Good Shepherd, Catacombs of Callisto, mid 3rd-century CE
Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, rich in mercy, out of the great love with which God loved us, even when we were dead through our sins, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
This scripture is for you if you were brought up to believe God sets the behavior bar high and insists you reach it. Miss it once, God understands. Miss it repeatedly, that’s trouble. It’s for you if God is hard to please, expects you to fail, likes you less when you do, and isn’t all that happy even when you pull off something good.
Because it’s never enough. Because you are not enough. You know no one can be perfect, but you try anyway. It’s for you if you almost hate God for requiring perfection, but you know hating God is wrong, so you hate yourself instead.
It’s also for you if you feel proper guilt over real sins. You long for pardon and peace, but you don’t ask. You can’t come clean. Too much is riding on your upright image. Afraid you might break and never mend, you prefer the suffering self you know to the healed self you don’t.
Now, if you were not brought up with God keeping score; if you never internalized the lie that you’re no good because you’re imperfect or a sinner or a woman or queer or fat or you like to dance and drink or you inhabit a body that doesn’t fit your soul; if you never believed the perverse doctrine that the more miserable you are the happier God is; if shame has never body-slammed you in any way, you can ignore this scripture.
But if you’re bent over by this stuff, barely able to breathe, it’s for you—this truth, this saving grace, the resurrection and the life: “But God…”
Prayer O Mercy without end, when shame says we’re not worthy of your love, contradict it with your truth. Send your Spirit to reply, “But God…”