What you’re after is truth from the inside out… – Psalm 51:6
Several weeks before our wedding, Steve and I met for lunch on a breezy June day at the park. Out of nowhere, I blurted out:
I don’t know if I like Jesus.
Looking back I’m amazed at how much I trusted Steve to not walk away from me. He didn’t because he knew what I meant. It wasn’t that I was rejecting Jesus completely, but I was finally getting honest about how I perceived him. It was as if I was saying, “Jesus, what I’ve been told of you and your love for me doesn’t line up very well with how I experience you.” It was really a cry for help. For truth.
For years, I made mental and verbal assent to the “good” news while alternately feeling burdened and pressured by it. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Do more ministry. Become a missionary. More. More. More. I did all these things, knew all the verses and stories, had all the right theology and yet still couldn’t grasp the goodness of the good news.
When I told Jesus that I didn’t like him, I surprisingly didn’t feel condemned by him. Instead, I sensed an odd pleasure with my honesty and an invitation to start over with him. I got the feeling he had been waiting for me to let go of what I thought I knew of him so that he could show me who he really is.
Unearthing my Unbelief
But wait. Rewind five years.
I’m confronted by a question that turns the tables of my spiritual life.
Do you believe you are lovable?
I grew up in church, knew about God’s love, and had been raised by loving parents. Still I was shocked to find myself in tears, realizing that I couldn’t answer, “yes.” Had the question been an obviously religious one, like “Do you know Jesus loves you?” I might not have thought twice. A Sunday School answer would have effortlessly rolled off my tongue. But I had never heard a question like this and it caused me to think more deeply.
I realized that my heart contained this emotional wall between God and me that I was powerless to scale. It securely kept my head knowledge of God separated from my heart. I longed to know a loving God and to believe myself as loved by Him. But try as I might, I could not manufacture the experience with him that I longed for. I began to pray for God to take away this wall that kept me from complete openness and trust with Him.
Exposing my Anger
I started uncovering the hidden corners of my life. It felt scary. I didn’t want to see any of it myself, let alone share it with a God who wouldn’t approve. But he kept coaxing and soon it felt really good to let it all out, uncensored. So much anger simmered beneath the surface that I knew nothing about. I wept as I brought to him needs I had buried deeply under my happy, independent facade. He surprisingly met me with love and grace.
I filled 2-3 journals per year during this season of my life. These journals were my prayer life. These weren’t pretty prayers, but more like scribbles of rage onto tear-stained pages. I let go of the need to clean it up for God and let it sit. And he sat with me.
When God Brings Beauty from Ashes
Strangely enough, these prayers didn’t seem to repulse God. I learned through this process that not only can God handle our honesty, it delights him. Yep. Even, and dare I say, especially, the ugly stuff. Now I know why. It’s only when we get honest do we bring the very depths of our being, the very material of our souls, to God so that he may mold and turn and change us. When I try to clean up pretty for God, I offer an illusion of myself to him. He won’t do anything with that.
Taking the courageous step of exposing our anger and unbelief not only allows God to change us, but it radically changes our understanding of who He is. He surprises us, not with disappointment, or anger, or condemnation, but with a sigh of relief. He can finally connect with the heart we’ve been trying to hide and show us the beauty of who he is.
In the next post, I’ll share how God continued to dismantle my faulty perceptions of him by allowing depression to take me to the bottom of myself. His love met me at my most vulnerable, and cleared the ground so that I might finally understand that he is not an angry god, but a loving God that I can fully trust.
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