This is my 23rd blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late. It is also a link-up to Jennifer Dukes Lee’s #TellHisStory. Would you like to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree? See below for how you can go into the draw to win this wonderful prize.
In the counseling sessions after my therapy for PTSD, my therapist posed both a question and gave me some advice that together with the piercing truth of God’s Word, are helping me to recognize that which has been stopping me from becoming a little child before God, something I reflected upon on Day 20 in Love is Drawing You Out of Hiding. I hope and pray that what I share here will also encourage others walking a similar journey.
My therapist told me that it is okay to be angry at those you love, that being angry at them does not mean you do not love them and she asked me directly if my faith in God was really a solace to me in all the pain I have endured. In telling me that it was okay to be angry at those we love, she opened my eyes to how I had been repressing a natural human emotion within me. To avoid hurting those I love, I have often and still do at times press the anger I feel down deep. I hate to upset people because ultimately I am afraid that if I upset them, they will no longer love me and turn their backs on me. This is rooted in my childhood experiences of rejection, experiences that I believe no human is immune to. But rather than allowing God’s truth:
Deuteronomy 31: 6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
to soothe this fear of rejection, I have and even now at times still walk away from this fear, choosing to hide the emotions pulsing through me. And so over the years, I have lost the art of fully communicating both my emotions and my unmet needs to the ones I love, even or perhaps especially to God.
However, as I have begun to allow myself to feel and express my anger, I have seen it dissolve into a puddle of tears. This is because underneath the anger I feel, lies a deep hurt that the anger holds onto and refuses to acknowledge. The anger says: “I do not need You, God, and I do not need you people.” It says: “This hurt that has cut deep isn’t there.” It says: “I am in control and you cannot hurt me.” And yet, because we live in a broken world into which sin has entered, hurt is unavoidable and does cut deep. So, when people respond to me in human ways: call me names, turn me away, whether in their body language, actions or words, fail to see, acknowledge or respond to my needs, just as I have done and sadly still do to them all too often, it really does hurt. But too often, rather than communicate the hurt I feel, I press it down, my anger growing in the attempt to stifle the hurt, both exhausting me and causing me to be deeply sensitive to additional hurt that comes my way.
As a child, I grew into believing I had to be “good” to be loved and being “good” meant denying I was human, with human fears, human hurts and human needs. Yet, God calls us to be children before Him:
Matthew 18: 3 – 4
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And what do little children do best? They express and communicate their emotions and needs, whether these emotions are “good” or not. They express them, expecting them to be heard and met. Sadly, they are not always heard. Even the most loving of parents are incapable of seeing and providing for one hundred percent of their children’s emotional needs.
Unfortunately, I have allowed this natural human failing to shape who my Heavenly Father has become to me. As a pre-teen, I stopped communicating my emotions and needs to Him because I came to expect Him to respond in a human way, to fail to see, acknowledge and meet me in my need. God became an idol of human shaping and failing, rather than the Perfect God He is, as revealed to us in His Word.
However, as you will have seen in my previous posts, if you’ve been able to read along, God has been building up my trust in Him, revealing His true nature to break and replace the idol I have created of Him. As my trust in Him is growing, so is my willingness and ability to communicate my deepest feelings and fears to both Him and others. I still waiver at times, as I turn to hide my broken self from Him and others, fearing that this would reveal that I am not “good enough”. But this is where I have to remind myself of the cross, of His ultimate sacrifice in Love for me, a sacrifice that more than COVERS my not “good enough”. As Jamie Sampier Harper’s daughter reminded her and in so doing me as well, God has the power to “close the gap of [my] humiliation, shame and wrongdoing” because in looking into Christ’s eyes, I see “only the beauty of [His] eyes instead of [my] humiliation”, or as God puts it in Isaiah 43: 25:
I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sin.
He sees me fail to love others as He does. He sees me writhe in pain as others fail to love me as He does. He sees me hide my failings, my shame and the cutting hurt. He sees me pretending to be “good”, hiding in a shaking fear that being “bad”, by communicating my sins, my emotions and my fears, will cut me off from Him. And over that failure and shame, into that pain and shaking fear, He speaks His Love:
1 John 4: 9 – 10
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
And this is why, when I come into His Presence, He has the power to pry back the shaming cover I continually place over myself and turn the real me to face Him. On Sunday, I experienced this in a powerful way as the tears I’d kept at bay came flowing out of me: the grief I had told myself I had moved beyond, came pouring out of me. I felt Him through the words of the worship songs and the warmth of His Presence upon me reminding me: “Anna, I see you. I see the pain, the ache of loss, the yearning for your mother. You don’t have to pretend and hide it from me. I see it. Let me into it. Let me be Your Comfort, Your Hope, Your Love. Let me place my strong arms around you and hold you.” And yet as the tears flowed relentlessly, song after song, I became embarrassed of my deep need, of my tear-stained face and fled to a quiet corner, where nobody could see me.
And yet, isn’t this why He yearns for us to come into His Presence in worship and prayer? So that in the unmasking we are given the opportunity to open our palms and receive the gift of Himself, of His Love, His Comfort, His Peace, His Grace, His Protection, His Unrelenting Kindness and Patience, of all that He has to offer? As Jamin Googin and Kyle Strobel put it in Beloved Dust (p.151 & 157):
Prayer, true prayer, is the act of opening our hands before the Father and receiving the gift we could not earn. Christ allows us to draw near. Only in the name of Jesus are we ushered before the Lord of glory. You stand before the Father because Christ brought you there … Part of what we are doing in prayer[and I would also say in worship before Him] is coming to grips with who we are before the Father as his penetrating gaze undoes us… Every emotion, task, relationship and event in your life is an invitation to be with the Lord.
Ever so slowly, God is teaching me to seek His “penetrating gaze”. And when it rests upon me, He is encouraging me not to flee or fight this gaze, but to let it do its work of breaking me open, so that He might pour more of Himself into me:
- His soothing protection to break the hold of the fear of rejection that has been causing my controlling and denying anger,
- His covering grace to free me from my shame and condemnation, that has been causing me to flee in embarrassment, and
- His healing Love to acknowledge and soothe the deepest aches within me, slowly bringing wholeness to that which is broken and breaking within me.
He is preparing a good work in me that He promises to complete:
1 John 6: 39 – 40
“This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”
And so, if my therapist asked me today if my faith still offers me solace, rather than saying: “Yes, the Word of God offers me great solace.” as I did then, I would tell her, that my faith offers me much more than solace, it offers me a Living God, who sees and knows me to the very depths of my soul. And that this Living God is the One who is responsible for the dramatic transformation taking place within me, a transformation that has amazed her and continues to amaze me. Tomorrow, I will share more of this journey with you, as I look at how God has been encouraging me to give voice to my doubts of His Love to draw me further into His Love.
Visit #Tell His Story for more stories of how God is working amongst and in us.
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