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Love Song, V — Light Dawns in Darkness

Continued from Love Song, IV—Mystery 

Death. I feared it so much, when I was little. For both me and others. I feared being left behind, hearing the dreaded "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" I feared the lake of fire, of being without Jesus, being without those I loved. I quivered for all the ones I knew, lost and unsaved; I feared I would end up taking the mark of the beast someday because I didn't prescribe to my "family's values" and was headed in a "different direction." I feared that most of all, God wouldn't really love me, and that even if He did, I'd still fall short, for my wickedness was great, and nothing I could do made me better or more acceptable—for all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

Even as a child, my heart cried while Margaret Becker sang,
These are the tears
You never see
They're foolish to you
But they're drowning me 
My soul wore this lyric for years, like a dress that becomes you, until you aren't recognized without it.

A Maiden's Lament

"Hillary, may you come to know the love of God in your grown up life.”

I always shrugged at these words, penned so wisely on the inside cover of my little New Testament. Of course; God loves everyone, I'd shrug to myself and move on to the next thing. Yet this little prayer, written by the pastor who dedicated me to God as a wee little babe, became my lifeline in adult years. My weary soul, wandering within a hopeless wilderness, clung to it fiercely, as a promise and a blessing designed for me alone.

This may come as a surprise to you, but knowing the love of God can be the most difficult challenge a good Christian girl can face.

Especially a good, homeschooled Christian girl. 

And this good, homeschooled Christian girl, raised on Rod and Staff, unencumbered by the ways of the world, wanting to please everyone and agonizing over failures to be patient and kind grew into a woman of sorrow. Weary, sick, in the throes of ptsd, depressed, full of guilt and shame, I gave up. And my journey to discovering the love, grace, mercy and sanctification of God began only after I, or at least the woman I was and wanted to be, agreed to die.

I had to end my life as I knew it. I had to go back to the beginning—to the door.

a strange god

1 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10)
Those strangers are insidious fellows. They look so good, so righteous. They come bearing Bibles and proclaiming the name of God and teach Biblical living. They tell us how to become holy. They-who-climb-up-some-other-way quote Scripture and present compelling convictions. Why would we not listen to them? Wouldn't we be foolish—rebellious—to reject their words? Is it not our flesh that cries out, resistant to their voices?

The willingness to give up, to let go, to rest, to stop, to cease striving, to deliberately end a life of doing was born of physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion. But it's a scary thing to die. Its frightening to step into darkness. To throw religion, beliefs, myself upon the altar of the unknown. Everything, in fact, except for the Door. He was a mystery, this Door, but desperation birthed keen willingness to go against everything I'd ever believed, to seek that which I did not know.

Upon this altar I laid my religion.

I offered Him everything I believed and begged Him to kill me. To separate wheat from chaff. Then I stood before this altar, naked and aching, as it consumed everything I knew, everything I felt sure of and held sacred. I watched all become coal and smoke rise from a temple built over a lifetime of labor.

Only when flames simmered, and life smoldered before me like crumbling carbon, could I poke through ash to see what remained. When I did, I threw myself onto that quiet, solid, faithful cornerstone, and wept.

Eyes bled tears while He bathed my ugly, pulsing wounds. While I lay empty, broken, with nothing to offer in my weary hands—no Bible, no hymns of praise, no righteousness—the Lord of heaven and earth knelt into the darkness where I trembled, and washed soul feet.

I drank of His grace.
I did nothing. Nothing.
And He still loved me.
He called me by name, and I found pasture.
He nurtured life with compassion, not condemnation. Re-born, I finally recognized the true voice of God, and the gentle whisper of grace.

For this God accepted me.

Illustration of The Shepherd 
And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment I shall be made well.” (Matthew 9)
Twelve years of uncleanness. Twelve years of sorrow. Twelve years of loneliness and isolation; likely without even the comfort of a human touch. Twelve years of lost wages, dwindling hope, and despair. Twelve years of bearing the oppressive weight of the law:
‘If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean. Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening . . . If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean. Every bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her as the bed of her impurity; and whatever she sits on shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity. Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. (Leviticus 15)
Consider this Jewish woman. Into her world walked Jesus. Other translations quote Jesus as saying Take heart! Have courage! For imagine her fear—yet also the desperation which drove her to grasp the hem of his robe! For even that small touch would render Him unclean, according to the law, and yet twelve years of agony drove her to seek a New Way . . . the narrow way of life, which few find. But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. (v. 22)

Along with the healing of her body, the True Shepherd healed her soul. Instead of disdain, she was welcomed into the presence of God. Instead of turning away, He made her whole. He looked at her—imagine the love in His eyes! He received her in her shame, when all others would have turned away or recoiled from her touch. He commended her for going against the religious law out of faith that a better way had come. He comforted her, for she still felt trepidation, despite her faith. In one moment, He took away her uncleanness. He brought life to her body and healing to her heart. She was touched by God in the midst of her impurity, while all others in the name of God rejected her.

What a life-giving response! And it is His response to us, too—those of us wrought with sorrow, of exhaustive trying to measure up, of emotional and spiritual abuse. He calls us by name, longing for us to find pasture, rest, and restoration of soul. He makes way for us a new way—a journey out of darkness, sickness and shame which comes from following the voice of strangers.

I died, and grace gave me life.
A love song, indeed.

These are the arms That ache for you
Frightened to push too hard, Frightened you'll slip right through
This is the joy I want you to know
You say it's good for me But leave you alone
Well, I can't walk away Won't leave you here
When I am so sure We could always be near 
I know a place Where we can meet

3 comments:

  1. Hillary, your posts are always inspiriational and uplifting. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. {{Provender}} Thank you.

    Note: Provender's site is an amazing resource for those who experienced spiritual abuse.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just read the five love song posts. Wow! Although I did not come from a quiverful family, I relate to soooo much of how you felt. By the time I was in high school...or was it sooner...I was begging G-d to take my life every night. Fear kept me here. I walked in depression as far back as Junior High. So many of the things you describe feeling...I, too, felt. I am so glad that you "died" and found grace.

    For me...I knew His love...and that is the only thing, I believe, that enabled me to survive at all.

    Thank you for sharing your story...your journey...your love song.

    ReplyDelete

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