Gulping coffee this morning as I threw dishes into the dishwasher and watched my husband tear around getting ready for work (where are those still, small moments of humanity anyway?), I saw Demi Moore's picture on "Good Morning America." You remember that--it used to actually be a news show, now it's almost completely about celebrities. But that's ok because I was instantly sucked into this sad story about Demi Moore, an actress I had admired for her tenacity and courage.
There she was on the screen, looking beautiful, glamorous, and also tense and unhappy. She had been rushed to the hospital for what they called exhaustion, but which may also have had more to do with substance abuse. Whatever caused her collapse, what seemed deeper, more poignant, and more universal was her lament: She was afraid that when she died, she would find out that she was not lovable, that there was something basically wrong with her after all.
I believe this fear is shared by many of us--that there is some stain in our personality, some jagged and ugly breakage which others can't see, but we know is there, and God knows as well. We are flawed, unlovable at the base of our being, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Except that there is, but it requires a change in perception, seeing things anew through old eyes. Which I've always understood is what Jesus is calling us to do--to be awake, to see beyond the surface, as well as to love extravagantly. Why do so many of us labor under the misapprehension that we are not only unloved but not worthy of love?
One thing I took away from the wise priest who helped bring me into the church was this--God sees each of us as His only child. He loves us that much and that intensely. It's as if I'm God's only child? I struggled with that for years. But if you have ever experienced the powerful and overwhelming rush of God's love flooding your body and soul, you will know what this priest knew: We are singled out for Her love. Marked by it. Claimed by it. For that is one of the ways we get changed enough to go out into the world and do God's work.
About a month ago I fell into an anxiety trap where I doubted that God really did love me, even though I'd had so many evidences of Her love over the years, of Her tender care of me. Suddenly, I was afraid of dying, fearful that when I crossed over I would see God sitting in some vast captain's chair, arms folded, looking at me with disgust and disappointment. Kneeling sadly by my bed in prayer I said, "I am afraid I have disappointed you, again and again." The central prayer was really this--Do you love me in spite of my imperfections?
The answer was swift and clear in words inside (I call it God's CNN tape beneath the news): Why would I love you any the less at the end of your life than I do now, Annie? Heaving a sigh of relief, I knelt back on my heels, my heart eased and soul cleansed of anxiety.
Today I wished for that certainty to flow into Demi Moore's mind: I wished to fly over big population centers in a plane with my prayer answer on a banner, fluttering out behind. You are loved. You are God's beloved. Whatever you think is wrong with you, it is never enough to diminish God's love for you.
I think we need to do a better job of telling people how beloved they are. In the midst of all we teach our children--math, social behavior, keyboard skills, music lessons, and soccer practice--we should wrap each one of our children in this certainty, like swaddling a new baby in comfort. You are loved, you are preciious, always and forever.