. He was asking me to love myself and to forgive myself so I could then love others and forgive others. This is what we read in Matthew 22: “…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) For some reason in the forgiving lesson I missed “yourself” and to be honest, I thought I didn’t need it since I loved myself enough. I dedicated time to study, to work on a career I loved, to have fun at parties and I bought myself nice things once in a while. But God always goes deeper and the more time I spent with him the more He showed me that for some time I have had low self-esteem as I was going through a phase in which I was continuously judging myself. I was begging for love, full of guilt and fear, waiting for punishment from God because I felt I wasn’t enough.
Realizing this has been a freeing experience. Now I know God’s overflowing love for me and I receive and delight in his grace and mercy. God used my mistakes as I hit bottom to show me what forgiveness is all about: repentance instead of guilt, freedom instead of condemnation, peace instead of sadness, present instead of past. I can enjoy all these because God did this for me and also for you: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
I still have a long way to go, but each day forgiving and loving myself becomes easier because of God’s love for me. He is more interested in love than legalism, tradition, or religion.