Have you ever had your world turned upside down by a single sentence?
Have you ever felt someone else’s words unlock a caged place within your heart?
If so, then this story is for you.
It begins with me spending a month in a residential rehab called The Clearing.
I am here for work – I’m a copywriter on The Clearing’s team, writing ebooks and essays – but I am also here for my own healing.
On this particular day in workshop, we are learning about self-forgiveness. We are offering ourselves compassion for our judgments against ourselves and others.
Then The Clearing’s co-founder and CEO Joe Koelzer tells us, almost offhandedly, “Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to worry about asking God for forgiveness.”
At this, I cannot help but raise my hand and say, “Wait … you don’t?”
Sunset at The Clearing, Summer 2016
There is incredulity in my voice, because Joe is speaking a language I don’t understand. The thought of not asking God for forgiveness feels utterly foreign to me.
After all, my childhood God was a God of judgment. While I met some wonderful people in my church growing up, I also absorbed a lot of ideas about working hard to be saved and not ending up in the Lake of Fire.
And while I’ve let go of some spiritual baggage, the child within me still fears not measuring up.
How many times have I prayed for forgiveness over the years? How many times have I begged the God of my understanding to please, please forgive my many mistakes and failings?
“No,” Joe says. “And I’ll tell you why not. As we’ve discussed before, here we believe that God is unconditional love.”
I nod. That much I can follow; that much feels familiar.
Joe continues, “Well, think about it. A lot of people talk about God’s unconditional love … except if you do X, Y, and Z. But that’s not actually unconditional love. By definition, there is no judgment in it.
God doesn’t need to forgive you because God never judged you.”
My eyes are deer-in-the-headlights-wide.
Joe gives me a kind smile and concludes, gently, “You were the one that judged you. But God never did.”
It’s hard to describe precisely how hard this hits me. God doesn’t need to forgive you because God never judged you.
It’s as though I have spent years in a dark room and someone has flipped on the lights. I am blinded, yet I am also seeing clearly.
Joe’s words conflict with religious doctrines that I’ve believed for most of my life. But they also cause a powerful, ring-true resonance within me. They align with every felt experience of the Divine that I’ve ever had.
My mind is incredulous – How can this possibly be? – but my heart is beating out steady affirmation: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Soon there will be tears in my eyes, but for now I am too shocked to cry. When I do find my voice, I say, “Wait. Wait. Stop the bus. Really?”
For the rest of the session my fellow Participants will make (good-natured) fun of me for my reaction, and I will not mind.
Instead, I will feel old knots of fear falling away. I will think about the recorded words of Jesus in the Gospel of John: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
And as the weeks and months pass, this simple, freeing truth will return to me again and again …
God never judged me. God never judged you. There was always only love.
I love my friend and mentor Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book Only Love Today because every time I hold it in my hands, I remember.
I remember that day at The Clearing when my own vision cleared. And I remember that every day, every moment, is another chance to choose.
“Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response . . . my gut instinct . . . my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.” – Rachel Macy Stafford
Rachel is an amazing friend and a wholehearted writer, and I can’t wait to welcome her to our You Need to Read video interview series soon! But for now, I wanted to post and let you know about her book launch.
Only Love Today releases Tuesday, March 7, so there’s still a little time to receive the pre-order bonus gifts: coloring pages, downloadable prints, a phone screen, and bookmarks.
Note that I’m not an affiliate for the book, just a friend and a fan, as is Bootsie the cat. So what are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy!
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