From the time I was small I have relished early mornings. As a child, getting up early meant not missing out on any of the day’s action. As an adult, rising before the sun gives me space, space I don’t have during the other hours of the day. I find joy in walking into the dark kitchen in my robe to start the coffee and fix my oatmeal. I am alone, and yet not alone. The quiet blanket of peace as the sun slowly rises upon a world mostly asleep invites me into stillness and reminds me of God’s welcome and love.
There is no pressure to do…only an invitation to be.
Stillness is not my default setting. I feel good when I am being productive. I feel worthy and important. Somewhere along the way I began to own the lie that my doing things increased God’s love for me. It was an easy message to embrace because our culture feeds this lie by telling us hard work equals belonging. We are valuable when we contribute. This mindset blinds us to God’s generous love. It places conditions on God’s love that were never there.
Becky Eldridge observes this painful and common truth: “What I know from my own experience and my ministry of spiritual direction is that God’s unshakeable love for us is one of the most difficult realities to accept.” I see this in myself and in my spheres of ministry, both as a pastor and as a spiritual director in training.
We are thirsty for love and belonging with no strings attached and yet…we hold tightly to the strings of accomplishment and activity. These strings make us feel safe. I think one of the reasons why receiving God’s love feels so hard is that we cannot give up the doing. Even as I write this, I have a to-do list going through my head and another one written down in my planner. Today I need to finish this blog post, clean my bathrooms, pick up my daughter from school and think ahead to next week when there is a sermon to write and meetings to attend, among hundreds of other small and large tasks.
The work of life is good! But…the work of life is not what makes me, or you worthy of God’s love.
Psalm 131:2 paints a beautiful picture of God’s love, like a mother welcoming her child into the safe and free space of her arms. “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, my soul is like the weaned child that is within me.” We are worthy of God’s love because God made us and delights in us. In God’s arms there are no expectations, no tasks to complete, and no conditions for receiving God’s embrace. I love this image of God and child because it reminds me, a chronic doer, that I am cherished by simply being.
Maybe early mornings aren’t for you. That’s ok. Perhaps there is space for stillness and being mid-morning, or right before bed. Maybe this space is a long space, or maybe it is brief…just a few minutes to remember God’s love shines on you, you are beloved.
Something happens when we pause to remember and receive God’s love. We become more generous with the love we give to others. We expect less in return. When people feel loved for who they are and not for what they have accomplished, there is freedom and great joy.
1 Becky Eldridge, Busy Lives & Restless Souls. (Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 2017), 60-61.
Alyssa Bell is a tent-making Co-Associate Pastor at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA along with her husband Matthew. They have two daughters, Theresa and Susie. While serving the church, which she loves, she pursues complimentary vocational avenues like teaching and spiritual direction. Alyssa recently completed her Doctor of Ministry degree in Leadership and Spiritual Formation and is in the Spiritual Direction Training Program through the Companioning Center. She has a heart for mothers who minister, either in a church setting or elsewhere. For fun Alyssa enjoys walking, making music, reading mystery novels, and completing puzzles.