At a recent wedding I offered the couple three pieces of adivice which I learned to embrace along the way. If we are going to love others, we must first begin with loving ourselves. And we can only truly love ourselves if we able to be our true self for the world to love.
The first piece of advice to the newlyweds was, "Be yourself."
However awkward or clumsy, or imperfect you might think you are always be yourself. It’s who God made you to be, and if God made you this way then you are nothing less than perfect and good. You have great potential to succeed in business as well as in love. Be you… who God made you to be…a gift to the world, and more importantly a gift to each other.
While you are a heavenly gift, you are also a part of this world which has impacted and influenced your life. So, remember to be more heavenly – more kind, patient, gentle and attentive to one another. This will go a long way in a world where the bed might feel too small, or the room too public, your true feelings too private.
The second piece of advice was: "Be present."
Time is fleeting. Don’t waste it worrying about what has already happened or trying to predict what might happen years down the road. It will only pull you away from being in the moment where life is actually happening – either drawing you together or pulling you apart. Just as you need to be who you are, you need to be present to fully be that person God made you to be…again, you are the gift that you give to each other in every moment of life.
And lastly, the third piece of advice is something I think we could all do better at. "Be one."
This means be One Humanity. One love, one heartbeat, one voice, one passion and one vision, one dream, one reality.
This is the purpose of marriage – of two people coming together to be one. It's a time when two make one covenant promise to give of one's self as well as receiving each other in love. We might not always agree on things, and that’s okay. Because when we stand as one then compromise doesn't feel like a sacrifice but an opportunity to grow closer together.
My charge to the couple was this: “As gifts to each other, dare to love honestly. And to be a compassionate friend to one another. For the love you give and the love receive will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love.”
Boy if that doesn't go against the currents we are swiming against today. We have trouble right out of the gate with the first step. We have trouble being ourselves for so many different reasons - fear of rejection being one of the biggest.
In a recent writing on this topic Fr. Richard Rohr writes, "I think God’s desire for us is to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity. If we stay small and “hide our light” under a bushel basket, there is almost no place for God to move in, through, and with us for the sake of the world!"
As a kid at church camp we used to sing the song "This Little Light of Mine" and what better way to let your light shine but to shed off that basket that society places on you and be who God made you to be; a good and unique contribution to the world. You are a gift, that the world desparately needs to open.
In a time when girls where not to anything more than sugar and spice, the Reverend Elizabeth Edman received a gentle affirmation and lesson from her mother about knowing and being who God had made her to be. Edman writes of this particular incident:
I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1962. The world I grew up in was defined by rigid binaries: white/black, capitalist/communist, north/south. Oh yeah, and male/female. That one didn’t work for this tomboy. When I was five, I had to drag my mother into the boy’s section of the shoe store to look at sneakers. “Mama, c’mere! Let me show you the ones I want!”
My family taught me, “Be who you are, Elizabeth, even when other people give you guff.” When I presented the shoes to the clerk, he said, “Those are boys’ shoes.”
My mother cut him off: “Yes, size four, please.”
My mother was a singer. Being who she was meant having the courage to witness God’s presence in the sacred music she loved. You could see her put her whole trust in God, entering into this space between heaven and earth where her best voice, her best self, emerged.
Christianity is all about being who you are [what I call your True Self in God–RR]. That’s what Jesus was trying to tell us: Orient your whole being to the sacred, he insisted. Not because I’m telling you to, not because it’s what Scripture demands; do it because it’s who you are. It’s who God created you to be. God made us to be complex creatures, every one of us, for a reason. So if you want to honor God, here’s the first step: Know who you are. Be who you are. Be the person God created you to be."
Great words to live by. And how lucky was Edman to have a mother who loved her as such.
Love is the single greatest gift given to us all by our Heavenly Parent who loves us unconditionally, and as such has blessed us all so abundantly. We are God’s gift of love made visible so we can be shared, united, and one.
If we want to bring goodness into the world, then we need to be willing to bring ourselves in all it's weirdness and oddities. God loves and creates each one of us as a unique being with different gifts and challenges. Why not let them shine.
And so I give you this charge, go out and be the person who God created you to be. Be present and let that light shine brightly so God can move through you effortlessly. Be One with God, and let God be one with you so that you can be united to and with all of creation; caring for one another as if you are caring for the needs of Christ himself.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (Riverhead Books: 1996), 88.
Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations: True Self and False Self, October 24, 2019 which you can receive at The Center for Action and Contemplation website.
Elizabeth M. Edman, Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity (Beacon Press: 2016).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”