In my room, I have a wall covered with pictures. These are mostly from my "different and beautiful" board on Pinterest. It is a mix of all that calls to me, teal and pink and hearts and coffee and freedom. It is like me, a mix of hard and soft things, sweet and sassy, chic and country. Me on a wall. When I start to forget who I am, I sit and look at these pictures and try to remember.
I was doing this, looking at these pictures, and I had one of those moments, where a revelation drops into my heart like an anvil. I was thinking about how beautiful life is, and wondering why it has taken me so long to embrace it. Why have I waited so long to even look for these things that I love? Why have I waited to let myself really sink down into happiness? And suddenly I knew, as certainly as I know that I am breathing.
When I was about twelve I sat in a youth service at church and heard someone preach that our salvation was spider-web fragile. That we could sin any moment, maybe not even knowing, and if we should happen to die before we could repent for these sins then we would go to hell. Worse, if we couldn't get ourselves together, to stop all this regular old human-naturing then God might kill someone that we love, maybe even our whole family, to get our attention.
I vividly remember sitting on that pew with thirty or forty other kids, my fingertips rubbing over the surface of the woven seat cushion, how we were all on the left side of the church and the podium was down on the floor just in front of us. The preacher told a story, he swore it was true, about someone who couldn't "get it together". Their car stalled on a train track and their whole family perished so that this person would see the error of their ways and turn to God. It was a horrible story. The worst part was that I believed every single word.
I've thought about this memory many times over the years. It stands out, with a handful of others. It has colored my whole life. The way I feel about myself, about others, about God. Even know, when I know better, writing about it takes my breath away.
I feel like God met me, as I sat in my room. The truth that fell on me was that I have lived under a shadow of uncertainty and lack of safety for so long. I built walls and locked myself down because I believed it could all be taken away at any moment. Loving something felt dangerous, because I could never be good enough to deserve it. My love was destructive. Killer.
Now I know, without a doubt or a question, that this is not real. This is a lie. This is not the God I know.
Even in Jesus’ time people wanted to grab onto this type of thinking, that our behavior causes blessing or tragedy, that we can control nature, control God, if we try hard enough. Jesus answered this head-on. "He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).
In her book Grace for the Good Girl Emily Freeman writes, “Fear drives, love provides.” It was fear that drove me to repent and pray and cry. It was fear that drove me to build up walls and run away. It was fear that made me package all my heart loves up and hide them for safe keeping.
But fear is not from God.
God wants to take the fears that I am holding onto, that you are holding onto, with both hands. He throws them aside, effortless, and then takes our empty hands in His and fills them with his love. He is not a hard driver. He wants to provide.
I don’t know how to finish this story. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever written, because one of the many messages of the culture I grew up in was to not talk negatively about what went on. But I think this story is important, because I think in the telling, in the harsh light of day, it cannot hold its poison.
I'll be doing a story link-up on Friday. If you have a story to share, a growing, healing, God came near story, I'd love to read it. Sometimes I forget things I really want to hold on to. Your stories help me remember.
BONUS: Click the scripture image above for a downloadable screensaver.