Unworthy vs. lovable: Can you really be both?

Suzette Standring
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Can you be completely unworthy, but also believe you are unconditionally lovable? In Christianity, this is a common underpinning to understanding God’s love. I’ve long struggled with the emotional disconnect between the two. I used to bridge the gap with guilt.

Nowadays God and I have a reproach-free relationship. Does that make me arrogant or spiritually healthy?

At a Sunday service, the question was asked, “Raise your hand if you feel deserving of God’s love.” I timidly raised my hand along with two others, clearly a minority view.

Then a booming rebuke, “None of us are deserving. That’s like saying, ‘Hey, Jesus, thanks for dying on the cross because I’m entitled. You owe me!’”

Wow, that stung. Then I saw it, “Traffic sign ahead, Guilt and Shame.” Frankly, I do feel deserving because of the basic relationship God and I share: Creator, creature.

As the creature, I’ll compare myself to my pet dog, Ginger. I love, love, love her because “she is” and I chose her. What more God? This unfathomable force breathed me into creation for whatever reason. My job is to find my purpose and fulfill it. Meanwhile, God unconditionally loves me, warts and all, which is why he is unfathomable. In a harsh and unforgiving world, you better believe I’ll take it.

Why preach to promote our collective unworthiness? I don’t understand teaching folks, “You deserve nothing” in the same sentence as “but God loves you!” It’s way too easy to get mired in the “you’re nothing” part.

For example, do you have a friend who believes he falls short, or that she is one big Debbie Downer disappointment? Would you say, “Yes, you are, but guess what? I love you anyway!”

Or would you remind them of their unique abilities and the love others have for them? A good friend would buck up their spirits, starting with, “You are deserving of love!”

What more God, the ultimate confidence booster?

I reject the notion of being unworthy because insecurity already is built in. I’ve spent years overcoming feelings of “being less than” because such beliefs never moved me forward.

I want the confidence to say to the divine, “I love you back!” The kind of enthusiasm a child has, or at least until negativity and self-doubt closes off childlike wonder.

From where I sit, we are unconditionally loveable because God created us each to be unique, and therefore, worthy. That doesn’t make me entitled. To the contrary, it’s humbling.

This column ran nationally through GateHouse Media and The Patriot Ledger, January 15, 2020.