I have failed in my life, more frequently than I care to admit, and more than I will tell you about here. I have failed at things that other people seem to come by naturally: job satisfaction, making friends, marriage. I have come to understand that my desire to achieve is a symptom of the belief that I am unlovable and unworthy.
Because of this, I find it difficult to believe that anyone could truly love me, especially God. There have been times in my life when I totally rejected the notion that He could, so I walked away from Him and from His Church. Yet each time I turned around, there He was, not giving up on me, wanting to show me that I am lovable, no matter what I (or anyone else) feels. God does love me, in spite of myself, or maybe because of myself.
I have never felt His love more than at St. Paul’s. Yes, there have been times when I have felt rejected, looked down upon or misunderstood. I remember one Sunday, sitting in the chapel in the midst of a service, when I felt profoundly lonely. I wondered what was wrong with me. I was almost in tears, considering not coming back, but after church, a longtime parishioner put his arm around my shoulders and told me he was glad I did not return to Texas after my divorce. I realized that that was God loving me through that person, and that I was exactly where I needed to be.
I could end here, telling you that I need St. Paul’s because I feel loved here, but that would not explain how I have truly met God in this place. Most people who aren’t me expect to be loved by God and others. Feeling that love is not surprising. I know God is on this place because I have finally learned to love others as he wants me to love them.
I know God has met me in this place because when I sit in the pews, when I chat in the parish hall, when I serve the Cup, I not only feel loved by the people around me, but I also love them. I came to a full realization of this recently, but it has been growing steadily for some time now. I have finally begun to genuinely see Christ in others and to understand the nature of our diverse yet shared gifts.
Do I still feel unworthy and unlovable sometimes? Of course I do. Am I always willing to give someone a hug or a friendly word? No. I still get disappointed, annoyed, even ignored. But love is an action verb, not a romantic notion that we’re all going to be best friends forever. Love takes time, and work (talent) and letting go of myself to accept someone else (treasure). Love takes knowing that God loves me, no matter what, and that I need to return the favor in His Kingdom.
I find God at St. Paul’s because I know that you love me, and because I know that I love you.