I don’t know how it is for you, but I am often harder on myself than on anyone else. I can counsel with others and no matter what they have done I can usually nod my head sympathetically and show some understanding. But not with myself. Where I would forgive the shortcomings of others I often scold myself, wag my finger, and say, “How could you?!” I tend to hold on to sins that God has forgiven long ago, sifting through them from time to time to remind myself just how wretched I really am.
And that’s where this picture comes in handy.
This is a picture of me when I was two years old. I find that when I look at it I feel tender toward this little boy and far more forgiving than I might be otherwise. I begin to understand that my inability to forgive myself can be crippling, in the same way Jesus understood that we cannot love our neighbors as ourselves if we cannot love ourselves. It’s not that I use this picture to excuse my behavior, not that I look the other way and let “Little Jimmy” do whatever he wants. It’s just that I begin to confront his behavior with love instead of anger, like someone who could be redeemed rather than someone who should be condemned.
I have a feeling that God is able to see what is most lovable about us even in our worst moments. I have a feeling that’s what keeps him from blasting us straight to hell on most days, and instead keeps him opening his arms to receive all his prodigal sons and daughters.
Even Little Jimmy.