Jenny Gregg
Director of Discipleship
February 2015

 “I was looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces…” goes the country music classic. Many of us can relate to the gut desire to be loved and accepted. In his book Spiritual Direction, Henri Nouwen touches at the heart of this desire as he describes the surprising link between solitude and community. It’s ironic that in order to fully enjoy community, we have to first experience solitude. It is only in solitude with God that we begin to truly understand and experience God’s deep, unconditional love and acceptance for us. All too often we look to others in our church, in friendships, in marriages, etc. to satisfy our craving for unconditional love and acceptance—only to be inevitably disappointed.

Forgiving your Church

People come into human relationships with huge expectations, never more so than with the church. By putting my emotional and spiritual need for love and acceptance on another person’s (or people’s) shoulders, I am essentially expecting them to stand in for God. But God is the only One who can provide unconditional love. He is the only One who can satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. So when the inevitable hurt and disappointment comes from others, my response ranges from anger and resentment to sadness, frustration and depression.

The antidote is forgiveness. We have to forgive others for not being God for us. We must forgive the church for not meeting all our spiritual and emotional needs. We must forgive spouses, parents and other family members for not loving us unconditionally. And we must even forgive ourselves for not being able to be God for someone else.

From Solitude to Community

It is only in solitude that we can completely experience God’s deep, unconditional and abiding love for us—the love and acceptance that cannot be found anywhere else. We need to repent of looking for love in all the wrong places, and spend regular intentional time alone with our Father. Once we can more fully grasp that we are beloved by God, we can then recognize that others in our community are beloved as well.

Next month: Quiet Times 101—How to be alone with God.