Theoretically, the idea of accepting oneself is simple, almost silly. Of course we accept ourselves! What other choice do we have? Except … most of us make the choice to reject parts of ourselves daily. Whether it's a physical attribute, a reality about our past, or a limitation in our present, we take what is less than desirable and shun it from our lives.
The problem is, we're unified beings. We cannot reject a part of ourselves without rejecting the whole thing.
This is why we need to embrace the spiritual practice of acceptance. Acceptance isn't just about being content or living fully present. It's a much deeper expression of embracing both the light and dark within us, offering the whole to God. It's about refusing to run away from his grace, even when his light exposes the painful realities of our heart. And in the end, acceptance is about embracing a life that's dependent on God, rather than one that's lived apart from him.
The following questions and journaling prompts will lead you in that journey.
Step One: An Acceptance Pre-Test
Psalm 139:23 states, "Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about" (The message). Imagine opening yourself for investigation by God. Where do you find resistance in your Spirit to his shining light?
Which (if any) of these statements can you fully agree with? Where do you need to grow?
- I accept that my deepest regrets are covered by God's grace.
- I accept that I've wronged people, damaged their hearts, and in doing so, sinned against God.
- I accept that God loves me deeply.
- I accept that there is no role (worker, mother, friend, wife) that defines my acceptance in God's eyes.
- I accept that God takes all of me and uses it for his glory.
Step Two: Moving Forward
First Corinthians 15:10 says, "Whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results." The beginning of change is the acceptance of our need for grace. Read John 8:1-8, the account of the woman caught in adultery.
- What do you think the woman did next?
- What words of encouragement would you give her to accept Jesus' grace?
- How would you imagine her future if she didn't accept all of herself? If she did?
if you can relate to this story, take heart! When everything in us rails against acceptance, we need the Holy Spirit's power to believe the truth. Consider these encouragements from the writers featured this month:
"I have to discipline my mind to embrace that God accepts and values me as a woman, no matter what another's response is to me."—JoHannah Reardon
"Forgiven" was not a status to which I needed to aspire—it was who I already was. And by choosing not to forgive myself, I was choosing not to believe the One who said, "I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again" (Isaiah 43:25).—Suanne Camfield
"Fear can cause us to minimize God's provision and even doubt God's ability. When we fixate on our lack, we essentially tell God, You aren't enough. My weakness trumps your strength."—Holly Vicente Robaina
Which of these quotes do you resonate with? Which ones are difficult to accept? Take the statements that you struggle with and make them into a prayer. For instance, if fear keeps you from acceptance, pray:
"God, I doubt your provision and ability. I know that when I focus on what I can't do, I make you small. But I want to say you are enough and I believe your strength trumps my weakness."
Repeat these words as often as necessary, until the voice of acceptance becomes louder than the voices of insecurity, doubt, fear, and condemnation.
Step Three: Free to Be Me
Lesa Engelthaler shares that what she perceived as a weakness (her red hair) actually became the vehicle God used to hone her strengths. What weaknesses or undesirable parts in you do you think God can use? Journal about the hints of his plans in your life.
Reflect on this quote by Carolyn Custis James: "[A nonChristian once wrote,] One of the most brilliant things about Christianity is the idea of ordinary people penetrating everywhere in society as each individual lives out God's purposes."
What places in your life are you living out God's purposes? What places in your life are "less than" acceptable?
Write a list of truths about God and about yourself. Use this as your "post-test" experience into a place of deeper compassion for yourself and consequently, for others.