I lived much of my life ravenously hungry for an experience of God; one that was convincing, compelling, and doubt-shattering. Big. Monumental. Mountain-top. And sustained.
Was this too much to ask?
In years past, I was certain that if I believed enough, God would show up in huge, indisputable ways. I have been repeatedly, endlessly disappointed. Interestingly, not with God; rather, with myself.
- When I was in college, then my early 20s, then my late 20s, then 30, I was still single. I begged God to make me into the kind of a woman that a man would love. When that didn’t happen, I was certain it was because I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t faithful enough, hadn’t prayed believing-ly enough, hadn’t trusted enough. My self-esteem plummeted (even further). The least acknowledgement of desire was repressed. And any sense of intrinsic value or worth unravelled and nearly disappeared.
- After I was married (maybe I was enough?), I lived through the hell of infertility for nearly five years. I pleaded with God to give me a child. As every 28 days passed and irrefutable, negative evidence seeped, I felt a growing edge of anger begin to leak through. But even this caused me to exert more energy and emotion to convince myself that God had a better plan; that perhaps I wasn’t mother material. I shored up my heart against further hurt. I shoved desire further within. And pretending all was well became mantra and practice.
- There were many difficult and painful days, weeks, months, and years preceding my divorce. I implored God to heal our relationship, to miraculously interrupt the perilous course we were traversing and bring us back to calm and copacetic places—green pastures; to show me how I needed to change. In that spiraling effort, I lost myself. I silenced my voice. I became relatively certain that “weary” would define the remainder of my life. And desire? That was way too dangerous to allow even a whisper.
As years passed, I felt and saw less and less of God. What understanding or comprehension I once had, waned. Confusion mounted. Shame built. And a sense of urgency and pressure to get this “figured out” grew. Surely this was my fault, my choice, my stubborn will, my unwillingness to do/say/surrender enough.
Today, many years later (and hopefully wiser), the parallel realities are not lost on me:
- The less I believed in myself, the less I was able to believe in God.
- The less I trusted my own voice, the less I could hear God’s.
- The less I acknowledged desire, the less God was able to honor and inflame such.
- And the more I disappeared into expected roles and pretending adaptations, the more God disappeared.
Sadly, these realities are not unique to me. Sadder still, they are perpetuated (often unwittingly) through the context of religion.
We are told that God is everywhere and in our hearts; that if we seek we will find; that God’s eye is ever on the faithful; that if we have ears to hear, God will speak. So when there is no overriding experience of God, we assume the problem lies with us. This then leads us to two common choices: 1) we try even harder to believe; to be good enough to deserve God’s attention, time, and felt love; or 2) we walk—away—in search of something or someone that will offer us meaning, feelings, and the experiences we so deeply desire.
WE’VE GOT THIS WHOLE THING WRONG!
Watch what happens when I reverse the template; when I apply reverse logic to the statements above.
- The more you believe in yourself, the more you are able to believe in God.
- The more you trust your own voice, the more you can hear God’s.
- The more you acknowledge desire, the more God is able to honor and inflame such in you.
- And the less you disappear into expected roles and pretending adaptations, the more God appears.
Do you feel your breath slow? Do you sigh, sit back in your chair, and feel even the slightest space for rest, ease, and grace? Do you feel an increased sense of hope—that maybe, just maybe—you could understand and experience God after all?
That would be something, wouldn’t it?
There is a common denominator in most of the stories of women in Scripture: they are strong. Hardly fragile vessels that can be easily molded and contorted into someone worthy of God’s attention, they are defiant, willful, stubborn even. Eve. Sarah. Hagar. Rachel. Leah. Abigail. Hannah. Deborah. Ruth. Esther. Mary. Elizabeth. The woman at the well. The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet. The women at the tomb. This list is hardly exhaustive. And were I to include all your forebears—this gorgeous lineage from which you descend—you would not see a family tree of docile women who pretended their life was better than it was and waited/hoped/prayed to be worthy enough for God to work in or through their lives. They were living, loving, aching, crying, grieving, fighting, nurturing, working, birthing, burying, leading, ruling, worshiping, being. And God showed up.
- They believed in themselves.
- They trusted their own voice.
- They acknowledged their desire.
- And they refused to play small, pretend, or be less than who they were.
That is something, isn’t it?
There is no reason to think that anything has changed. Not. One. Thing.
Live your life – in all its fullness, passion, and oh yes, desire. God will show up.