I was recently inspired by one of Rev. Tom Berlin’s sermons about gratitude. In the sermon, Tom mentioned that gratitude reflects our spiritual maturity. It’s hard to admit that I need to grow in my spiritual life. Still, I felt challenged to practice gratitude not only during Floris UMC’s sermon series but also throughout my life.
I often find that lack of gratitude occurs when I hold a lost or confused identity about who I am and who other people are.
Last summer, I had a few months during which God wanted me to change my attitude toward myself and others and to restore my true identity. God repeatedly reminded me that I have had some issues when it comes to loving myself. I hope you don’t misunderstand; I mean loving myself as God loves me, which is different from pampering myself.
When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus answered, “Love your God with all that you have, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Over the summer, God showed me that I hadn’t truly loved others because I hadn’t even known how to love myself the way God loves me. I spent a lot of time asking God to show me how to fix this problem. He revealed what hid behind that problem and showed me how much he loves me just as he created me.
During one of Floris UMC’s summer sermon series, I learned about Imago Dei, which means Image of God. After that, I thought about how God created not only me but also all human beings. And I thought about how much God wants us to be restored to the Image of God in us through Jesus Christ and to have a deep communion with him throughout our lives. With God’s help, I recognized more and more that I had been sinning against his commandment by living without my true identity.
I knew and believed that I was a child of God. I called myself a Christian in my head, but in my heart, I was still comparing and competing with others to be better than them in some ways. Most of the time, my comparing was not on purpose; I didn’t realize I was doing it. But God created us individually and uniquely. We can’t compare ourselves to others because God created us each differently in love.
We live in a society that values people based on wealth, education, status and so on. The most shocking thing I realized is that I sometimes have this same value system in my head. Even though I wanted to say I value myself or others like God does, I wasn’t seeing the true value God gives to all of us. It was a strong conviction to me. How could I have missed this basic step to being a Christian?
There are many things that provide us with fake values. There are times when we don’t realize we are living with these fake identities, which produce complaint, grumpiness, hatred, contempt and self-pity. So, how do we get back to the value system under God?
I believe the first step is a humble prayer for God’s mercy and grace. When I quietly go to God and ask for mercy and grace, he always shines his true light of mercy upon me and reminds me that I am redeemed by him through Jesus. God wants me to share the truth to others by loving them with the same love that comes from him alone.
Amazingly, God shows me how to share and with whom to share his love each day. Although I am still far from reaching full spiritual maturity, I am so grateful that God reminds me and gives me those chances every day. I am grateful, truly.