*whispers* “I love you. I forgive you. I am proud of you.”
That is the first thing I heard from God. I had known Him and loved Him for as long as I could remember, but when I was 13 I met Him in a different way. It wasn’t a salvation experience – I had already done that. It was. . . the first encounter with the Holy Spirit, I guess you could say. It rocked my world. It changed things.
I had been seeing Jesus through a glass dimly, but suddenly I saw Him face-to-face. He held me in His arms. And whispered.
I grew up in a culture that talked about justification and sanctification a lot. Justification = Jesus’ rightness covering up your wrongness permanently so that all God sees on you is beautiful/holy/good. Sanctification = Your behavior and lifestyle changing to catch up with the new spirit in you, essentially. My people did a great job explaining justification and sanctification. Somehow in the midst of that explanation, however, I got confused. I thought that the Holy Spirit was sanctifying me because She wanted to fix me. God didn’t like how I was and so now that I was part of His family, He was going to change me into something He liked. ‘Cause, you know, He hates sin and all that.
To me, it was like He loved me completely, but He would love me more when I was sanctified into the person I was meant to be. The me I was right now wasn’t good to Him, but no worries, the Holy Spirit would change that.
The thing is, I agreed with Him (this nature of God that I believed in). I wasn’t good yet. I was a mess. Of course He would love me more after the Holy Spirit had got some more work done.
But then, as I said, I saw Him face-to-face. He spoke such simple words, but they cut to the heart of me. “I love you. I forgive you. I am proud of you.” I could feel His overwhelming love and pride! But I hadn’t changed. I wasn’t fixed yet. He was proud of me, Jesus was proud of me, Marmee was proud of me, just as I was. I was enough for Him.
God didn’t have this ideal me He wanted me to become. He just wanted me. He was proud of me, not a future me. If I had forever stayed the me I was in that moment – no more sanctification – He would still be ridiculously and completely in love with me.
A while later, after I was secure in His love, He started to teach me about sanctification. He spoke to me again: “I’m not trying to fix you.” I realized He wasn’t trying to change me into this ideal girl that He had in His mind, He was growing me into me, the me He formed in the womb that got messed up by original sin. I change, but I don’t change. Growing into me, whilst being held in the arms of one who is perpetually proud of me, is kinda the best.