God always loves us just the way we are, and I often say, “No thanks.”
If you’re like me, when you read “just the way we are,” you hear “the way we ought to be.” God will love me when I maintain a peaceful mind, keep all my plants alive, and eat more vegetables. The thing is, God would rather not wait until we’re perfect because though God is infinite, we are not, and I may never become an expert plant tender.
This whole perfection thing, Cynthia Bourgeault says, has been misunderstood. We’re not aiming for perfection. We’re aiming for wholeness.
And wholeness includes those parts of ourselves we don’t much like, the parts we haven’t loved enough, to paraphrase David Whyte. The problem with not loving ourselves is that then we use our faults as a barrier between us and God. We point to them and say, no, I’m broken, I can’t let love in. God is ready to go outside and play, and we say, look at all the work I have to do first.
The French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, writing from the trenches of WWI, said that so few of the soldiers were willing to give their suffering to God. I used to think that because God wants our suffering, God wants us to suffer, but now I think it’s quite the opposite.
Jim Finley says that when you touch pain with love, it disappears. God wants to transform our suffering into love.
It often seems impossible to us that our failings can not only be lovable but also be and become love. It’s impossible for us to work this transformation ourselves, but God can handle it. Really.
So how do we offer our suffering to God, what does that mean? We can’t just wrap it up in a neat little gift box, stick a bow on it, and shyly hand it to God next time we run into each other. Or maybe we can. All that’s needed is a willingness to let love be more important than anything else, a lot of patience, and some attention to the ways God is pointing us toward the “dump your suffering here” drop off station.
Still, this may be a little harder than watering the plants.