My life is one of balance. Every day is a balancing act, making sure kids are fed, that they are dry, and that they are generally happy. My eldest would say I’m failing that last one, as it seems lately he is anything but happy. I can’t seem to get a grasp on what is going on with him, all I know is that one minute he’s Jekyll and the next Hyde. He loves me one minute and wants to cuddle, happy to be with me, and the next… he is angry, throwing things, and demanding things I cannot deliver.
Much of my experience with my son is similar to the way I grew up perceiving God to be. God was Dr. Jekyll in these scriptures, and certainly Mr. Hyde in the next.
He loved me. But not my sin. He wanted to forgive me. But if I didn’t repent, offered eternal damnation.
So I lived with this monstrous god through college, sacrificing, abstaining, repenting, and judging my way to the throne of glory. I was great at it. I felt I was in good standing with god. I was a moral person, who yes, had my moments of weakness. Nothing that a good walk down the aisle to repent couldn’t undo. I was a good Christian Girl, and I knew God loved me. Right?
Somewhere along the way, I discovered a hidden voice inside me, whispering, what if he doesn’t love me? What if I’m not good enough? I threw myself into service. I pledged myself to missions. I would serve god no matter where it meant I’d go. I led bible studies. I worked with leadership in well known campus ministries. But underneath it all, was a growing chorus of doubt.
As usually is the case, it was solitude that broke me. I was living alone, in the middle of no where, 20 minutes from campus, and utterly failing.
I was committed to abstinence, but the temptation was too great. I performed such moral gymnastics around the issue, that Bill Clinton should have consulted me on defining the issue. I knew I was failing, god knew, and I couldn’t hide from him.
I was great at sacrificing, but had I sacrificed my soul and my heart, who I was created to be for a “higher calling”? I was so close to graduation, but had no idea what it was I was “called” to do. I was receiving no “guidance” no “direction”, nothing. Just emptiness.
And God knows, I was awesome at judging. And boy did I judge you. I knew what you needed to do to have a closer relationship with God. I knew that if you just prayed harder, god could take away those temptations, and you could “pray away the gay”. I knew that you were living in sin, and that your moral compass was wrong, and that you were called to a “better life” than the one you were living, damn it all to hell if you were happy with the life you had.
But the bottom line was this. I didn’t know God.
Oh… yes, I talked a lot about god. I prayed to god. I worshiped god with my whole heart. But I knew not one thing about God. I thought I did, but I didn’t.
Once I faced the choir, and heard the question again. Does God love me? What if I’m not enough? I came to believe I was not enough. I was completely unworthy of the love of the god I had worshiped. Even with my repentance, my sacrifice, my worship… I could no longer deny the feeling that somehow, I was a failure. I was not good enough. And thus… I was not loved.
I believe my saving grace was something horrific. What saved me, what pulled me to my feet, was watching one of my closest friends in college wrestle with who he was, and where he fit into god’s pictures. I am haunted by conversations I had with him regarding sexuality. I am haunted by conversation I had with fellow believers about him. I am haunted by the fact that I believed that god did not accept him for who he was. I saw his pain. And I wrestled with it.
Long after we parted ways, the voice inside me began to whisper, “The god you worship is a lie.” Again, I ignored the voice. I continued with the facade that all was well with my soul. Because I had been taught, that whatever my lot, that is what I was to say. I led a dual life. And anyone who has led a dual life can tell you, it is an empty and loveless life. I played the part of a christian on Sundays and Wednesdays, but inside I was dead. God was dead. And I saw him no where.
So how did my friends experience save me? So far it seems it pushed me over the edge. But gradually, bit by bit, I began to ask the right questions. Or at least perceive the answers clearly. God did love my friend. Exactly as he was. God created my friend to be the way he was. There was nothing broken in my friend. God did not despise his behavior, God loved him. Wholly and completely. Without condition. Without sacrifice. Without repentance. Without even a professing belief in God, my friend was loved.
And if he was loved… then, could it be? might it be true? That I was loved?
A spark of hope was fanned to flame through the words of writers like Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Anne Lamott, Kester Brewin, Peter Rollins, Barbara Brown Taylor, Tony Jones, and others. These God-believers knew one thing, and knew it well.
And that is what I most desperately wanted. To be loved without condition. Without pretense, without prerequisites, without manipulation. And suddenly, the chorale of doubt was silenced, and the quiet peace that filled those moments of simply “being” overwhelmed me. And in those moments, I swore that if I never knew anything else about God, I’d know this.
God is. God loves.
Epilogue: My son… God love him… has taught me more in his short 6 years of life than I could have learned in a lifetime of searching and reading. He is the perpetual lens through which I see myself most clearly. My hope and my prayer is that if he hears anything from me, it’s that he is loved, without condition, and that he was created to be exactly who he is. My prayer for myself, is, by GOD, let me show him that…. for I barely know it myself.