Well, here she is — the perfect image of acceptance — my Golden Retriever.
Although she’s small on size, she’s big in heart. And, as any dog lover would know, a dog’s love is unconditional. She’s always happy to see me, and never talks back. (And with two teenagers in the house, this is a monumental trait!) She’s been a pillar of support to me
when tears hotly flow or after a long drive in traffic.
Dependable. Lovable. There’s no doubt that she always accepts me.
But that’s an easy way to paint acceptance in my life. Beyond my doorstep and out in the world, it’s much harder to feel accepted and experience acceptance, much less feel joyful about it.
My Bible study group, consisting of some of the most wonderful and wise women I know, is just finishing a study called Choose Joy, by Kay Warren of Saddleback Church. The challenge is this: how can you experience “joy” right now, accepting everything in your life, everything about yourself, as God sees you.
It’s a tough one; but I’m loving it. In fact, I can describe my Bible study group as another picture of acceptance. It’s safe there to admit our shortcomings, how we are each challenged every day to be who God wants us to be. That’s the essence of a loving, supportive and productive small group — we accept each other as we are and choose to grow together.
In her study, Warren describes joy as a “conviction of the mind.” She writes on page 9 of her participants guide:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life; the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right; and the determined choice to praise God in all things.
Now that’s acceptance — accepting yourself as a daughter (or son) of the one, true God, and believing this with all your heart.
However, acceptance also means bringing others into this outpouring of joy — no matter the circumstances. (Ouch!) This can seem almost impossible sometimes, right? Especially when it seems people are more divided than ever. (Well, at least in the United States.)
One morning while driving in my car I heard the President of Biola University, an Evangelical Christian college in Southern California, speaking as a guest on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast. He was saying as Christians, our hearts needs to have “hard centers and soft edges.”
I like this because to me it means that we need to have firm conviction in our beliefs about His truth and not waver or compromise those beliefs. Yet at the same time, we need to be focusing on projecting the character of Christ in our interactions with others, not letting any self-righteousness or defensive thoughts get in the way.
Accepting ourselves where we are, experiencing joy at every season of life, and embracing others is my challenge right now. Maybe it will be for a while.
This post was written in response to the WordPress Challenge on Acceptance.