by Grant Porteous, LMSW
I’m seeing a dynamic emerging in the work I do with families and couples that is a relatively new observation for me, so I thought I’d run it by you to see what you think. Also, since I work with a lot of people whose faith is centered in God through Christ, I’m going to frame it like that and, if that’s not your experience, I’ll let you translate it for yourself. Either way, it goes something like this:
If my identity in Christ is clear and accurate and I know – as Jesus did – who I really am and what God really thinks of me, then I will in turn be seeing God as He really is. This could be a chicken and egg sort of discussion, that is, do I first know who God is and then come to know myself as a result of that; or, do I first come to accept what God has to say about me, and then get to know who He really is? Let’s say for now that’s not the point.
The point is this: once I know who I am, and who God really is, I’m able to rightly assess my worth and rightly assess God’s love toward me. That correct assessment allows me to then receive God’s love as he desires me to experience it and, in turn, my response is able to be one of unfettered love, worship, awe, and adoration. In other words, a sort of natural flow is set in motion where the one who rightly assesses their value and worth is able to receive love, and is also able to offer love in return in a smooth-flowing, reciprocating way. Picture the symbol for eternity, a line flowing seamlessly back and forth in a loop.
The problem seems to occur – and it seems to occur a whole lot – that many of us don’t see ourselves as worthy of love. While this may happen for a number of reasons, the net result is this: whatever love is sent – from God or anyone else – can’t really be received. Instead, love may wind up coming to us as an experience of judgment, or condemnation, or something critical and ill-intended. And, in return, we send back only what we’re able to offer from our own broken image of ourselves. While this arrangement might work indefinitely with God, who never gives up on us or tires of our attempts to reach out to him, our families, friends, and loved ones may not handle this very well.
So, as a person of faith in God in Christ, to be able to receive love as it is intended I first need to get my identity clear and really know who I am. If I’m clear about my true identity and value, I am then able to offer love without defensiveness, fear, or control to those around me – since that would be consistent with my identity. As I grow in the one area, I grow in the other, and the flow of love between or among us (say, in our families) continues to be more and more free flowing.
Of course there’s a lot more to this dynamic as the process works itself out, but I hope this part makes sense. Either way, feel free to let me know what you think.