By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Ephesians 1:3-14
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
I struggle with shame. It’s endemic in the culture most of us live in. We wrestle with a sense of failure, of not being enough, of disappointing the people whose approval we crave. So much of our lives operates not through affirmation but the threat of rejection. Disapproval of our work, perspectives, beliefs, background — these are the goads imposed to bring about change.
My own defensive instinct is to shelter myself from the people around me, because (the voice of fear cautions) if they see me, they will discover the ugly truth. Although those closest to me can assure me I am lovable, fear always has a seemingly unassailable riposte: “Their love is contingent. They haven’t seen enough of you yet.” The assumption is that once the admiration or attraction is lost, so too love will wither and fade.
What God has done in Jesus Christ offers salvation to each fearful human heart that believes itself incapable of being loved if transparently seen. In response to the assumption that love comes after encounter, St. Paul proclaims that God chose us in Christ “before the creation of the world.” God’s love and desire for our flourishing is not a response to our admirable qualities; quite the reverse: God “destined us in love to be his children… according to the purpose of his will.” We are lovely because we have first been made and loved by God. And since this love was there even before we were created, no failures can repulse it — and God sees them all! God’s love for us doesn’t depend on us; rather, we depend on the love of God. The gracious love of God, “freely bestowed on us,” is an inheritance we can never lose.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
To receive a TLC Daily Devotional in your inbox each morning, click here.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Sapele (Nigeria), the Rt. Rev. Dr. Blessing Erifeta
Diocese of East Kerala (South India), the Rt. Rev. V.S. Francis
Church of St. Edward the Martyr, New York, N.Y.