It's almost that time of the year where I usually countdown the things I've learned this year.
As the closing of 2012 nears, I am left with many lessons but it all connects to one thing, that of which I am about to discuss here (whoa, that sounded professor-y).
Ever since the fight of one particular boxer, questions about religion have been raised, analyzed and discussed so much that the importance of the discussion has simmered away leaving us with nothing but clashing egos all wanting to be right.
I am not a religious scholar, I just happen to be a girl trying to make my life right in accordance to what Jesus has done for me but somehow, I fell short.
Being raised in a Christian home has given me the wonderful opportunity to know Jesus at an early age. Attending Christian schools have given me the chance to cultivate hope when things seemed bleak, but as I entered the "real" world and was handed real life thrills, I somehow lost my grip.
Three years ago, a resurgent heartache made me question what I was living my life for (or better yet who) and what I base my worth on. Was I truly made to go from one relationship to another expecting to be saved by a human being as broken as I am? I was tired of trying so hard to be loved without realizing that I was already loved.
The journey was fantastic: so many exciting revelations, so many 'aha' moments and so many wounds healing that I felt that I was finally free.
And I was, I am.
However, just like in most journeys, it wasn't perfect.
You may call me idealistic but I somehow believed that just like some magical solution life will turn out the way that I've always dreamed it to be: the jock will fall in love with me, I'd be a size 0 and I'd have the perfect job.
I am not proud to say this but I was chasing after the blessings, not the giver while secretly detesting people who were doing the same.
I was spending more time reading the word, listening to podcasts and reading books from the best authors, but my tank was empty.
I just put on a new wardrobe called "Christian Perfection" and I was pretty excellent at the masquerade, except inside I may have healed a bit but a lot of my parts were still broken.
Somehow, in between the first night I cried out in 2009 and today, as I write this entry, I have blurred the lines of passionately falling in love with Jesus and just doing so because I had an image portray.
Society tells us that once we speak of our love for God, we must back it up with action, which holds some truth to it and I do believe that God's grace does change people, however, never did He say that His love will make us perfect while here on earth.
Where in the Bible did He tell us that in order to be qualified to share His love for us we have to be perfect?
Nowhere and yet we see so many Christians (myself included) struggling with the very same thing: trying so hard to announce to the world that all is well when in fact we are all going through something.
Where did we get the notion that life has to be perfect? That in order to credit being called a Christian we had to be perfect? Why do we condemn ourselves when we don't make the best choices?
Didn't Jesus come so He can save us in a way that we most definitely can't no matter how hard we try?
Is the notion of Jesus' love for us so hauntingly simple that our extremely intricate mind won't even try to comprehend it?
I believe that as the year ends, we all have to be reminded that being loved and accepted and saved by Jesus has nothing to do with what we've done or what we haven't done.
God's love for us go beyond our human reasoning and while we have gotten used to the world's idea of love where we have to be 'someone' (in my case: skinny and beautiful) in order to be loved unconditionally, God's love for us remains the same and will remain unchanged.
God loved us even before we thought twice about Him. His love for us was so great that He gave up His perfect son for us imperfect ones. God never expected us to follow everything to the core, He knew we needed Jesus which is the reason why He sent Him in the first place and all He expects is for us to graciously accept such lavish sacrifice without contaminating it with our own version of love that demands and rarely gives.
There is no pre-requisite for this kind of love, when all else fails, this is the love we can desperately hold on to.
And as I repeat these words to myself, I find myself relax a little, finally breathing right because I am no longer living in the fear that God will "punish" me or "curse" me when I do wrong. He is not the God who does that, He is the God who loves me even if I've lost my way. He loves me even if I don't act perfect all the time, in fact He doesn't expect me to.
He expects me to be who He created me to be and maybe, by His grace, I will be a better version of myself but not because I struggled or hid who I really am.
Honesty to self is such a rare trait and I pray that as 2013 begins, I will be more honest about my weaknesses and my mistakes and less concerned about my "image". That my own imperfections will lead people to the awesome power of Jesus, because despite of my long list of flaws, Jesus continues to work in me and through me. That maybe people will see that Jesus is not one who sneers at us but instead gladly wipes away our tears and assures us that in time, we will be healed and all will be well. That Jesus loves everyone and doesn't care where we've been or what we've done.
We are loved as we are.
I believe the best gift we can give ourselves this year is the gift of freedom: freedom from our own hypocrisy and a life that celebrates a love that is freely given.
So celebrate the Holidays with an overwhelming sense of celebration because we are loved, yes we are.