That’s what happens when something crosses my mind to remind me of an embarrassing moment, a poor judgement call, a foot-in-the-mouth episode, colorful language I let fly without thinking, or anything else I’ve done that now makes me cringe. These moments still take me by surprise, and tend to plunge me into a mud hole of despair. My shameful little secrets grab me by the throat with no intention of letting go.
I shake my head in disbelief as I recall the people I have hurt, or embarrassment I’ve incurred. What brings tears to my eyes is knowing I have besmirched the name of God countless times by my ignorance, my hot temper, bad 1st impression, or a poorly handled situation. For most of my life I have lived under the category heading of ‘Christian’. I’ve attended church, youth group, camp, mission trips, and even traveled through the U.S. singing in churches about love and blessings. Yet I still behaved poorly. I would be one of those wretched souls who cause someone that does not know God to look and say “no thanks, if that’s what it means to be a Christian, I don’t want it.”
Believing that it was completely up to me to muster up enough love and control to better my life and be a good example, I deemed myself a failure. A lost cause. 1 Corinthians 13 -the famous Love chapter in the Bible – was avoided at all costs lest I be reminded of my lack of fortitude in that area. I did not have enough love, no matter how deep I dug.
I suppose it’s taken slamming to the concrete floor of nothingness and loosening my hold on all that I thought I could control to allow me to discover priceless treasure: I am different. I am unique. And the anger I have kept prisoner for over 20 years, fueled by fear, does not need to remain as my primary staple for survival. Slowly, but oh so surely, I have begun to cock my head in wonder as I listen to the whisperings of love that have been slipping past my defenses. Gently seeping into the hidden places of pain, the musty cellar hiding my insecurities and conclusions that I do not measure up.
The Voice I am learning to recognize, learning to trust, speaks to me of a love that is not based on what I do or have done in the past. It is given freely to me because the Giver is like that. He gives freely. The only requirement is that I accept it. To accept Him as the ultimate giver of love, freedom, peace, and fullness of life. His grace is immeasurable. And as I welcome this grace with jerks and halts and stops, it begins to settle into my bones, filling me with strength.
What baffles me the most in this extraordinary process is that as I release my anger and in turn accept love and adoration from the Giver, I find I don’t react to people or situations negatively like I used to. Sure I slip up once in awhile, but learning that God is bigger than I am, and loves me for me somehow enables me to respond rather than react.
That love I could not seem to muster up on my own? It bubbles up to the surface and overflows, and it didn’t originate with me. What a beautiful thing.