I grew up in a house where love was hard to come by. If anyone truly loved anyone else it was really hard to tell by the way they acted, by the way they treated each other. I am not sure how old I was by the time I realized that not all families operated the way mine did. I know by the age of ten I knew that much of what I was being taught in my home life was not truth and so began my never ending quest to make sense of life.
The need for love and affection created huge holes in my life and I sought attention from anyone who would offer it. I overreached and made quite a pest of myself at times as I sought to find someone who could fill those empty holes. In the absence of adults who could offer me the guidance and the stability I needed, I spent much time alone thinking and trying to sort out life.
I was sent to church with my aunt and uncle from a very early age and in that environment I found some of the direction for life that I so desperately sought. As I got older my interest in being there became more than just a way to get out of my house and I became involved in activities and was deeply interested in the scripture.
I became a Christian at the age of 13 confident that this was the life I wanted, that I wanted to worship and serve this God I had learned so much about. I involved myself with people in my church and got involved in youth activities. It was not unusual for me to stop by the preacher’s office after school in the afternoons to talk with him about some new question I had or to ask questions about his sermon from the previous Sunday.
But even though that provided me with some support and some guidance I am not sure I ever truly understood who God was or what it meant to be loved by Him. I was much older when I realized that much of view of God was formed by my relationship with my own father. He was cold and distant, always busy and often impatient. I think I expected God to be the same distant parent.
Through the years my relationship with God waned hot and cold. I had a period in my middle twenties when we were so close and I felt His presence as if He sat right beside me…so real that I felt I could reach out and touch him. But I suffered much hurt at the hands of people, people who were supposed to be His and I confused how they treated me with who He was. It seemed like everyone that I ever loved hurt me or left me at some point. I felt the weight of guilt and shame, always believing that somehow there was something wrong with me that caused them to go. I came to see God as someone who would be there as long as I was good and who would leave me if I messed up. I alternated between seeking Him desperately and pulling back into the shadows to try to deal with guilt and shame.
About ten years ago I was part of a church that split and not too long after that my best friend told me that God had told her not to be friends with me and ended our friendship. The split left me hurt in ways I could never put words to. With that hurt and the end of the friendship I found myself in a deep depression. I was not at all sure where God fit into all of this and sincerely went through a period of time where I believed He hated me. I know that everything in scripture speaks against that but it was the only thing that seemed to make sense for the way my life was going. Like Job I needed for something to make sense.
I decided I was done with God and with church. For most of my life it seemed those two together had only brought me incredible hurt and sorrow. And so I went about trying to ignore Him, to keep my distance from Him. Still I could not escape my desire to know Him, to want to understand His word, to figure out what all of this life meant.
On a Friday morning several years later I found myself heading to Charlotte, NC to go to a Beth Moore conference, alone. My adventures alone always have mixed results. Sometimes I really enjoy doing things and going places alone and at others I plan to do something and find myself feeling uncomfortable and awkward. This day found me looking forward to the time away, hoping to find some renewed hope and faith. I had managed to book a hotel in the downtown area within walking distance of the arena. Once I settled into my room I set off to explore downtown Charlotte. I had a wonderful time wandering around and finally stopped to eat dinner. I walked to the arena, found a great seat and looked down to the floor below to see the person who had ended our friendship sitting in the floor seats just below me. Twenty thousand women and I had to find a seat right where I could see her. I sank into my seat wondering how the weekend could possibly bring me the hope and the comfort I had hoped it would when it had started this way.
Every time I go to one of these events it is always my prayer that God will speak to me, that He will show me why I have come, that I will get a word that I can know is from Him. It had been my prayer driving there and I had come desperate for some kind of direction from Him. But with this turn of events I was discouraged already. Nevertheless I prayed again and soon we began to sing and worship. If you have never been to a Beth Moore conference I encourage you to go. There is nothing quite like the experience and the worship is fantastic. Soon I was lost in the music and the praise and the most amazing thing happened. Suddenly in a way I never had and still cannot explain, God overwhelmed me with His presence and the message that He loved me, that no matter how confused or lost I felt, no matter how messy my life had been, no matter how broken and messed up I felt, that He loved me. He loved me just as I was. As strange as it sounds for someone who grew up in the church and who had committed to Him at age thirteen it was the first time I had truly known and felt that He loved me, not the masses, not just the church, but me. I cannot tell you what the message was that weekend or much else about what happened. I just finally knew that I was loved deeply and personally by the God I so longed to know.
Seems a strange story to tell here and it is deeply personal but I believe there may be others who abide in churches and church circles, that find themselves unsure of His love for them. Like me, you might think He only loves you if you are good, or your life is perfect or if you always follow after Him. But I want you, whoever you are, wherever you are to know He loves YOU! He wants you and He will never stop pursuing you.
In my darkest moments I always remember that Friday night in Charlotte when God reached down and wrapped His arms around me and told me that I was His and that He loved ME. There is a great peace and deep joy in knowing that no matter what else is happening I am loved by the one who created me, the one who will one day welcome me home!
He loves you too! He never gives up on you…don’t give up on Him. In your darkness, in your grief, in your brokenness, in your sorrow…..no matter where you are, He loves you!
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Music connects my soul to God’s and this song by Chris Tomlin is one of my favorites.