I’d like to tell you a story. A flyover at least. A story of a girl and her experience with God.
I began an exile from Him – the Holy Creator Father God. As I grew, spending every Sunday within the church’s four walls, so did my knowledge of this God. I confessed His gospel as true for me when I was just shy of double digits. This gospel preached freedom in Jesus, and while I acknowledged this freedom as a marvel, I trudged through adolescent days living for the rules as a passionate seeker of approval.
Day by day, my knowledge of God swelled, and I made a habit of walking through the pages of His Book. A Southern teenager, I was a poster child for the faith – surrounded by love, wholesome hobbies, a good work ethic, and a genuine desire to love others well. I followed the rules and did my best (rather successfully) to steer clear of all that had been deemed ‘wrong’ in my world. I fought my sin, often burying it with counter measures of religion, fearful of not living up to the right standard.
I cared a great deal what others thought of me, and it became my mission to keep those opinions positive. I remember a basketball coach telling me I was a ‘chameleon’ because I could fit in almost any environment. I did a decent job hiding major anger, fear, insecurity, or hurt because who wants to be thought of as spiritually weak? Not the girl raised in church and in Christian education. Not the girl with the Holy Spirit inside her and a moderate knowledge of God’s promises.
But this God sees everything. And I knew He could see me.
A cycle emerged. When I felt good enough, I perceived His eyes kind. When I felt unworthy, I perceived a distant set of eyes, ones filled with disappointment.
I graduated high school, and as college semesters came and went, I loved God, but within my deepest layers ballooned a fear of displeasing Him. Being good in the eyes of God and the world became my definition of being a Christian. Truth began to blur. It was a desert land. I hid brokenness by filling my calendar with godly ‘shoulds.’ I hid weakness by exhausting myself to be the strong one. I hid fear of rejection by being as helpful as possible to everyone in my life, hoping this would secure acceptance.
Seasons came and went, and the thirst growing inside was unbearable. I lived peace-thirsty and rest-hungry, exhausted from the reality of hiding in plain sight. In a gracious moment that would be the first of many in this desert land, knees hit the dirt, tear-stained hands opened up, and I asked for a new way, for His way.
I continued in the desert walk, but He met me there. He met me in the gentle voices of honest friends. He met me in the uncomfortable walk through my past, with every step reminding me of our present and future together. He met me in His Word, gracing my eyes afresh to settle on the truth about who He is and who I am. He relieved my bent shoulders of self-imposed burdens, expectations, rules, and fears. Would you believe I even considered wrestling with Him over a few of them? They were my safety blankets, and I didn’t know how completely let go.
But His eyes are kind. Always kind.
Now it’s a daily preaching to myself: Jesus Christ’s blood cleanses me entirely. He is mine and I am His, forever beloved. My home is God and I walk among this earth open-handed to Him and offering hope to all who are thirsty.
The practice that He used and is still using to heal me? To call me deeper into Himself? Receiving. Not just once at conversion, but daily. I had forgotten how to receive Him, His love, grace, righteousness, forgiveness as a gift, not something to be earned or manufactured or forced, and when when we started down this particular path, it changed everything for me.
He’s inviting me to begin sharing much of the treasure from the last 5 years, but this story felt like a right place to start. I’m praying it refreshes your soul.
If you’ve stuck with me this long, THANK YOU!