Ep 8 My Love Story Pt. 1 (Is God the Judge or is God Love?)

Hello my friend. Welcome to the One Heart Podcast. I’m your host Brooke Snow, and I’m so grateful to have you here.

Today I wanted to share with you part one of my love story. This is a little different than the love story genre we usually hear about. This is not a romantic love story, rather it is my own personal journey from living in the reality of conditional love and judgement to living in the reality of unconditional love and acceptance. We will all have our own love story journey. This is mine.

As always,

Before we begin, I invite you to join me in a three breath meditation to settle into your own heart.

I have briefly mentioned in the past that the last few years have been filled with a lot of trauma for me. I’ve not shared many details because I’ve been mindful of how my story affects other people and I’ve also been healing. Timing is really important when sharing a story publicly. I need to make sure that I share from a place of peace, where the charge of deep emotions has had a chance to run its course and I can be calm and objective.

There are some things that I will always keep private, but I’ve been noticing how I’ve been censuring myself. I’m the most powerful as a teacher when I can share my own life experience, and I’ve honestly been dancing around the mystery of what my own journey has been learning unconditional love.

The truth is….

I could not learn what love was, until I learned what love is NOT.

How could I know unconditional love unless I also knew conditional love?

The past few years have been a great awakening for me in the sorrow and fear that conditional love brings. I have gone through the depths of hell for these lessons.

I know what it feels like to be rejected.
I know what it feels like to be betrayed.
I know what it feels like to be judged.
I know what it is like to live in constant fear.
I know what it feels like to wish for death, because of the pain of not being loved is so great that I no longer want to live.

This is a good summary of the constant feelings I have felt in my body for the last few years. And I can tell you, that no amount of good healthy habits can prevent the damage that living in constant fear and pain will do to your body. I teach meditation, I certify coaches in being the creator of your life, I eat clean, move my body everyday, am fiercely dedicated to my holy habits and I have still put on 25 pounds in the past three years because of the constant state of stress my body has been under because of living with fear of rejection and a belief in a lack of love.

I don’t wish this type of experience on anyone. Yet, I know that all people will walk their own version of the path of suffering. It will look different, yet at the heart of it, we all learn in our own way the power of judgement and conditional love.

As much as I have suffered, I wouldn’t trade a single minute for what I have learned. As deeply as I have experienced suffering, I have also experienced the highest bliss. But I could not know one without the other. And because I have been willing to feel the depths, I also have opened myself to feel the heights. We expand only to the degree we are willing to feel in either direction.

So in the next two episodes, I wanted to share a few key pieces to my journey to unconditional love. In this episode I’m going to talk about how my evolving concept of God has shaped this journey.

I say evolving, because interestingly enough, my concept of God has evolved through time. I recently started meeting with a spiritual director, and for our first group discussion she asked everyone to write down who they believed God to be when they were a child. Then who we believed God to be when we were a teenager. Then who we believed God to be as an adult. Best of all was the final question… “Who is the God you want to believe in now?”

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what family you grew up in, what church you were raised in, what community you were part of, we each have our own individual way of internalizing for ourselves who God is. Two people in the same family, or the same church or community could have a very different image of who they believe God to be. I’m only sharing my story. As I share my experience, I invite you to think of your own. How has your own concept of God changed through the years, and perhaps even through the challenging experiences that you have navigated in your own life? How is it similar to mine and how is it different?

As a child, I imagined God to be very far away. When I would pray I imagined that my prayers had to travel far far far to the ends of the universe. Yet somehow, God was also close enough to observe every action or thought that would go through my mind. He was an ancient white man with white hair and a beard and he carried a clipboard. Not really, but it felt like he was carrying a clipboard to observe and test me like a scientist looking through a one way observatory lab window to see how I was handling the test of life. How good was I? How bad was I? What did I need to repent of? How was I measuring up?

Love would never have been my first word to describe God. Instead, I saw God as a judge. God demanded obedience. God demanded perfection, and because he knew I was a flawed weak human that would inevitably fail the test of life, He sent Jesus to suffer for my sins and pay the price for me to return back to His presence. This is how God loved me. By sending Jesus to save me from myself. But God did not love me as is.

As I matured to being a teenager and young adult, I learned how to be the type of person God could love. I was promised heaven and eternal blessings if I was good enough.

I learned how to be brilliantly good.
I got good grades.
I got scholarships.
I developed my talents.
I achieved some impressive things.
I went to college.
I went on a mission for God.
I went to grad school.
I got married.
I had children.
I studied scripture.
I spent time in holy places.
I said all the right things.
I did all the right things.

After all of this, I still saw God as the judge. Watching me with the clipboard, or to quote a hymn from my past,

“Angels above us are silent notes taking
Of ev’ry action; so do what is right!”

God was the judge who had very high expectations. He was usually disappointed with me, because I didn’t meet those expectations even with all my striving.

Even with the striving I still fell short.
I still lost my temper. I still got angry. I got jealous. I could be prideful. All emotions I believed proved my unworthiness and imperfection. I was inherently flawed. The atonement of Jesus was supposed to make up for my flaws, but no matter how much repenting I did, I never got rid of my human tendency to react and feel negative emotions.

In 2014, I had a near death experience. I didn’t leave my body, but I did nearly die. I had just experienced 9 pulminary embolisms –blood clots in the lungs–after giving birth to my daughter and was life flighted to a nearby hospital to try to save my life. There was a moment in the helicopter when the paramedic began to panic and was shouting at me to stay alive because all my vital signs were dropping rapidly. Into my mind came the words, “Christ is the breath of life”, and I intuitively knew I was supposed to repeat those words on every inhale and exhale. Or rather every gasping attempt at breath. There is nothing quite so alarming as not being able to breathe. I gave all my focus to inhaling and exhaling those words over and over again until I heard the paramedic gasp and say, “I can’t believe this. She’s stabilizing. This is a miracle.”

That moment in the helicopter was a turning point for my life. A lot of things shifted from that experience, including who I believed God to be.

I started to wonder if perhaps God liked me enough just as I was to have made an effort to save my life? Maybe God was more than an old man scientist looking for my flaws.

Even though my life was miraculously preserved and that experience in the helicopter was one of the most personal spiritual experiences I had ever had, I still had a lot of trauma and PTSD. I had flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks at the memory of not being able to breathe. My anxiety was high and everyday life became difficult to navigate with my mental health. In effort to cope, I signed up for a meditation class.

Meditation changed my life, not only because I calmed my nervous system, but I began to shift away from the formulaic prayers I had always offered to God before. I had been taught to pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus. (Or in my case, pray to the old man scientist far far away in the Universe and sign my prayer in the name of Jesus). One day I decided to change things up. I began to visualize Jesus in my meditation and speak to him. I figured he could deliver my prayer for me. He was more worthy to talk to Heavenly Father than I was and Jesus seemed way more likable. He seemed less concerned about the clipboard and willing to love me as I was and be with me without trying to make me be someone better before I could be in his presence. I could talk to him without feeling judged. I could just be with Him and feel love and acceptance in a way that I had never felt before.

I began to love meditation. I began to love Jesus. I began to feel seen and heard by Jesus, and like he was a real person and true friend. The time I spent in meditation taught me to hear the voice of my own soul, and to trust that I could converse with Heaven and get my own answers. I began to feel the love that Jesus so famously preached about. My old image of God as the Judge with the clipboard began to be called into question…

Meditation was teaching me that God was love. But the experience I was having at church and even in the scriptures began to feel contradictory.

Meditation time felt loving.
Church time felt judging.

Meditation time felt peaceful.
Church time grew more and more painful.

The image of God I had in my mind was shifting. The new one I experienced in meditation was expanding my spiritual life and experience of love and the old image would pull me backwards into a lack of love. The old image was a transactional relationship with God where I was expected to earn my love not just freely receive it.

This duality reminded me of the words of Jesus when he says,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Well, surely, if I were to pick which God I wanted to serve it would be an easy answer.

How about the one that loves me back?
How about the one that wants to be with me right now and isn’t putting my worth on trial?

As I let go of believing in a conditionally loving God, and instead chose to believe in an unconditionally loving God who loves all beings—without exception—my life experience radically changed for the better.

My relationships dramatically improved.
My self confidence dramatically improved.
My anxiety about always wondering if I was being enough, doing enough, began to melt away. It was like I could finally relax and start living for the first time.

As amazing as this expansion of love in all directions felt, there was still cognitive dissonance within me because there were plenty of Bible verses to scare me into thinking God was otherwise.

What if my desire to believe in an unconditionally loving God was just a false hope to ease my own sense of unworthiness? What if I was actually wrong?

Somehow, despite the dissonance I took a leap of faith. I chose to become as a little child and allow myself to go into the mystery of God. I allowed myself to let go of everything I “knew” and everything I had been “taught” about who God was and who I was. What if I could forget all of my conditioning, and simply be a little child once again and start fresh?

It was from this place of having a beginners mind that I began to truly learn. And what I discovered was a God that was so deeply loving. Unconditionally loving, supportive, non judgmental, compassionate, encouraging, and constant.

So what was it that finally allowed me to fully embrace believing in an unconditionally loving God?

It wasn’t an ancient text, scripture, or philosophy.
It wasn’t the words of men.
It wasn’t a sermon or class or lesson.
It wasn’t any specific religion.
It wasn’t a guru, prophet, or preacher.

Oh dear friends.

It was nature. Blessed Mother Nature.

A divine presence that all humans–without exception– are part of and have access to. How…unconditionally loving, you might say?

There are scriptures that paint a scary image of God. There are preachers and prophets that preach a transactional God. And there has been no shortage of people send me literature telling me that I’m wrong to believe God is unconditionally loving…

But in the end, those are all just words. Everything, even scripture, are words that are filtered through another humans perspective.

But Mother Nature is different.

I have learned that I can trust nature more than I can trust man, or ancient texts, or philosophy. It’s not to say I don’t still find usefulness from those sources. I do. But they are not and will never be as wise and all knowing as Mother Nature herself.

Nature does not lie. She does not have ulterior motives. She does not have an ego. She speaks all languages, she always operates according to divine universal law. She knows all things. She is not trying to control me. She is not seeking my monetary donations or dictating how to live my life. She is aware of the needs of the sparrow and the moss on the rocks and every soul of every living things in the Universe. And most of all, she loves me and all people–without exception. She is unconditional love. And this, most of all, is why I can always trust her.

The sun shines on all people. The just and the unjust.
She rains on all people, with no discrimination.
She does not save the scent of the rose for the chosen few.
She gives abundantly and freely of her resources, even when she is disrespected, violated, and abused.

God created the world, and the world is living evidence all day every day that God is unconditonal love.

I look at my body, and see that it too is unconditionally loving. It doesn’t matter how I have treated my body, or how mean I have been in my judgements or how I have spoken against it. Still my lungs breathe for me and my heart pumps blood. If my body was conditionally loving, it would have left me a long time ago. But she’s still here, and has been the most reliable constant devoted friend of my entire life. She’s literally been through everything with me.

If nature is unconditional love
If the entire universe and sun and planets and stars are unconditional love
If my body is unconditional love
What more evidence do I need than all of creation?

The ONLY evidence of God not being unconditionally loving is words! It’s all in the mind! It’s all in the imaginations of humans that have told stories for thousands of years about the God image they too have created.

Who is more trustworthy?
I’m going to trust Mother Nature and my own Body over the words of any person.
I’m going to trust my own mystical experiences of God over the words of any person.
And I invite you to do the same. Don’t trust me and my words, just because I say what I have come to know to be true for me…

Have your own experience.
And I invite you to have an experience with creation. With Mother Nature, with animals, birds, with the mountains, leaves, trees, flowers, seasons, fire, water, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, sunrise, sunsets, your dog, your cat, your pet, birds, your beloved, your children, the night sky, … have an experience of humans who are near to the crossing of the viel, the elderly or the new baby…ask yourself about love and about God and see what you experience. What do you feel? What does your soul reveal to you? Forget about all you’ve been told in words. What does your soul reveal?

When I put aside all the words, and look at nature and feel what she offers me, the message is always the same. Unconditional love.

The amazing fruit believing God is unconditional love, is that as soon I stop seeing God as the judge with conditions, I also stop treating other relationships in my life with conditions as well. I stop keeping score in my marriage and parenting. I stop viewing the government and my community through the lens of what is deserved? I start to see everything in present tense. I live for love now and build a New World now. I ask what is needed because the conditions no longer matter.

All that matters is whether or not I am currently in a state of love.
All that matters is whether or not I am currently in a state of love.

In a recent podcast interview with Robert Edward Grant, he said, “What if the reason we came here is not to get better at judgement, but to learn how to transcend it? We’re here to learn love and how to be loved. It’s just those two things. I don’t think it’s more complex than that.”

What if the reason we came here is not to get better at judgement, but to learn how to transcend it?
Can I choose to love myself even when I’m not my best self?
Can I choose to love someone else even when they are not their best self?
Essentially, can I choose to love without conditions?

What happens to me when I do this? In my own experience, I’m learning that what happens is my heart and my mind expand and I get a taste of what true grace is. I learn what true love really is. This love is beyond conditions. It does indeed invite me to transcend judgement and conditional love into something far better and more holy.

When I stop believing in the God who is a judge, and instead start believing in a God that is unconditional love, my whole life changes. I can now allow myself to stop being the judge and begin to love others without condition as well.

When I believe God is the judge then I become the judge.
When I believe God is love, then I can be love too. They are inextricably connected.

Judgement is the barrier to love. And who I believe God to be is always reflected in how I see myself and others. This is why Jesus positions the greatest commandments in the way he does.

He teaches that the first greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The second is like unto it, love your neighbor as yourself.

They are all connected.

It wasn’t until I decided to create a giant piece of art for my home that enlarged these scriptures to a whopping 36×40 inch size that I noticed Jesus’s full context to these words. The account in Mark chapter 12 says,

The Greatest Commandment

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Did you catch that? Somehow I’d missed that part my entire life.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

He first teaches the principle of ONENESS. Then he follows saying,

[e] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[f] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.”

He teaches oneness, because these are all connected. It’s all one. How you see God is how you see yourself. How you love God is how you love others and yourself. What you believe about God’s love for you is what you will reflect towards yourself and others.

You can believe in the judge or you can believe in love.
Likewise, you will be the judge, or you will be love.

I was laying in bed at night with my daughter the same day I did this exercise of my evolving image of God with my spiritual director. Out of curiosity I asked my daughter who she imagined God to be. She had walked in on my zoom call earlier in the day and I told her the questions we had been asked. She wanted to know my response, but I asked if she would share first.

She’s 9. She said, “God is love. God is a Father and a Mother Divine. They always love me no matter what. They are kind and want to help me learn.”

She then asked me to share who I imagined God to be at age 9. I told her about the Judge, and she instantly began to weep as I described a God who was far away and not happy with who I was. With tears streaming down her face she wrapped her arms around me and just said over and over, “I’m sorry mommy. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry you believed that. That’s not the real God.”

I like to hope my constant talking of the unconditional love of God is helping create a better image of God for my kids than the one I grew up with. Now you know why I have the words of love being the greatest of all commandments hanging in the center of my home as large as I could get because I hope that message sinks in more than any other for my kids.

But even with all my preaching, they have to come to know for themselves. And I’m going to send them to Mother Nature to teach them. They don’t need more words and contradictory messages. They need to observe the lessons nature holds. They need to witness the lessons of their own body. They need to experience God speaking to their own souls and not a tired old record on repeat of what anyone else says and thinks.

What is whispered to you on the wind?
What does the rain share with your heart?
How does your family pet communicate about what love really is?
What secrets does the forest hold? Or the mountains, the lake, the ocean or the night sky?

I truly believe that the most important questions are answered in what is right before us. If we allow ourselves to be led by our hearts, instead of swayed in our minds, we come closer and closer to what is real and what is true.

You are love.

Hello friend, If you enjoy this podcast, it would mean so much if you would take the time to rate, review, and subscribe. This is a brand new podcast and this does so much for helping this podcast to grow and reach more people. Be sure to subscribe so you can catch next weeks episode which is part 2 of my love story.

As a thank you, I have also created a free “I love and accept you” meditation for you to practice unconditional love for yourself. Meditation is my favorite tool for unlearning our judgements and returning to unconditional love. Simply download the Co Create app from your App Store and you’ll find it waiting for you in the Free Meditations on the app. You can find a link to Apple or Google app stores in the shownotes of this episodes. Remember, You are love. Namaste.

SHOWNOTES:

Receive my free “I love and accept you” Meditation on the Co Create App.

Find it in the Apple App Store

Find it in the Google App Store

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