I need to feel valuable. That desire has been a large part of what makes me tick since I can remember. Being able to offer some tangible service, to offer something needed or wanted, to bring joy by way of my behavior, resources, knowledge, skills, or time.
I want you to be pleased with me.
This no doubt stems from a childhood clenched in the fist of family members and church leadership who taught that "works can't get you into heaven" but lived lives that threw everyone else into anxiety and panic, trying to find perfection.
So, yes, I'm 31 years old and still working on understanding fully that God loves me unconditionally and just because. Like, God chooses me everyday, just because? I can't even... Whet?
It draws tears from behind my eyes and swells a lump of equal parts incredulity, gratitude, and awe inside my throat. The thought is too big to wrap my heart around fully but I'm getting there.
Intellectually, I know it. "Jesus Loves Me" was one of the first songs I learned growing up in the Apostolic church. I "know" that Jesus was that one, perfect, sin-less Son whose body was broken for everyone who ever was or ever would be, including me. I "know" that His love fills and covers all the ugliest chasms in the canvas of humanity and reconciles us, justifies us, draws us to Him. I "know" that He longs for His creation to accept His unmerited love as fact and simply love Him back with lives that send us running to Him, exalting Him for all the world to see. But the way church leadership taught me to engage God (and themselves) more closely resembled military maneuvers than exercising faith in His unwavering love.
I don't want to say that this is the hardest thing I've had to learn but it is difficult to break the habit of wanting to do things in order to be loved. It's difficult to turn loose the "I can't mess up or they'll be mad at me/humiliate me/hold it over me/never forgive me" mindset. It's difficult not to fear being discarded or ostracized if I fall short. It is difficult not to fear the milestone being moved a little further after I've given my all to get there. It is difficult not to project all of the indoctrination of my youth onto the people who want to love me wholly, deeply and fully, including - and most especially - God. It is difficult not to run away before there is a chance of getting left.
All of that is difficult but I've come to understand that it is only as difficult as it is because in my mind I have not yet fully removed fluctuating and imperfect human characteristics from a sovereign and inconceivably, consistent God. There is still a part of the narrative in my head spoken by the well-meaning albeit misguided and damning voices of my childhood. And those voices have blocked the fulness of God's for a long time.
So, I'm here for the first time in my life kind of kneeling, but mostly sprawled at the feet of a God that more often than not seems too big and beautiful and intense for me but is all the time fighting to get to me at even (or especially) my lowest. A God whose face is fixed, whose hands are calloused, and whose heart is determined to blast through the solid rock of "trying" surrounding me.
And maybe now I'm chipping away at that rock from the inside instead of hopelessly standing inside attempting to 'work' my way toward God's favor. Maybe now I'm slowly but surely shutting down my need to understand how it all works, and just accept that His love is big enough, bold enough, brave enough, gentle enough, purifying enough to capture and hold onto me despite me. Maybe now with all of the excitement and courage I can gather together in one place, on one accord, I am crying and fighting and evolving my way through everything that's ever kept me away from something as inconceivable as unconditional Love. For me. For me? Jesus Christ... For me.
I have hope now that sooner than later, fear of rejection won't be able to paralyze me ever again. That I'll see God's artistry when I wipe away the condensation from the mirror in the morning no matter what I've washed away or am about to apply. That "Jesus loves me" will inch closer to my heartbeat as an unequivocal truth more than a touching yet distant singsong.
It's impossible to "be good enough" into God's favor. Choosing to avoid sin is only effective as a result of loving God as opposed to trying to win Him over and be worthy of His freely given, unmerited attention, favor, affection. I am ill-equipped to ever do enough to deserve anything from God. But I can rest in His unbelievable love for me and love Him back through how gratefully and generously I live my life.
God loves me.
He loves me.
And that's it.
And listen to that...even now...there's a new rhythm to my heartbeat overwriting the old...