My experience in church was very much shaped by my crazy, chaotic home. I’ve said a few times on this blog that the church I grew up in didn’t teach grace as much as, “You need to be holy, and that means perfect or you’re not going to get into heaven.” Grace and salvation seemed to me to be somewhat fickle, temporary, and based only on what I did or didn’t do. I may not be giving my former church enough credit, however, because I know that the way we see God, salvation, grace, and redemption stems from the way our fathers treat us. Needless to say, I learned from my “father” that God was angry all the time…that He lies around waiting for us to fail so He can be the first to call us out on it.
In addition, because my bio-dad didn’t see me as worth him living for (in my mind, which is what I used to think), insecurity seeped into my life, where it peaks its stupid head up still every now and then. All the hurt and rejection that I experienced from 2 “dads” had so much to do with how I viewed God. I loved Him so much, and I would have done anything to please Him and make Him proud of me. Yet, all I ever seemed to get in return was the reminder of my sin and shame. I would never be good enough…ever.
All of that changed for me through a gut-wrenching process in 2007-2008 when Danny and I lived in Germany. We didn’t go to church very often. We were definitely not involved in any way like we had been in the states. I read this book by Brennan Manning, who is my youngest child’s namesake, called The Ragamuffin Gospel, sometime during that year. To my recollection, it was the very first time God revealed to me grace. And for some reason, the process of unlearning that grace has anything to do with me ripped my soul in half. Things I thought I understood completely unravelled. I remember literally feeling like my heart was about to burst in half, because I just could grasp how a God could love me so much to do what He did…to truly forgive my sins past, present, and future.
During that process, He began telling me that I wasn’t irreplaceable. You see, my sense of self-worth came from what I could do for others…always trying to please and unappeasable father, always making straight A’s so someone would think I was smart (dumb blonde jokes hurt when they’re a constant in conversation), always getting that lead song in the Easter/Christmas musical. I had to be the best, because if I wasn’t, I would be replaced!
In an attempt to be completely honest and transparent, those feelings of insecurity popped up a great deal last week. There are times when my voice fails me. When I lead worship, I hold nothing back. I’ve always been like that regardless of the damage I may be doing to my vocal cords. There were moments last week when I thought, “I just can’t do this.” If I’m not the best version of me, they will replace me. (Who is they, by the way?) My mind blows these thing out of proportion at times, obviously, because no one has ever made me feel that I’m replaceable at Hope. It’s literally the best “job” I’ve ever had. This insecurity is a pressure I place on myself alone.
So this week, as I was seeping into the mindset of depression and restlessness that overwhelms me at times, the Holy Spirit reminded me of something He said to me during that year in Germany. One sleepless night there, as I was praying and begging God to help me sleep, asking Him to just be there, this song came into my head. They lyrics go:
Your laughter, it echoes like a joyous thunder
Your whisper, it warms me like a summer breeze
Your anger is fiercer than the sun in its splendor
You’re close, yet full of mystery
And ever since that day when I saw Your face
Try as I may
I cannot look away
I cannot look away
I am captivated by You
I am captivated by You
May my life be one unbroken gaze
Fixed upon the beauty of Your face
I’ve not shared this part of my story with a lot of people, because this was a gift to me from God. I’ve wanted to hold it close and not give it away to anyone. I feel that I need to share it now, though, because I know many of you who read my blog have loved Jesus for a long time, but you’ve never understood is great grace and love for you.
So that night as I had this song running through my head, I began to sing it. I was singing it to Him, but He told me to hush and listen. (I’m not so good at that sometimes). There He spoke to my heart in such a loving whisper, “This is the song I’m singing to you.” At first, I was asking, “Did I hear that correctly”? He said it over and over until I got it. He is captivated by me? He wants His life to be one unbroken gaze fixed upon the beauty of my face? Never had I felt so unworthy, yet so relieved in all of my life. All I’d heard growing up was: “You’re ugly. You’re fat. You’re stupid. You’re nobody. In an instant, Jesus changed that for me. He actually wanted to gaze at me? He called me beautiful, something of which I’d never felt in my whole life.
When God created mankind, He looked at us and said: “It is good.” It’s ok to let our shame melt away like snow. It’s ok to relish His love, to bask in it, if you will. It’s ok to know that you’re not replaceable. You were put here for a purpose. Maybe it hasn’t been laid out all nice and neat for you, but it will play out.
God’s love for us is something we cannot break. His love trumps the rejection of 2 “dads” or whomever in your life hurt you. His love is all-encompassing. His grace is unrelenting. Believe it, people. He is captivated by you.
By the way, this is the song God sang to me. I cannot take credit for the lyrics. Enjoy!