Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies · The Basics

On The Giving & The Receiving of Love

flower walk, pink and treesGod knows how to love you.

He knows what’s going to reach you. He knows how to show you love in a way that will connect with you and make its truest mark on you.

He doesn’t love like people do.

People have loved you, but not perfectly. Sometimes, their love has manifested as dominance and even control. And it scares you, makes you build your invisible boundaries so that people can see you but can’t know you. You are open and honest and don’t hide your true self from anyone… but never do you give yourself to anyone. You let them see, but don’t let them touch. Because if they can touch, they can hurt. You don’t want that to happen to you anymore. So you hold up your invisible boundaries, so that you are visible but not truly vulnerable.

You know love is giving. That love is always a risk. But the cost… you’re not sure you’re truly willing to pay it.

She tells you that to love is to be willing to be broken for their sake. And that in order to be loved, you must make yourself vulnerable to receive what they give… which makes you vulnerable to the risk of being hurt. You know she’s right. You want to listen to her.

But you realize that in your efforts to keep people from controlling you, you have begun to act controlling toward them. You’ve learned to maneuver conversations and interactions so that you can keep anyone at a subtle distance, to protect against the chance of them hurting you. And when He shows you that you’ve even extended that to how you relate with Him… it terrifies you. Because who is He, truly, if He isn’t the image you’ve crafted of Him for yourself? If you can’t ignore pieces of Him and pretend He’s someone He might not be?

You pray a prayer you can feel the danger pulsating throughout: “Reveal your true self to me. Help me to accept the way you want to love me, even if it’s not a way I’d ask for.”

He starts answering. But not in ways you expected. And you even expected the unexpected.

He shows you a young man. One who is sweet and humble, but not without being strong and bold. The young man leaves soon, but not without searing that image in your mind. Part of you slowly begins to believe those things can coexist, gentleness and strength. Part of you begins to see that strength makes you feel small, but doesn’t have to in the ways it has before. Instead of intimidating and scaring you, this strength can make you feel safe. You don’t have to feel powerless. You can feel wrapped in it, and it can warm the winter in you. Among the wild mess inside you, there’s a moment of clarity, and you realize that is what’s happening.

You realize it is Him doing it.

You see that His love is meeting you in ways that will get through to you. He’s been going at your pace. Instead of demanding you change so that you can be loved, He has been entering what’s there, even your vices, and loving you. Not simply in it, but with it. Anything, He says, to be with you.

Anything to love you.

He knew what would reach you. You hid, but He still saw you and knew you. He became the shape that would fit the hole you’d found yourself in.

He knew the deep desires you barely knew existed in your heart, and He entered them, met them in ways you wouldn’t have thought. You didn’t think to want these things, because you didn’t believe you were the kind of person who would ever have them. But He brought love home to you, in a bouquet of flowers bigger and more elegant than anything you’d ask for. It blew you into wide-open wonder and gratitude. But you weren’t looking at the flowers when you thanked Him– you just looked at Him. You met His eyes with your teary ones, and you just looked at Him. Because He was the gift. He didn’t only give you flowers; He had given you His heart. Himself.

Love is giving. The giving of yourself for their sake. And He knows that more than anyone. He always has.

He’s been doing it right under your nose this whole time.

You thought you had to do the hard work of breaking down all the lies that live in your core before you could let yourself be loved. You tried to take steps to do so, and it was beautiful and brave of you. But He chuckles, and He murmurs into your ear that only one thing has ever been necessary.

All you had to do was lean into Him, and let Him love you.

So that’s what you do. You close your eyes, lean against His chest, feel Him wrap you close.

And you let Him love you.

“Simple trust is your participation.”   –Eve by Wm. Paul Young

Testimonies · The Basics

On Religion, Relationship, & The Extremes

I’ve been in a place of extremes lately. I was in a church history class last semester, and the main thing I took away from it was our tendency to go to extremes. When one group of Christians would begin having an issue in their beliefs/teachings/practices, those who noticed would break off and start their own group striving to be without that issue. But something always seemed to happen when they did that– they would go to the other extreme. If the church was being too strict and regimented, a group would form that would later become too loose and reckless. And it would continue in a cycle of legalism versus carelessness. It had to be one or the other. They never seemed to be able to just fix the intensity; if something was reminiscent of an element in the group they’d broken away from, they pushed it away and sought the opposite, because they had been reminded of something that had been destructive.

And I guess I’ve been doing that, too.

DSC01148I don’t want religion. Jesus didn’t come to earth to start Christianity; He came to earth to save the people He loved so He could be with them and share in relationship with them. I go to church, I read the Bible, I do “Christian” things, but it’s not because I’m religious. I do those things because I know Him, and through relationship with Him I know that these are things He wants me to do. These are things that grow our relationship and put me in positions to love Him and love my family of humanity.

I don’t want to be part of a religion. I don’t want to be a Christian. I just want Jesus. I want to know God. I want to know the Creator and Healer. And I do. We share in love, and when life is dark and painful He is the one thing that makes me feel remotely alive and safe and calm. I just want Him.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples shared the various things they’d heard: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, a prophet. But then Jesus asked them another question– “But who do you say that I am?” This question is so different from the first. The first is about people who don’t have relationship with Him; they’ve seen Him and heard Him and maybe even spoken with Him, but to them He is nothing personal. For them, He is a concept to be pondered. But the second question… the second question is about His friends. Jesus is asking the people who know Him whom they believe Him to be. He doesn’t ask them who they think “the Son of Man” is; He simply asks–

“Who do you say that I am?”

They know Him. And it is through knowing Him that they know and believe and live in the life-shaking truth:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The living God.

When we know the living God, any ideas we have about Him get to be confirmed or proven wrong, because we know the person they belong to. We go from religious people to the people who are His loved ones.

That’s what I want.

But I think, in the process, I’ve hated religion too much.

No, I still don’t want to be a Christian; I still think Jesus came to save His loved ones instead of set up a religion. “He himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph. 2:14-16). But I know Him because, through reading the Bible, I learn to recognize His voice. I cannot express how many times I’ve grown to know Him better through studies of theology. I can’t tell you how many times the Christian church has pointed me toward greater depth with Him. I can’t count how many times Christians have ended up saying the same things God has said.

Jesus didn’t start Christianity. But maybe Christianity was started by people like me, who wanted to know Him.

I’ve gone to the other extreme. I’ve seen the deep issues and hurts that come from being religious and formulaic about a relationship with God, and in response I’ve started becoming adverse to anything that sounds religious… even if, maybe, it’s what Jesus says, too. I finally admitted these things out loud, and to myself, for the first time today.

And I was sitting in a Catholic cathedral when I did it.

My church is great. It’s relaxed and homey and feels accessible. But the cathedral… every stained glass window, every carving, every statue, every element in that room… it was all about Him. One of my best friends was there with me, and she said, “You would think it’s too extravagant, but it’s not. It’s all for Him; all of it makes me think about Jesus. And that cross…11800312_865882580114334_2251339569539622530_nWe don’t see that in many churches. There will be a wooden cross, but… He isn’t on it. Maybe we’re too afraid to look at Him.”

Jesus, on the cross, for His loved ones. That’s what I want to see.

And I will do everything I can to see Him more clearly and more closely every day, to be with Him. Even if that makes me look like a Christian the process. Because I don’t need to pick an extreme.

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”   -Job 42:5-6