“Where did you hear that God is judging and vengeful? I don’t remember learning that. In fact, if anything, what I remember from high school was a sort of watered-down, wishy-washy Jesus.”
My sister posed this question after reading one of my blog posts. We are twins, so we shared the same schools and grades, and, if not specific classes, at least many of the same teachers.
I plumbed my memory for examples.
Instead, my mind rolled back to the moment I realized the childhood brokenness that I hid behind a wall of control, reason and logic was just my way of dealing with rejection I felt from my dad – and turned me from God before He could reject me. That realization left me sobbing on the floor – feeling like I was lost forever. In that heart-crushed place I encountered God’s love through the comforting weight of His hand on my shoulder and His words in my ear. It’s OK, you’re here now.
I remembered how, suddenly, for me – God was. How long minutes later I sat on the floor and slowly drew breath. I looked around the room, almost surprised to find myself alone. I no longer felt His hand, but a sense of calm and lightness washed over me, and I sat and soaked in it.
It was not just the idea of God I had experienced, but the real, tangible God. I felt certain of that. I also knew He loved me. Always had and always would. I had no idea what to do with that knowledge. All I knew was that I wanted to know God: this God who showed up when I was in my dark place; this God I had been so wrong about.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
Wow, I thought. So wrong. I have been so very wrong all these years.
But now what?
It felt as if a rug had been jerked from under my feet, and my upended soul lay sprawled on the floor. All my beliefs had changed in the breadth of striking a match. Yet, somehow, my heart and mind felt sort of “righted.” Although I did not have a clue as to the how or the why of this God stuff, it was enough for me in that moment to know God was.
I had been so sure of myself, I thought. I had been so sure I had dealt with my childhood pain and was fine. I had a good marriage, a wonderful husband, a thoughtful and loving son, a decent job, a nice home, the horse I had always wanted – yet I knew something was missing for a bunch of years. I was a “good” person with a giving heart and a good and happy life. I told myself for years that I was kind and thoughtful simply because it was the right way to be – and I honestly thought it was all inside of me, that I had done it all by myself because my mind understood that my dad’s behavior was about him, and not me. I thought I had risen above the pain of a tattered and scarred childhood.
Until I realized I had risen above nothing. Until I realized God had been there with me all along. Until I realized how truly ignorant I was.
Once again, the question came. But now what?
I don’t know, I thought. I don’t know! My mind paced even as stillness gripped my body. I ran my hands through my hair. My nerves buzzed as emotions pushed aside rational thought. My heart cried out. I thought, God, help me! Help me find the answers! Help me heal and to become who You want me to be!
In the stillness I heard: That is what I have been doing your entire life.
My breath caught at the weight of the words. A lump rose in my throat and hot tears stung my eyes. I saw again how God had been with me all my life, how He had gently guided me in my choices since the very beginning. Once again, the heat of shame rose in my heart.
“Forgive me, God,” I begged. “Forgive me for not seeing you, for not being with You while You were always with me.” I swallowed and blinked back the tears.
The weeks after I became aware of God felt like a vicious cycle. Each time God comforted me in my pain, I saw His love and His hand in my life – and I felt so guilty because I was so unworthy. I thought, I treated You horribly – and You repaid me . . . with love . . . I do not deserve.
I blinked and pulled my mind back from my reverie. I reconsidered my sister’s question. Does it really matter where I had heard the lie that God was harsh or condemning? I asked myself. Truth lay in the light of my memory.