Honesty seems kind of ugly sometimes. All my feelings sit there in stark black and white, yet, the whole mess jiggles like an underset molded salad.
I wrote those sentences two years ago. I can’t remember now whether it was part of a journal entry or a letter to my husband, but either way, I had shared something that left me less than proud of myself.
We have a tendency to offer others only the highlights of life. These good images seem like much better fodder for our social media feeds than the not-so-pretty parts of our experience. “Pinterest perfect” became a thing because we all long to be better, to have our whole lives look just like the pictures. But those pictures don’t show us the rest of what’s really there, just outside the frame.
This may be the most scarily personal thing I have ever put out there. I’m afraid you will read it and think less of me. Truly, though, the weight of everyone else’s expectations is too heavy a burden to bear. No matter what I release for public consumption, I will always be all of me. And this stuff is important. There isn’t enough discussion of the not-pretty parts of our lives, which leaves too many people believing they are the only ones who don’t have it all together. I know, because for a really long time, I was one of those people. But I know better now, and I’ve realized I need to be one of the authentic people. It’s my job to take the camera and focuses square on the mess I’d really rather crop out.
So, here goes. I wrote this in my journal last summer, shortly before the world fell apart. Again.
Letting go of the pain can’t hurt me nearly as much as holding onto it has. I think. My fear is that’s not true and letting go will hurt more.
I’m not even sure what the pain is right now. Why am I hurting so much? What am I so afraid of?
God, what is it? Do I need to step back to gratitude first? To reconnect with joy?
I’m struggling with that. I’m not sure what I’m truly thankful for right now. Help, please?
Thank You that we, somehow, have just enough to make it through the week. Thank You that even though our budget is significantly limited this week, we can eat three healthy meals a day. Even what doesn’t feel like enough is actually enough.
My beautiful, beloved child, I am enough. I will always be enough. You worry that you will run short, but you can never run out of My love for you. You have a difficult day and your patience runs out, but I am ever patient. Your father lost his temper and raged at you, you lose your temper and rage at your children, but I am never caught beyond My limits because I am limitless. You can never surprise Me with your behavior. You can’t manipulate Me. You can’t push My buttons–I don’t have any buttons. I am totally present, fully at peace, complete within Myself, utterly attentive, and always desiring you. I want you. Not sometimes, not occasionally, not when I’m in the right mood, I want you always. I want to love you with all that I am, and I am love.
God, I want that. I want You! I want to know Your peace and Your rest and Your love. I feel like something, someone is keeping me from You and it’s me.
How do I let go of my own fearful attempts at control? How can I loosen my cramped fingers from the seeming need to make everything work out fairly? I think I have to fight to get my share of the pie, but what I’m fighting over is so much less than what You are gently and quietly offering me.
One of my all-time favorite songwriters is the late Rich Mullins. He set to music so many things I’ve felt so deeply inside, I didn’t even know they had words. His song “Hold Me Jesus” has always held a special place in my heart: I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than take what you give that I need.
So how do I let go?
I think You’re saying, “Just let go,” but I don’t know how! I don’t know how to release this burden of fear, to open my arms and reach for You. God, please, can You help me? I’m afraid to let go. I’m afraid that if I do, I’m saying everything I’ve lived for up until now is a lie. All the struggle and striving to do what’s “right” for my own best interest was wrong. And I’m afraid that makes me a terrible, horrible person. If I admit who and what I really am, You won’t want me at all.
My darling daughter, I want you more than you can even imagine. I know exactly who you are. I know you better than you know yourself. And I love you, deeper than the oceans, higher than the clouds, longer than the farthest distances scientists can measure. You need to let go of your fear, My beloved, because it’s blocking My love for you. You need to allow Me to crack open Your heart and let My light expose your idols for what they really are: childish attempts to recreate the reality of Me. I am true Peace. I am true Justice. I am true Love.
The fear and the pain and the anger are not protecting you. They are poisoning you and they only grow more toxic as you allow them to fester in the dark.
Let My light shine into your soul, My child. Open your clenched fingers and release the fear, let go of the anger you think makes you strong, reach out and let Me hold your hand in the tender grip of grace. I can heal your pain, but only if you let Me.
God, I want You to heal me. I’m still afraid, but I know I can’t keep going on like this. My bootstraps aren’t strong enough. Please, forgive me for thinking I could do it on my own, for treating Your grace like a side dish to accompany my own selfishness. It’s so easy to see when other people are trying to make You fit their own ends, yet I shaded my eyes to my own attempts to do the same.
God, bring Your healing to the deep-down caverns of my soul, those places that haven’t seen sunlight in years. Let pass the season of always winter but never Christmas as the heat of Your loving embrace thaws the ice and snow. Breathe Your warm breath over me and bring me back to life. Let me grow and flourish as I reach toward the Light.
The churches I grew up in left me with the impression that a Christian was someone who had to asked Jesus into their heart once. That one-time prayer sealed the deal. It wasn’t until years later, I heard a sermon that showed me another view. Coming to Jesus and asking for forgiveness and letting go of all the things we are holding on to instead of Him isn’t just how we “get saved,” but it is the very essence of Christianity, a process to be repeated over and over again for the rest of our lives. In the upside-down world of the Kingdom of God, the way to victory comes through surrender, every single time.
I feel different. The raging inferno of desperation has burned itself out. There is a happy glow inside instead. I feel fresh and clean, like a sheet washed out and hung to dry in the sunshine.
I don’t expect I’ll always feel like this. Tomorrow will dawn and the kids will fight and the frustrations of the day will come rushing out to greet me. But I can know I don’t have to fight those battles. I have laid down my weapon and surrendered to the One who fights for me.
And maybe tomorrow, I’ll have to surrender again because I’m likely to pick it back up, thinking I need it after all. Still, when I do, He’s right here waiting until I’m ready to lay it back down and hold His hand instead.