No need for self-condemnation—God loves you!

First appeared as a web original on October 23, 2006

Have you ever felt you weren’t good enough to go to church? As if you didn’t deserve to be there? Or maybe that you weren’t living up to the standards of Christian behavior the way you think you should?

When you feel like that, or you think others are judging you, it can just seem easier to stay home. But isn’t it ironic that we sometimes pull away from church when we need it most?

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That happened to me a few years back. I’d been struggling with a variety of issues—some key relationships were in disarray, my finances had taken a nose dive, and I had some long-standing health challenges I couldn’t shake. I’d prayed, but I was so overwhelmed that I lost my bearings and felt like I didn’t know how to pray anymore. What I was doing just wasn’t working for me.

While I never quit believing in God, I did feel disconnected from Him. I wondered what I’d done that was so bad that I couldn’t see my way clearly. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of participating at church while questions and bitter disappointments swirled in my head.

Still, deep in my heart, I knew that church is about healing. It’s a community of people working to understand God better—not a group that has it all worked out. So it seemed legitimate to ask: Was I really that different from any of the other church members?

One thing that helped bridge the gap was that my daughter wanted to go to Sunday School. So we went every once in a while, and I attended the service while she was in class. To my surprise, I discovered that I was more engaged than I’d expected to be. I was really listening. Sometimes I rebelled at a few of the statements because they conflicted with the way I was thinking about life at the moment. But somehow it still felt good to think about the ideas—maybe because they’d previously been such an integral part of my upbringing and life.

Gradually, I started to feel the presence of the Christ in my life—in church and out. I began to realize that I didn’t have to live the perfect Christian life to have a relationship with God. And this was the first step in feeling close to my Father-Mother God once again.

At the same time, I learned to be more patient and compassionate with myself and others. It was easy to be judgmental when things were going well and I thought I had all the answers. But I found it was nice to let go of the need to be humanly perfect—and the urge to be critical when other people didn’t measure up to my standards.

And little by little, I realized that all was not lost, even when everything around me was so messed up. I started to be grateful for the things that were going right. Some days that wasn’t easy, but I could always find something good about my life even if it was as basic as “I’m breathing.”

This gratitude directly opened my thought to God, and I saw that I was not alone; God had always been with me. I hadn’t felt that way at all before. In fact, I’d often wondered how God could abandon me when I’d been so faithful to Him. But thinking about spiritual concepts, while not always comfortable during this time, showed me that it was only my perception that God was distant. He had been there right along.

I saw that I’d been asking the wrong question—“Why aren’t You taking care of me, God?”—and I started asking the right one—“How could I ever be separated from Spirit?” This shift in perspective changed everything. I was even able to see that all my needs had been met during this troubled time.

The religious beliefs I’d held my whole life became more alive and real to me than ever. It’s a gift I didn’t see coming, but one I’d never return.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (Science and Health, p. vii). She didn’t write, “To those who understand all things spiritual. . .”! Leaning on God, turning to Him when we don’t feel “good enough,” opens up the way to experience those blessings.

God, the best Father-Mother there is, loves Her children consistently. God knows us spiritually, not as struggling mortals with troubled hearts, but as spiritual ideas, perfect in
 every way. We are always worthy of Her love. And when we open ourselves up to this love, it transforms our lives and reaches us even when we’re most distressed or have done something we regret.

When I was in graduate school, I had an uncomfortable vaginal infection that I couldn’t shake. I’d been sleeping with my boyfriend and felt like I was letting God down because this wasn’t consistent with what I’d learned about chastity and morality from my study of Christian Science.

I wanted to be healed, but I didn’t want to give up the physical affection I shared with my boyfriend. Because of this, I didn’t feel like the truths I was reading about in the Bible and Science and Health applied to me. One day, while visiting a Christian Science practitioner to find a solution, I blurted out, “I’m sleeping with my boyfriend, and I’m class-taught!” (I meant I’d taken a twelve-day course in spiritual healing, which indicated my commitment to Christian Science.) 

When we open ourselves up to God’s love, it reaches us even when we’re most distressed
 or have done something we regret.

Instead of condemning me, the practitioner laughed and said, “Oooooooooh, triple sin!” I felt completely embraced by that laughter and the love that came with it. The practitioner talked about purity not as something to attain, but rather as a spiritual quality that is part of every single spiritual idea—including me.

I felt the love of God right there in that office and was quickly healed of the infection. I no longer felt cut off from God. And feelings of inadequacy didn’t keep me from spiritual study or church anymore. I ultimately married my boyfriend, but more important, I gained a more sure-footed understanding of morality in general, and I progressively made better moral decisions in all areas of my life.

The human details in the lives of people Christ Jesus healed suggest that at least some seemed pretty undeserving—Zacchæus the tax-collector is one example; the adulterous woman Jesus saved from being stoned to death is another. But it seems to me that Jesus was able to heal instantaneously because he didn’t waste time judging the outward signs, but focused immediately on the respective individual’s spiritual identity. Jesus’ pure love for the men, women, and children he healed mirrored the love that God feels for His children.

Obviously, we’re part of this love, too. St. Paul made this reassuring statement in the Bible: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39).

Disparaging views of ourselves, or others, can’t keep anyone from the good that God is continuously giving to each one of us.

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