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We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

Graffiti . . . and grace
We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

I met these words scrawled on the bathroom wall at a diner in the Twin Cities about a year ago. I found the statement so confronting, so profound, that I felt its truth before I had the chance to process it. All I could do was take a picture of the words, then return to my late night eats with my friend. We talked and people watched into the early hours.

I learned later that the statement came from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Days, weeks, months afterward, the words wouldn’t leave me alone. These words invited me to dig deeper. What kind of love have I accepted? What do I think I deserve?

I reflected on earlier chapters of my life and different kinds of love I’d accepted in relationships and friendships. I sometimes accepted a love that required that I gave much more and accepted a lot less in return. When that love was withdrawn, I was distraught. I’d work hard to change, to improve. I felt I needed to prove I was worthy to receive that love again. I was insecure—and it was exhausting.

That was then, this is now . . . isn’t it?

I reflected on my relationship with God. His love found me before I knew I was lost. He paid a debt I couldn’t pay, gave me peace instead of punishment. Mercy. A love I know I don’t deserve. Grace.

When I accept the love God actually has for me, I’m overwhelmed by its disorienting, relentless abundance. Love fills in the cracks in my heart. It satisfies and secures. Then it overflows, defining my relationships and my worldview in entirely new ways.

Yet there are still moments when I interpret God’s love through human filters: cultural pressures and echoes of past brokenness. Fear and shame, scarcity and insecurity, dictate the kind of love I think I deserve: a love that says God will love me more if I pray harder, read the Bible more, give more money and time and effort. A love that says that yes, I’m forgiven, but it’s not forgotten, so just to prove how sorry I am I’ll not quite forgive myself and try to overcompensate for my past failings. A love that’s proud of me when I do well in Christian things and live the “right” way.

It’s exhausting.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Those words weren’t just scrawled on a bathroom wall; they’re written all over the walls of my heart.

They were a timely reminder of the truth that I’ve been completely loved before I could even try to deserve it.

They remind me of the way that grace overcame my guilt and my striving, my need to prove to earn, to improve.

They return me to a love that heals and cleanses and satisfies—that overflows into how I live and love and grow.

They tell me that I don’t need to look back.

That was then. Grace is now.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Jo Saxton

Jo Saxton is a TCW advisor, a director in 3DM, and the author of More than Enchanting. Jo and her husband Chris have two amazing daughters. Follow her on Twitter at @josaxton.

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