It is not easy to be me.
My life of 65 years has been a patchwork of light and dark, though the dark has ravaged deep from a young age into the present. Those holds and chains pervade hard, immovable, unyielding, and stubborn. I am too familiar with the lies and nuances, and they hide in the habitual. “The what has always been and what will always be” are insinuated into my psyche. The lies insist they are stronger now that I am older, that I am too weak, too fragile, too broken, too damaged.
I was 18 when my drug addled hedonism and atheism gave way to idealism, discovery, and faith in Jesus. The Great I AM showed Himself to me and I was utterly taken. All and everything, He was my desire. I swooned for Him, floated in Him. Such bliss in those days, heaven pulsated in and through me. The sheer intoxication of Him filled me with the ecstasy of joy, peace passing understanding, laughter, purity, and the warm palpable healing oil of His Spirit.
Heaven came to me on earth for a while. But I was young and had much living and learning in store.
The damage done by legalism and condemnation was far more heinous than I could have ever realized. No wonder Paul wrote so repeatedly, passionately and emphatically in his letter to the Galatians.
“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11)
Paul urged the Galatians to take heed:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-9)
He implored them:
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3)
Paul’s fierce protective ardor is so evident in this:
“I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.” (Galatians 5 :12)
Now, I get it.
But then? I was years in a “Christian” mind control cult. Though prior to this at my faith’s inception, the wolves in sheep’s clothing subtlety held sway. All those cunning, cruel, and wicked cords wove through my belief experience, tying me, locking me down, imprisoning me deep. This was new bondage, this religious dread and panic that wove itself into the older tapestry of my childhood guilt and shame.
Fear sets us out as fugitives on the run from God. So run I did, trying to find my way to what was real.
His holy beauty swathes us, holds us, tethers us to His heart. In ways outside of our awareness, as we wander, as we drift, in all our clueless obliviousness, He keeps us. My drifting eventually plunged me into the currents of popular culture. I rode those waters for twenty years but not alone. Jesus was with me.
His scent was on me. It had never left. It wafted into my deepest longings, my reflections, in the stillness. He was there in the middle of my hedonism. He wooed me. He drew me closer as I felt safe. He groomed me for our Homecoming.
It was loss and books that ended it. My running and drifting stopped. I lost my job and devoured books. It was then and there that I found the ancient words. His words, love language, captured and melted my heart, inflamed holy passions, and pooled deep and refreshing in my parched longings.
I found myself all in once again forty years later. Though much difficulty lay ahead of me.
He melted me in a moment. I was in the middle of making my bed when the Voice came.
It had been months and months since I had returned to faith, and I so deeply admired the heroes in my group. They were the doers and the rescuers who poured out their lives to meet the needs of the refugees.
But for me, there was a flip side, a dark undertow to this admiration. My “doing and performing” motivation did not come from an overflowing, pouring out place of God Most High. Rather it was one of anxious, compulsive striving laced with panic and guilt. I saw myself as less than, defective, and not enough in my comparison to them. Waves of guilt and shame washed over me and through me, agitating my sin-sick soul like a washing machine.
I did not know who I was.
This is a hard thing, knowing I am loved. It does not come easy. The learning is in the wait, so I have found.
But that day in my bedroom, I had a glimpse when He came to answer the question I had been repeatedly asking, over and over. I asked “what is it that you want me to do?”
I crumpled to the floor in tears of sheer unbelievable wonder. His tenderness, indefinable gentleness, kindness, and compassion surprised me. It overwhelmed me, utterly delighted me. It was an “exceeding beyond what you can ask or imagine” moment. The words were Pure Love and I strove to interpret them into language.
And so, I saw myself sitting at the feet of Jesus as Mary had so long ago, having chosen the better part (Luke 10:42).
Today, I am not out of the woods yet. I struggle, flounder, fumble, and fall. I strive and get caught falling into the old traps that have worked so well so long. There I go. I am up there again dangling upside down by my heels in dismay.
I call and I cry and He hears me. He is on His way coming for me.
I learn. I discover truth in the wait.