This is a lot more personal than my usual posts, but I wanted to share this because it’s honest, and I think there is a severe lack of honesty in a lot of Christians’ spiritual lives, particularly the public expressions thereof. I have a lot of friends with very different beliefs than me, and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to have great conversations with these people about God and spirituality. And although I’m quite capable of talking about God and faith theoretically, taking an objective viewpoint for the sake of the conversation, and analyzing theology, I sometimes find it hard to express my personal feelings about my faith.
Sometimes this is because I’m hyper aware that the other person has had a bad experience with Christians in the past and I’m scared of saying something that will make them think I’m the same judgmental jerk that told them they were going to hell in 5th grade Sunday school. Sometimes it’s because I’ve got a lot going on in that little heart ‘o mine and it’s hard to be vulnerable. Most of the time, though, it’s because God is so big and complex and all-encompassing to me that I don’t even know how to start talking about it.
Recently, though, I had a pretty intense realization about God’s love and what it means to me. I was trying to pray in my head but it was way too noisy and crazy in there, so I tried writing it down. This is what I ended up with. I hope that it may encourage someone, or at least be an interesting idea to mull over.
I really don’t want to be praying this prayer right now. In fact, for months now I thought that I may never pray to you again, and that thought brought with it a certain kind of freedom and a certain kind of despair. I don’t want to need you, and I can only hope there’s some birds or butterflies or mosquitos out there who have hated needing wings to fly, because I think they might know how I feel. One of my favorite hymns talks pleads with You to “let Thy goodness / like a fetter / bind my wandering heart to thee.” What a strange metaphor, but how appropriate. You shouldn’t need a chain to bind you to the one that you love, should you? But then again, is there anything more terrifying than perfect love? Every human has felt that pull of fear in a relationship that’s getting serious, in the eyes of a friend or a lover that’s started to see the ugly parts of you and loves you still. We are grateful to be forgiven by them, but we’re almost more thankful when they hurt us and we’re able to forgive them back, some little scale in our minds leveling off and telling us “It’s okay, it’s safe here. You’ve got something to offer. You’ve got a measure of your worth.”
I’d rather be hurt by a thousand people than stand in the terrible shadow of your perfect love. A love that sees to the very core of me. A love that exposes all of the evil that lurks in my heart and brings it into the light so it can be destroyed like a film negative. A love that demands that I come empty-handed. A love that cares nothing for my pride or my sense of accomplishment; that guts them like fish at my feet. A love that pursues me, tossing aside like rag dolls everything that dares to come between. A love that prefers Mary to Martha, who would rather me be intimate with Him and do nothing than save a million dying children in His name. A love that will take nothing I want to give and demands everything I’m scared to let go of.
A love that will always accept, even when I want to be rejected. A love that will always show mercy, even when I want to be punished. A love that will humble me when I think I should be exalted and exalt me when I think I should be humbled. A love that will never, ever go away no matter what I do.
Of course I wander. Your love is overwhelming and painful, like forcing yourself to stick your arm in the fire to cauterize a wound rather than live with the dull ache of an infection that will eventually kill you…but only eventually.
I’m the girl who won’t dig her splinters out. I’m the girl who would rather live infected than rise to the challenge of being healed. I’d rather wander, thank you very much, and you can keep your scary perfect incomprehensible love and leave me with my nice manageable leprosy.
Except you won’t. Except that, like a bad horror movie, you are there around every turn, calm and still and brandishing a weapon much scarier than a hatchet. I never used to understand why the Psalmist lamented, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” And what’s even more terrifying than the fact that I can’t get away from you is the that the reason you are chasing me–that weapon in your hand–is not the stoic laws of the universe playing out. Surely you could have arranged this world any number of other ways that would have been way easier and required much less from both You and me. It’s not because anyone is telling you to, or because you have an obligation. It’s solely because You love me. Wholly. Fully. Just as I am. Forever. And you want me to love you back.
So what exactly is my prayer? I guess it’s only this: I give up. I surrender. I will let You love me even though it’s scary, because Your love is everything I’ve ever wanted packaged in the stuff of my worst nightmares. I will let Your hand guide me to open it. I will not look away. And I recognize that whatever happens after I do, I will have done the only thing ever worth doing in this whole world.
Abba, whatever I am, I am Yours.