“In Him, you can have a strong back, soft heart.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – January 25, 2022
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:11
Today I read a quote that moved me about loving courageously in the face of possible rejection.
“All too often our so-called strength comes from fear, not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brutal and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open . . .How can we give and accept care with strong-back, soft-front compassion, moving past fear into a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes about when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly—and letting the world see into us.” Roshi Joan Halifax
When I read this beautiful quote, I thought Ms. Halifax’s advice on how to be genuinely tender sounded nice but that it’s more complicated than that. It’s difficult to just decide to be vulnerable when you’re scared.
“It feels so risky,” I told my husband. “How do you have a strong back, meaning that you’re filled with the courage to love well, and your heart is open, while you know you could be emotionally wounded if your love is not returned?”
“It’s about identity,” he said. “You can only love that way, with an open, courageous heart if you know who you are.”
His words echoed in my mind. If you know who you are. Such a powerful phrase.
If my identity is wrapped up in acceptance from others, having an open heart is terribly frightening. Not only that, but the thought of giving away affection that may not be returned can feel debilitating because it makes me try too hard to be accepted rather than live in the liberation of being who I truly am.
But here’s some good news if you can relate to what I have shared: When you know you are already fully loved, when you know you are already completely accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:5-7), being vulnerable isn’t quite as scary. Why? Because knowing who you are in Christ, means you can live without the guarantee that your affection will be returned. When your value isn’t hanging on what someone thinks of you, emotional freedom is possible.
Rick Warren said, “If you live for the approval of others, you will die by their disapproval.” Granted, you may not physically die, but your heart can feel mortally wounded.
When you know you are fully loved and completely accepted by Jesus, when you know rejection in no way diminishes your true value, importance, purpose, or joy, because Christ is the loving Author of your life, you can be liberated to fully be yourself. No posturing, hiding, or pretending in fear . . .simply just being authentically you. Then if you are accepted, wonderful! But if you’re not, you are still just as important, loved, and treasured.
I admit this is sometimes a challenge. Rejection has been a familiar life thread for me since I was young. Honestly, I sometimes still battle against the life-sucking emotions of feeling like I’m not enough when I feel unaccepted. I need to choose not to allow the indifference or meanness from others hurt me at my core.
There are seasons when I feel strong in my resolve and ability to love openly even when faced with the possibility of rejection. In these moments, I realize that loving others is an honor, and I don’t need acceptance to be okay with myself, or to be open. Other times, during moments when I feel rejected, disregarded, or tossed aside, I want to pull back my love. And, if I might be honest, when I feel defensive, I want to say, “Forget you! I don’t need you!” and move on.
These are the moments I have forgotten my value in Christ. I have lost sight of my identity as a beloved daughter of Jesus, no matter if others receive or reject me.
Strong back. Soft, open heart.
This is only possible when we know who we are and are firmly rooted in our God-given identity. We are beloved, treasured, and precious children. This can never change, and can never be diminished or eliminated, no matter what anyone thinks of us.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).
Lord, help me to fully be myself, confident in how you have made me. And help me to fully put my need for validation in You. You always accept me no matter what others think so I can have a strong back and a soft heart. Thank you for being my example of authentic confidence. Amen.
How are you doing with loving well in the face of possible rejection?
Adrienne Liesching: In Christ Alone (My Hope is Found)
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