Sometimes I go to a coffee shop for coffee, sometimes I go because I’m drowning in the middle of the waves of life, and a latte with a journal to write in is a life preserver and a breath of fresh air! Two years ago I was one wave away from going completely under, so I left my screaming toddler and our other kiddos with my husband and drove as fast as I could to the escape of a vanilla latte and some coffee shop jazz. Since writing is always a good way for me to decompress, I found a notebook in the back seat of my minivan before I went inside.
As I sipped and sat in stillness, my brain gradually quit swirling with thoughts of diaper changes and laundry and phone calls I needed to return… and I began to focus on some thoughts that had been flitting in and out of my mind for a while. The thoughts seemed a bit jumbled, so I just started to write to make some sense of them. What I ended up with was the most honest assessment of my heart I had made in a long time.
March 4, 2012
I wonder if on a heart level I have ever understood forgiveness. And I wonder if I’ve ever truly understood God’s love.
There was a time in my life when I felt so intimately close to God. I felt like I was special to Him. Really special. My heart has always been tender toward Him.
The thing is, in the years that I felt His love I was always striving. I was always aware that there were parts of me that were dark and unclean. Deep down, I was certain that my dark parts were worse than most people’s. And there was always a very strong sense of determination that no one could be aware of those parts.
So I pressed into God with tenacity. I worshiped hard, I prayed deeply, I read the Bible. As though my heart determined that if I could be the best, most devoted friend to God, if I could love and worship Him with all I had, it would be enough to cover over all the dark things. And the devotion and friendship were real. Very real. I gladly gave things up that I thought would hurt Him. I guarded the movies I watched, the music I heard, the jokes I laughed at. Not out of legalism, but out of love for Him and a desire to be more like Him. I was always striving, and committing, to pray more, read the Bible more, worship longer. Be better.
Between the amount of time I did spend with God and the “knowledge” that I was just about to get even closer, it was enough. It was enough to be bigger than the dark parts. And I felt God’s presence so much. I felt His love. I was continually aware of Him throughout my day. I felt safe with Him.
So, with the responsibilities of life I lost the ability to spend so much time with Him. But I held on to the commitment to do better. And the longing to do better combined with the intermittent times I spent in worship and prayer still maintained my “standing” with God. I knew that He understood my lack of time and He still saw me as special, as set apart for Him.
And at some point I stopped striving. I realized I wasn’t going to “do better tomorrow.” I realized I had lost too much ground and I was too far behind to catch up. I had gone through enough loss and pain that I didn’t feel safe and protected anymore. I struggled with doubt, and then guilt for the doubt. And when the beauty of devotion and commitment wasn’t there to cover the dark parts anymore, I was exposed. While my mind knew all about how God loves each one of us, how “if I was the only person on Earth, Jesus would have still gone to the cross,” my heart knew that I had failed. I had disappointed Him and lost my place. He didn’t see me as “Mary at His feet” (Luke 10:38-42) anymore. I was just a person in a big crowd.
Months ago I came to a place of being honest with myself about how far away from God my heart has gone. I did move forward some, but there has still been this reservation. I’m not 100% connected. And while I have been pursuing truth, I am also starting to realize that I have never had a heart understanding of such basic truths as love and forgiveness. This is rooted back to my youngest memories. I need to see God, to have a moment of awareness that changes me. I don’t think I can think my way through this. I am asking for something deeper.
Although I wrote this solely for myself, someone had invited me to be honest and I felt compelled to just hand this notebook over. I wasn’t asking for help; I didn’t feel like there was a way anyone could help. I already knew the churchy answers and they weren’t enough. This was simply an honest declaration of where I was. It was a choice to remove the façade and reveal the truth of the condition I was in…just because I believed it mattered to someone.
That choice to be honest was the first step on a journey that I had no idea I would travel! It was a step that changed the course of my life. And as hard as parts of the journey have been, I have never regretted starting it!