These days there’s only one truth I’m willing to hang my hat on as certain. The rest I’ll call pish posh. Spiritually speaking, it’s probably too basic, maybe a bit offensive in its simplicity. But it’s safe to say, I’ve been slowly paring down my long list of right beliefs, set doctrines, and prescribed methodologies that once promised a full and meaningful life.
I’m finally admitting that the older I grow the less I know. I will never be an expert on anything.
As Thomas Merton said, “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!”
No amount of study and information, books and podcasts by supposed wise teachers of the faith will ever give me the secret to real life and purpose. It’s not that I don’t engage with these things anymore, I definitely do, but all from this perspective- I will always be a child.
Before I tell you the truth that makes me weepy with gratitude every time I even think about it, I first want to tell you a story.
This is a story of a girl who just couldn’t seem to get it right.
She wanted so badly to be good and gracious, joyful and content, gentle and slow to anger, captivating and alluring, beautiful inside and out. All the things she knew she was supposed to be. She grew up hearing messages that if only she turned to Jesus fully and radically, she would be on the path to becoming this kind of woman fairly easily.
She would be strong and stable, a living example of love, a model for her children and for the world to follow.
Those messages, that somehow there is an ideal Christian woman she’s supposed to become, still reverberate off the walls of her mind most days. But inevitably upon looking around her current life situation and scanning her inner secrets, she realizes she’s still not there yet.
In fact, with each passing year it feels like she might be moving further away from the picture, the goal, the vision of this woman.
She knows more than anyone else how far she is from the standard. The standard that so many women have lovingly and confidently told her about, preached about, and wrote about.
But because she’s not there yet, up in the front row beside these other righteous, truth-speaking women, unfortunately she won’t be quite as blessed. Her life will be a little bit less than theirs by way of joy and freedom. She won’t be able to experience God’s presence fully.
There will always be something like a shroud between her and the Divine.
There’s a reason for all of this of course, it’s because she’s ever so subtly walking in unconfessed sin. She has a past she hasn’t dealt with and until it’s dealt with completely, she will be destined for a life of annoying struggles. She is broken, worse she might be deceived.
Although they want to help, their help doesn’t feel very healing, and seems only to serve up more of the same. The focus on her disconnection, the work she still needs to do on her own soul, and the time she needs before she will ever become who she was meant to be.
What do they know that I don’t, she wonders every day in the face of another failure, irreverant behavior, or her flimsy, wayward thoughts.
What am I missing? The question usually pops up just as she was starting to take delight in her being, love on her children, or engage in something she deeply enjoys.
They sure made it sound like she was missing something. But what? She didn’t know.
Perhaps, she needed better self-control. A stricter habit of reading her often dusty bible. Maybe she needed more friendships, a group of women who cried in front of each other every week. Maybe she needed a sort of revival in her own heart, a mountain top experience of sorts. Did she not go to church enough, volunteer enough, or serve the homeless and widows enough?
If only she just got her thought life in order, listened to her body perfectly, stopped being so mean, finally established and stuck to healthy rhythms for her life, and put in enough hours of practice and devotion, maybe then she might be up there in the front row seats with those women making a real difference in the world, playing her part and perpetuating this gospel of good news.
Until then, she’d have to settle for sitting quietly in the back row…watching. Because her life wasn’t sorted out yet like theirs. Would it ever be?
She had a hunch her life would never be just so. But did it matter?
What if trying to stay up with these other women wasn’t the point at all?
Oh, the fear if she turned away from their messages.
Perhaps stepping away from this game of trying to become good and holy and finally totally free, meant she was coming out from under the blessing of God, being blatantly rebellious, unwilling to bring her sin and brokenness into the light?
There was so much fear in releasing herself from having to measure up, from having to attain a certain level of righteousness or Jesus likeness ( which always felt just out of reach).
So much fear.
What if she was succumbing to the enemy’s plan for her life? What if she was opening herself up for attack by her disobedience? What if she was following a counterfeit gospel?
That’s when she starting to realize the messages she’d been listening to for all these years, messages that felt inspiring for a little while, but only left her feeling hopeless and unhappy about who she was and where she was at, were all tinged with the slight notion that she wasn’t safe in who she was in this moment.
You are not safe. Someone is out to get you.
If you don’t change, get your life under control, deal with your stuff, surrender and sacrifice more during Lent, or confess your struggles and commit to changing them on this timeline you are vulnerable to attack. Out from under the covering.
You, your life, your children’s lives, your family, your marriage, it’s all in danger.
This story, as you might have already guessed, is about me.
I’ve always thought I needed to be a saint in order to be safe, to be loved, to feel like I have any value to offer the world.
Dear friends, this is where I wish I could invite you into my living room for some conversation about this craziness.
If there’s anything that makes me laugh and cry all at once it’s that God loves me right now. He loves you too, right now.
AS YOU ARE.
Full stop. There’s nothing we even need to tag onto that statement.
The wild love of God is endlessly fascinating to me, how it mysteriously leads me home to myself and closer in connection to others and this earth, how it heals me in ways I am not even aware of.
I feel like each day I’m only at the very beginning this journey into His love.
Don’t you find it astonishing that where we’re at and who we are right now doesn’t make God angry? He is not trying to teach us a lesson by bringing down hurt and pain in our life. There’s no wrath waiting to be unleashed on us. There will always be things we wrestle with that no one knows about, but we will always be under His wings of grace.
God is absolutely enraptured by you. So much so he has stepped into your very skin. He is in you- even in your many disordered affections and so-called sins and obsessions. He’s never walked out the door on you and He never will.
You are perfectly safe in His love. His healing touch is slow and gentle, never aggressive or pushy.
God loves me. It’s all I claim to know anymore.
In fact, God loves everyone on the planet.
He walks with them and desires them regardless of their status, their saintliness, their level of surrender or sacrifice. He is that good.
God never stops writing His love letter to the world. It goes something like this:
You are safe. You are good. You are blessed. You are more than okay. You are cherished and held through darkness, confusion, addiction, and pain. The only thing you need to be on the lookout for is my surprising, relentless, and untameable Love showing up over and over again in your life. I hold none of it back from you.
Take a deep breath, a long sigh… God loves you.