Some musings from my subway ride home yesterday, as the words of the centurion stuck in my mind:
If we presume ourselves worthy, we will become bitter and resentful of all the things we lack in comparison to others. We will be more envious and less forgiving of others’ faults. If we believe that the world owes us something, we will surely be disappointed—and we will miss out on a greater, more beautiful truth.
In reality, we don’t actually deserve anything: all is gift. In order to cultivate gratitude, we must be aware of our unworthiness. If we are aware that we did not earn the blessings in our lives, we will be more grateful for them. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, trying to even out the scales, we can recognize that none of us are truly deserving of what we are given, but for the grace of God. This allows us to rejoice more fully in the wonder and excitement of others’ joys and weep in sympathy for their sorrows, knowing that we all share in the mysteries of Christ through these experiences. When we see how God’s mercy has thrown off the scales entirely, we stop keeping score. This knowledge frees us from jealousy of the good fortune of others and from arrogance in our own good fortune.
Self-loathing is itself a form of arrogance. It despairs of our pitiful human condition but disregards the immense love of our Savior, which redeems us. We must not only acknowledge our smallness; we must also claim the greatness of God our Advocate, who rescues us from all our sins. If we believe our situation to be helpless, if we doubt His ability to bring good out of all things, then we equate Him with ourselves and imagine Him to have human limitations. But He is so much greater, so much more worthy than we, so much more loving and forgiving of our weaknesses. Why should we despair of our faults? He created us, and He doesn’t make mistakes.
Whether we puff ourselves up and think ourselves all-powerful gods, or whether we resent our human limitations and begrudge our inferiority and dependence upon God, it is all arrogance. It all denies the truth that He is our rightful King and we His beloved creatures, and that He has a loving plan for our salvation. We needn’t fret over our shortcomings; instead, we can cultivate a sense of awe and joy at the goodness of a God Who can take such measly offerings and work wonders.