These past months have been hard ones for me. I know it’s cliché but they have been some of the best and hardest of my life. Being married is great, more than I had hoped for from all the Christian nay-saying I grew up with. The hard part is the same thing that has always been hard for me; what’s going on inside of me.
With the opening of my heart to Jon, which has been miraculous, God has put his toe through the door to previously closed rooms in my heart. I had very little idea that these rooms existed, much less were closed. They were like secret passageways that I had put out of use and forgotten about. But God never forgets and apparently he wants to tour them, and then make himself at home in them.
This sounds fine on paper. There is nothing I’d like more. But in real life, it has been so much messier, and so out of my control, and so confusing, and so exhausting. I have felt as though I am being ripped open. I mean literally felt as though my chest is exploding. Jon has watched, helpless, as I have cried and even screamed uncontrollably from pain long locked away.
One of my worst fears has finally overtaken me, I have experienced emotional take-over, lost all ability to reason or even interact with anything outside of me. I have experienced loss of control, much worse loss of control than other emotional people I have scorned. I have experienced helplessness. I have been humbled.
I have felt the distance I created between God and I long ago and no longer have the power to revoke. I have experienced the terror of God that I have been denying was inside me for years. The confusion I have kept on the shelf keeps falling off on my head. I have admitted that I don’t feel loved by Him. I have faced the fact that mostly I feel pain. I have started to accept that all of this is true even if it’s illogical. I have admitted my need of God not just in my mind or my actions but in my emotions.
I have been asking to experience him. I have been asking to feel his love. I used to think that you shouldn’t need these to be a good Christian. That people only searched for these because they would rather have warm fuzzies than face reality. That people cared too much about how they felt about God and not enough about who God actually is. But in my humbling, my mind has been changed.
In none of my other relationships do I find that feeling love from someone is neither here nor there. In none of my other close relationships do I believe that it doesn’t matter that I’ve never felt loved by that person, or that if they told me they loved me then that should be enough. In none of my other relationships have I put the blame on myself when someone else has not acted out their love for me. In none of my other relationships do I make excuses for the fact that they once did something very loving but I haven’t really heard from them since.
If it’s relationship that God wants, then good emotions towards him are certainly not enough alone, but they are also certainly not dispensable. It is reasonable to want to feel love, to see love, to understand and experience love from someone who declares that they love you.
I wish that I could let you into the convoluted confusion of my mind and emotions as I have reached and wrestled with this conclusion. The many questions swirling, the uncertainty, the feelings of guilt and unworthiness and “What’s wrong with me?” and “Why am I so messed up?” and “Is it my fault?” and “I thought I dealt with this all before!” and “What if I never feel loved by God?” and “Am I refusing to accept the love of God?” and “Why hasn’t God shown up yet?”
On the one hand knowing so certainly that He does love me but also experiencing that my emotions are not in unity with this knowing. I am very ready for everything inside me to be on the same page.
I’ve been thinking about practicing the presence of God. I mostly haven’t gotten anywhere with the thought but it’s still been bothering my mind. Is there something I can do? I know my works are useless, but in my other relationships I know what to do to hang out with a person. With my Mom I might run errands or go out to eat. With Gracie I sit on the couch and drink coffee and talk about whatever pops into my head in no particular order. With Ellen, I follow her around the farm. With Jon, I work on a project with him. With Cassie and Connor I go on long walks up the road.
But what do I do to specially spend time with God? Being a good Christian for all my life now, I know lots of answers, but I couldn’t figure out the way God and I connect most easily. Then yesterday, I had an “Aha!” moment. I have always felt most connected to God outside, or in enjoying nature.
Today, I realized that at different times there have been different things that God and I did to connect. When I was rediscovering him while walking through darkness, the Psalms connected us. When the darkness was dissipating, reading the Psalms was no longer the same, but journaling about all my questions connected us. Then the journaling didn’t seem to work anymore. But always, always, marveling at his creations has been our favorite connection. I never realized it before because I didn't recognise it as spiritual enough.
Tonight, as I tried to go to sleep, I was thinking about this and my brain exploded. My earliest, clearest, happiest, most restful, most peaceful, most joyful, most simple, most happy, most awe-inspiring memories have always been of the outdoors. And in remembering, it hit me. There was God, loving me, enjoying me, spending time with me, investing in me, protecting me, healing me, comforting me, being with me, when I was outside. That’s why those memories are so important. I didn’t see it then, but I felt it; God was loving me in my language.
Memory after beautiful memory rushed through my mind. Memories untarnished by confusion and pain. Memories I’ve always enjoyed but never connected to each other. I felt as though I had suddenly received 23 years worth of juicy letters from someone I thought hadn’t been communicating with me.
All those years of confused memories, memories half happy half troubling, memories of tension I didn’t understand, and hurts I can no longer deny, and darkness I desperately tried to hide from. Memories of feeling that God was distant or maybe didn’t care, or was waiting on me to straighten up. Those are still there. Those memories were always connected in my mind. But now, with these bright memories connecting too, those other memories changed.
Most of those memories are of a darkness I couldn’t understand and couldn’t put my finger on and couldn’t get away from and couldn't seem to find God in. But they started changing as I got the idea that he was there, standing right in front of me, with his back towards me. But he hadn’t turned his back on me; he was busy fighting for me. I was safe, but the danger was real and really scary and I didn’t understand why he wasn’t holding me.
But then, when I’d go outside, the danger would be gone and the fear, and he would soothe me and comfort me and make me laugh. I can’t explain it to you. I wish I could. I have never felt so loved.