Still reading? Did you not hear me?!
Okay, so I'm assuming now that you have returned from the bottom of the page and remember what it said. At the bottom of this page is the exhortation to the Israelites to love God with all their heart, soul, and strength. This commandment used to terrify me. Why, you ask? Well, I'd sure love to tell you.
I grew up in a world where perfection was merely the lack of sin. It sounds a bit extreme, but it's the best way I have to describe it. If I ever did anything right, it was by the grace of God (which it is) and anything I did wrong was not only not right, but was the worst thing I could ever have done. I'm not really sure where I got this idea, but I have a hunch (or something stronger) that this is a result of my evangelical Protestant upbringing. Everything was black and white. You lie about brushing your teeth, you're grounded for two weeks. You get an A minus in English class, you're not allowed to do so many extracurriculars next semester...you get the point.
Eventually my parents loosened up significantly, which is good news for my 15-yr-old sister, and really for me as well, though the damage had already been done. Now, I am not trying to condemn my parents--rather, I think they prevented me from becoming a psycho. I actually blame the ideals espoused by the church of my youth. Yep, I'm that cliche young adult letting go of "everything" she knows to be good and honest and right to embrace pot-smoking, crack-dealing, prostituting ways from this day forward! ;-)
I've learned this year that there is a difference between the question "is this right or wrong?" and the question "what are the consequences of this action?". I've learned to take myself less seriously, to lighten up and embrace the sins that fall into my lap as gifts intended for my learning and betterment as a human being, and to take some of those "sins", embrace them, and forget them. There is a merit to remembering sins, but not to clinging to the past for dear life--the result is not life, but death. Jesus did not sit with his disciples and enumerate their past failings. He simply called them out of whatever they were doing and gave them a new path. Nowhere does Jesus say, "Well, Peter, you really SHOULD have...and in the future you really COULD be a much better person...". He commands us without shaming us, drawing us steadily and lovingly into his arms. When we mess up, we repent, and he is standing right there, welcoming us in.
The upshot of all this is that we then must respond to this love. Yeah, I know, this is the point--why haven't I thought of this before? Well, the truth is, people have been telling me this my whole life, but I always thought it meant that I should try to better my personal morality as a way of thanking God for his forgiveness. For example, if I lied, I thought that I should be very conscious of my level of honesty and make sure it's constantly top-notch. Outreach and social justice work were far from my mind, and I unknowingly ignored them to pursue my personal betterment--Oh, the IRONY! The appropriate respond to God's love is gratitude, which we then channel into our communities and share with others!
Anyway, I could probably go on about my faith musings from this semester, but I don't have the energy. I'd rather do something with my hands--I'm off to my bookbinding!