On April 9, 2007, the following item appeared in Dear Abby. This is the link for the article and her answer: http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby/?uc_full_date=20070409
It struck me that this is amazingly similar to stories I have heard from people who have left legalism and their faith. It seemed appropriate to rework the question from that perspective and offer it here with a special prayer for those whose hearts are still searching for the love and acceptance that the real Jesus offers.
DEAR ABBY: I recently ended a nine-month relationship with a 40-year-old man I will call Shallow Hal. I was head over heels in love with him. We had a lot in common and our personalities were compatible, but there was one major problem. Hal loved everything about me, but his love for me was contingent upon my losing weight.
Hal told me that when I lost weight, he would treat me better, let me meet his family and introduce me to his friends. Until I did, he denied me all those things, including hugs and kisses. For nine months Hal strung me along, and I believed that losing weight would change everything and we would end up together, happily ever after.
I am currently working on my master’s in counseling psychology, and I should have known better. Clearly, Hal did not accept me for who I was, and I should have ended the relationship long ago because he was not into me. Some days he did not know if he ever wanted to get married and have kids; other days he did. He was definitely unstable.
Why did I put up with this when I was the one who did all the driving to his house and all the courting? And how do I keep all this from replaying in my mind? I hear his weight comments over and over, and it’s self-destructive, but I cannot seem to let it go. Why do so many women like me waste so much time on men who simply do not care? The worst part is, I still love him. Please advise me. — HEARTBROKEN IN WEST CHESTER, PA.
Allow me to rewrite this a little:
I recently ended a nine-year relationship with a god I used to be in love with. He told me that he loved me, and I surely loved him, but then I realized that there was a problem. He loved me, but his love was contingent upon my staying away from sin and doing enough good things.
This god told me that when I had my life in better shape, he would bless me more. He would help me to fit in better with his people if I just lived more like them. Until I did, he would not let me feel acceptable or valued or loved. For nine years he strung me along, and I believed that getting my act together would make the difference and we would be happy forever.
I should have known better. Clearly this god did not accept me in the first place, and I should have ended the relationship sooner. I never knew what he wanted from me. No matter what I did, it was never enough. I would get one thing straight in my life and he would come up with something else. He was definitely unstable.
Why did I put up with this when I was the one who had to do everything? He promised so much, but I never felt the peace and welcome I needed. He gave nothing. And how do I keep all this from replaying in my mind? I hear his negative comments over and over, and it is self-destructive, but I cannot seem to let it go. Why do so many people like me waste so much time on a god who simply does not care? The worst part is, I still love him. Please advise me.
So, here’s my “Dear Dave” response:
Thank you so much for being willing to face the difficult truth of your situation and writing to me about it. Over the years I have talked with many people who have gone through the same kind of thing you describe. All are hurt. All feel betrayed and used. All wish it could have worked.
First, let me tell you that there is good news. There is a God who loves you, just not the one you knew. I will come back to this down the line.
You see, many people have been introduced to this false god. He disguises himself to look much like the true God, but he is very different in his heart. Usually those who introduce others to him are themselves deceived by him. Sometimes they even think they are gaining points with him for their evangelism. They tell you about his love, but they have never really experienced it for themselves.
There are many false gods, of course, but the one you tried to please is the one I call performance. The promise, as you state so well, is that love will come if your performance is good enough. However, he never tells you what good enough is. In fact, those who have been held up to you as examples never felt as though they were good enough either. No one wins in the performance system. No matter what you do, there will always be something more.
So why did you enter into a relationship with him in the first place? How did you miss the truth? Well, there was the lie, of course. The promises of love and acceptance, forgiveness and victory, were offered as a carrot on the stick. He said that you could have all of that and more, but then added that little and most-powerful word – if. If you do this, then you will receive these things. Like so many others, you learned that the “if” was never fulfilled, nor would it ever be.
But there was another reason you missed seeing him for what he was. I realize I don’t know you, but I am confident that he was able to tap into the feelings already in your heart. Why did you need his love? Why did you need his acceptance? Was it because you already felt unloved and unacceptable? Maybe you have done things in your life that made you feel like you were unworthy. Maybe there have been people in your life who have made you feel unworthy. When he came along, he offered to accept you, but then he did the same thing others have done to you and you have done to yourself. He pointed out your failures and inadequacies. You did not reject his opinion because it was already your opinion. It seemed right to you.
Then he gave you hope that someday your inadequacies would be overcome. If you just went through the five steps or the seven principles your whole life could change. You thought he meant that your image of yourself would change. You made it through all five, or seven, or twelve, but you were still the same at the end. So you tried again, using whatever new system he gave you. Your life changed, I suppose, because eventually you had so much invested in the performance system that you could hardly imagine getting out.
Actually, Heartbroken, you are one of the lucky ones. You have seen the truth. There are many people who have never understood that the system is a failure. They just think they have messed it up. They have accepted his lies about themselves and they just keep on trying, all the while becoming more and more discouraged and tired.
But not you. You got out of that relationship. Now what?
Let me tell you the good news. You see, you wanted the right thing. There is Someone who wants to give you just what your heart has needed for so long. His name is Jesus. Yes, I know that was what the other called himself and I know this will be confusing at first. Just remember that he was an imposter. The real Jesus does love you and wants to live in a good and right relationship with you forever.
Let me start at the beginning. There is one stumbling block you will have to deal with. The false god told you part of the truth. It is truth you have known almost all your life so it will be easy to accept. The only thing that will be hard to handle is admitting that, after all, it is true.
What I am talking about is the fact that you are inadequate and unworthy – on your own. You have done things that are unacceptable, things that have stained your life. After all that you have been through, you probably find that hard to hear, but you still know that it is true. The good news is that Jesus is ready and able to wash those things away forever.
Because of His great love for you, Jesus went to the cross and suffered and died. He paid the penalty for your sins. Read this carefully: that means it is done. The penalty for your sin has been paid. There is nothing more you can do to pay for them. The debt is paid in full. That means that nothing in your past can ever be brought up again. But there is more. It also means that nothing you do now or in the future can ever be placed on your account. In other words, Jesus has already paid for the sins you will do. Sin is not an obstacle to the love He has for you or the acceptance you receive from Him.
So, here is something that may seem strange. You can never be good enough on your own, but Jesus has come to make you good enough in Him. He makes Himself responsible for your enough. He loves you and He has done all that it took to make you acceptable forever.
The false god could never make you good. He could only make you think you could do things to become good on your own. So, you tried and you worked hard. Jesus has given you His own goodness. He died to give you His life.
But wait! There is more. When Jesus rose from the dead, He showed all of creation that He was successful. Those who belong to Him are truly forgiven, truly restored, and truly acceptable to the Father. In Him, they have been re-created, given brand new lives. Yet, they are not sent out to try to do better this time. They live these new lives forever and inseparably connected to Him. He is, as He says, the Vine and they are the branches.
So, Heartbroken, you are not left alone now. You have rejected the false god, now accept the true love of the One True God, Jesus. Come to Him and find the peace and rest your heart needs. He will never tell you that you do not measure up to His standards because He takes it on Himself to make you righteous and holy. He will never make you wish for hope because He will be your Hope. He will not ask you to make commitments and promises in order to be acceptable because He has already made the commitment and promise that has made you acceptable.
How will you get the old thoughts of the false god out of your head and heart? By believing the voice of Jesus. Read of Him in His Word and see how much He loved you. Because of Him, you are accepted forever. Because of His love, you never need to feel unloved again.
Write to me again and we will talk more of this. I just want you to know that I care, and I am praying for you and so many others like you. There is hope – in Jesus.