Accept Yourself

This sermon was originally preached by Rev. James Morasco on August 26, 2018.
Have a big enough heart to love unconditionally, and a broad enough mind to embrace the differences that make each of us unique.
— D.B. Harrop
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
— Genesis 1:27 (ESV)
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
— 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV)

How many times during our lifetimes have we heard negative messages about us?  It starts in childhood as other children call us names.  Some grow up in homes that are less than supportive.  We are constantly bombarded by advertisements that tell us we are too fat, too skinny, our hair color isn’t right, the fact that your hair is thinning – or not there at all.  Many in our society are exposed to even more heinous messages; you’re the wrong color, the wrong sexual orientation, wrong religion. You name it and someone out there disapproves of something you are.   We might say to others that none of this matters, but we internalize it all.  It chips away at us until we actually believe it.  As if we somehow have failed to measure up to someone’s definition of whom we are supposed to be.  We get the message that we are “less than” in some way, shape or form. It then becomes a “self fulfilling prophesy” in that we start to behave as we have been defined.

But God has a different message for us.  Yes we are all capable of doing the wrong thing, but that’s different than being wrong in who you were born to be.

Craig Bullock writes:

Love Is A Chiseling Force
Jesus taught us to feed the beggar, to forgive those who have injured us, and to remember that whatsoever we do “to the least of our brothers and sisters,” we do for him. This is true. Psychologist Carl Jung challenges us to go further: “What if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yes, the very fiend himself, that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved. What then?” Yes, the truth sets us free, but we can only dare to embrace the truth to the degree that we have experienced mercy: the mercy of God extended to us, and our own mercy extended to ourselves. This is a fundamental reality: life on earth is hard, even for saints. We have all faced deplorable situations in one form or another. In our attempts to survive, we have all made decisions we regret, decisions that have alienated us from ourselves and from those we love. We all share the human condition. God knows what we are up against and understands our interior turmoil. God feels the pain that is in our hearts and comprehends why we do the foolish things we do. God is forever merciful! Meditate on Yogananda’s inspired words:
“God as Divine Mother ever watches over Her human children, peeping through the caring hearts of all true mothers. God's unconditional mercy is expressed in the mother. The mother's instinctive love and forgiveness, no matter what her child has done, shows us that God will ultimately forgive the sins of all human beings. That is why I like to relate to God not as the grim Deity of some prophets, but as the Mother Divine waiting to forgive all and take them back after their freewill wanderings on the error-strewn pathways of incarnations.”
Craig Bullock, the Director of The Assisi Institute. All content is copyright The Assisi Institute, unless cited. All rights reserved.

Another way of looking at it to compare it to how tools can be used to build things up or tear things down, depending on your intent.  The right tool in the right hands can be used to create a masterpiece.  Just look at what the famous sculptor, Michelangelo, could produce with just a hammer and chisel.  But the same hammer and chisel can also be used to destroy the piece. It all depends on your intent.  And when it comes to applying them to ourselves, sometimes we can destroy our self image in a single blow. We are quick to forgive others, but we can blame ourselves forever.  When we are not satisfied with whom we really are, it can lead to a lifetime of despair.   We can spend a lifetime searching for the answer, when in reality it’s right in front of us.  You are made in God’s image and likeness.  What more do you need to know? 

There’s an old story about a stonecutter that speaks to this.

The Stonecutter

-Unknown origin

Once upon a time there lived a stonecutter, who went every day to a great rock in the side of a big mountain and cut out slabs for gravestones or for houses. He understood very well the kinds of stones wanted for the different purposes, and as he was a careful workman he had plenty of customers. For a long time he was quite happy and contented, and asked for nothing better than what he had.

Now in the mountain dwelt a spirit which now and then appeared to men, and helped them in many ways to become rich and prosperous. The stonecutter, however, had never seen this spirit, and only shook his head, with an unbelieving air, when anyone spoke of it. But a time was coming when he learned to change his opinion.

One day the stonecutter carried a gravestone to the house of a rich man, and saw there all sorts of beautiful things, of which he had never even dreamed. Suddenly his daily work seemed to grow harder and heavier, and he said to himself: "Oh, if only I were a rich man, and could sleep in a bed with silken curtains and golden tassels, how happy I should be!"

And a voice answered him: "Your wish is heard; a rich man you shall be!"

At the sound of the voice the stonecutter looked around, but could see nobody. He thought it was all his fancy, and picked up his tools and went home, for he did not feel inclined to do any more work that day. But when he reached the little house where he lived, he stood still with amazement, for instead of his wooden hut was a stately palace filled with splendid furniture, and most splendid of all was the bed, in every respect like the one he had envied. He was nearly beside himself with joy, and in his new life the old one was soon forgotten.

It was now the beginning of summer, and each day the sun blazed more fiercely. One morning the heat was so great that the stonecutter could scarcely breathe, and he determined he would stay at home till the evening. He was rather dull, for he had never learned how to amuse himself, and was peeping through the closed blinds to see what was going on in the street, when a little carriage passed by, drawn by servants dressed in blue and silver. In the carriage sat a prince, and over his head a golden umbrella was held, to protect him from the sun's rays.

"Oh, if I were only a prince!" said the stonecutter to himself, as the carriage vanished around the corner. "Oh, if I were only a prince, and could go in such a carriage and have a golden umbrella held over me, how happy I should be!"

And a prince he was. Before his carriage rode one company of men and another behind it; servants dressed in scarlet and gold bore him along, the coveted umbrella was held over his head, everything his heart could desire was his. But yet it was not enough. He looked around still for something to wish for, and when he saw that in spite of the water he poured on the grass the rays of the sun scorched it, and that in spite of the umbrella held over his head each day his face grew browner and browner, he cried in his anger: "The sun is mightier than I; oh, if I were only the sun!"

And the mountain spirit answered: "Your wish is heard; the sun you shall be."

And the sun he was, and felt himself proud in his power. He shot his beams above and below, on earth and in heaven; he burnt up the grass in the fields and scorched the faces of princes as well as of poorer folk. but in a short time he began to grow tired of his might, for there seemed nothing left for him to do. Discontent once more filled his soul, and when a cloud covered his face, and hid the earth from him, he cried in his anger: "Does the cloud hold captive my rays, and is it mightier than I? Oh, that I were a cloud, and mightier than any!"

And the mountain spirit answered: "Your wish is heard; a cloud you shall be!"

And a cloud he was, and lay between the sun and the earth. He caught the sun's beams and held them, and to his joy the earth grew green again and flowers blossomed. But that was not enough for him, and for days and week he poured forth rain till the rivers overflowed their banks, and the crops of rice stood in water. Towns and villages were destroyed by the power of the rain, only the great rock on the mountainside remained unmoved. The cloud was amazed at the sight, and cried in wonder: "Is the rock, then, mightier than I? Oh, if I were only the rock!"

And the mountain spirit answered; "Your wish is heard; the rock you shall be!"

And the rock he was, and gloried in his power. Proudly he stood, and neither the heat of the sun nor the force of the rain could move him. "This is better than all!" he said to himself.

 But one day he heard a strange noise at his feet, and when he looked down to see what it could be, he saw a stonecutter driving tools into his surface.

 Know that God is love and through love, all things are possible.

Again Craig Bullock writes:

Love Is A Chiseling Force
Our sure knowledge that God is love presents a bit of a paradoxical danger. If we reduce love to a neat, well-behaved, and docile form of energy, we domesticate God’s mighty Spirit. As the great C.S. Lewis stated, “God is wild, you know.” Love is patient and kind, but it is also a headstrong force that will do whatever it takes to move us beyond our present state of development. Invariably, the force of love will empty us of everything we think we know, purifying us of all of our agendas. Before Francis of Assisi heard Christ speaking to him from the cross, he had endured a terrible dark night of the soul wherein he was purified of both his assumptions and his attachments. Francis’ purification was God’s way of preparing him to receive more blessings than he could ever imagine. The same is true for all of us: the force of God’s love will sooner or later empty us of ourselves, not to punish us, but to fill us with unimaginable graces. God always wants to give us more than we are ready to receive. We can help in this process; we can ready ourselves to receive more and more of the divine life. How? By nurturing a sense of prayerful and meditative silence. For this reason Yogananda tells us, “Silence is the altar of Spirit.”
Craig Bullock, the Director of The Assisi Institute. All content is copyright The Assisi Institute, unless cited. All rights reserved.

Let me end with a final story about attitude and self acceptance.

This comes from the Chicken Soup for the Soul book and is about a little boy who was overheard talking to himself as he was playing baseball in the garden.

"I'm the greatest baseball player in the world" he said proudly. Then he tossed the ball in the air, swung and missed.
Undaunted, he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and said to himself "I'm the greatest player ever!" He swung at the ball again and again he missed.
He paused to examine the bat and the ball carefully. Then once again he threw the ball in to air and said "I'm the greatest baseball player who ever lived" He swung the bat hard and again he missed the ball.
"Wow!" he exclaimed, "What a pitcher"

Moral of the story, don't beat up yourself over the things that aren't going right, look on the brighter side and look for your strengths. Find the positives in every situation; don't allow your self esteem or confidence to be damaged by failures.

What we perceive as “failures”, God perceives as a chance for us to learn and grow.  Don’t let the world talk you out of taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way.  Accept that you are made in the image and likeness of the one who gives you life and expects nothing more than to make the best of this gift that has been given.  And most importantly, use your gift for others who accompany you on this amazing journey.  We can all learn from each other, as it was meant to be.