I really could stop at that title.
But there is a story, as always, behind the title that is unfolding in this year of mending. I’m certainly not through learning from this story nor is God finished writing it.
In keeping with sharing my journey, connecting you with missionary life… this story must unfold and be processed in typed words. That in the typing of them, the story sinks deeper in my heart and hopefully sparks hope for someone else.
God loves me… me.
I’ve always known it. Growing up in a faith-filled home, accepting Jesus at a very early age in Sunday School, spending summers at camp, Wednesdays at youth group and Sundays on a church pew… I knew God loved me.
Yet, somewhere along the way in recent years, I think I lost sight of that precious phrase.
Along the road of our years of ministry and committees and programs and events and services and schedules and busyness and homeschooling and parenting and living… the “knowing” part of God’s love for me was blurred. It was buried beneath expectations, roles and lists.
Not that I didn’t know His love to be true… I did… but the truth slowly sunk lower on the list of things that were important to my daily life.
Without thought or meaning to, God’s powerful love became something I knew, not something I lived.
Instead, I was living by deeds and things and life. I was wife, mom, pastor’s wife, missionary, friend, helper, speaker… and those things took precedence over daughter of the King. Simple truths of God loving me… just ME… became hidden under what people thought or did or said.
Living in a fish bowl created this need in me to be liked and loved. Life brought with it a need to work for that love.
Being a missionary multiplied this…
In all honesty, it brought the necessity of people liking us, believing in us, supporting us and working with us to the top of the pile rather than resting in the truth that GOD likes us, believes in us, supports us and works through us.
As I unpack that last sentence, I realize how greatly this process of missions, the demands of raising support and the need to keep that support coming in has been detrimental to my own identity as a loved daughter of God.
The change happened so slowly… yet so fully.
This idea of working for love, working for people to like us, needing people to understand us and support us all of the sudden changed how I saw God.
Without realizing the change of perspective, I threw God into the pile of people to please. He became someone that I had to keep happy, keep informed, keep connected. Unfortunately, He was lumped in with my “to do” list… and I was failing.
Every single day I was failing.
Life is hard here. Failure is a part of the job. Embarrassment, humbleness, mistakes, insurmountable challenges… that is my daily life. And I had somehow gotten God wrapped up in that… in a weird way, I felt that I was also failing with God.
Failing to please.
Drowning in a need to impress. Never seeming to get it right or do it right or say it right.
Yucky, awful, frustrating… that wheel of running around trying to please the world. Compounded with the unconscious thought that God was on that list to please… truly yucky and awful and beyond frustrating.
Then, the downward spiral of realizing that a supporting pastor unfriended us on facebook. Next, seeing a home district pastor’s wife unsubscribe from our mailing list. Finally, hearing so and so make a joke about missionaries. Also, wading our way through misunderstandings on the field.
Living daily with the feeling that our very survival at this job depends on how much people like or don’t like us.
Seeing, hearing, finding failure… overwhelming.
and so full of lies.
This sense of having to watch what I say, be careful what I post, think through every single word written, living in a scary microscope of human eyes that determined my worth. And feeling like God was looking on like everyone else. more lies.
Please hear me… the wonderful, beautiful, amazing people and support is there too! We have THE BEST support and family and friends. People who speak life and love and hold our hands up through each and every thing we face.
But sometimes… the negatives grow and grow. The failures pile up. A misconstrued to do list becomes a power-struggle in my mind. Bad things seem bigger than they really are… you know?
Who to please? What to do? How to walk this crazy tight rope of life? Did we do enough? Did we word that right? Why don’t they like us? Did we do something wrong? Why did they say that? and on and on the questions spin through my brain.
I don’t know how to write out the next part of the story… how over the past 8 months God has been literally tearing through my feelings, separating out the junk, sorting the lies, correcting misconceptions of who He is, and setting Himself back out apart from the crowd.
That last part happened quite recently.
The truth that God is not lumped in with anything or anyone else.
His love for me is not tied to performance or likes or jobs or successes. God is not on any list. He can’t be checked off as pleased for the day. He is not at all on the same playing field as anyone else in my life.
Rather, He is God and He is love.
He loves me.
Not for what I can do, what I should do, what I think I need to do… Just because He does.
He looks at me with a Father’s love
God looks on me with a love that denies any failure or hurt or mistake. He sees and knows and does for me according to that love. He is not disappointed in me. I do not have to fear His response. With His love, I can bask in unbelievable, true, protected, amazing peace.
“Don’t be ashamed. Don’t try to cover yourself, don’t try to make yourself or your life look more presentable, because you cannot. Look into His eyes and see that he looks at you differently that the crowd does. This is the look of One who knows you intimately, because he created you… receive that wild, extravagant, joyful love.” – Christine Hoover, From Good to Grace
Can you feel the weight lifting from my shoulders?
Truthfully, it is a weight that I never intended to carry… somehow it just happened.
But now that I’m seeing it… I see it SO clearly.
My belief, my knowing of God’s daily love had become tied up in a whole lot of other things. And I was suffering inside.
The foundation of my sense of love was being shaken and my heart was taking a beating.
But truth began to sink in…
Christine Hoover says, “To receive God’s love by faith means to not try to receive it by other things: accomplishments, self-sufficiency, the validation of others. It means we don’t refuse it because of any fear, irrational self-talk, guilt, or circumstances. It means we don’t find security in anything other than Christ. We put no confidence in the flesh, ours or anyone else’s.”
She goes on to say, “There is nothing outward or of ourselves that we depend on. Living by faith means that we believe and live by the truth that God never asked us to be good but rather asked us to be holy like he is holy, and that the holiness he gives and grows in us is the holiness he asks for. Living by faith is an assurance of our standing with God in Christ and an assurance that this standing will never change. Oh sweet assurance, Jesus is ours. And we are his.” From Good to Grace
And as the truth unfolds, I’m realizing that not only does God love me… like REALLY love me… but He will also take care of me.
Oh, I knew that too. Of course God takes care of us!
Maybe I needed to remember that He really WILL take care of things.
Amazingly, I can present my requests, give Him my hurt, show Him my to do list, lay out my heart… give Him each care, each worry, each fear, each challenge and then leave it there.
After leaving it in His capable hands, I can walk away. I have the freedom to express a need and know He heard me. I don’t have to run around like a crazy person trying to make a single thing happen. God will do it.
Truly, He is in the details. He desires the management of my life! God wants to take care of the little things. My Heavenly Father cares about the challenges and He wants to help with failures and weaknesses. Not only that, but He takes responsibility for ME!
Even more, I can trust that He is working behind the scenes. He is doing things I cannot see… churning and working and blending and creating and molding and doing amazingly wonderful things in my life that I know nothing about.
What sweet rest and freedom in the knowledge of His love as it works in my every day life.
To lift my head from the tasks and just enjoy the journey.
Instead of telling myself to “get joy” or “choose joy”, I can LIVE joy because God is at work in His love for me.
He doesn’t see all the other hats I wear. Thankfully, He just sees me and He loves me.
Zero expectations. Just a free gift.
How that simple truth got so lost, so buried… I don’t know.
But it is resurfacing in my heart and greatly changing my life.
The look in His eye when He looks at me is LOVE.
It is a love that is demonstrative, ultimate, heroic, provisionary and mending. I am chosen, holy, royal and His special possession… God establishes me. He does the work.
The story leads to rest in His amazing love.
A daily reminder of His love… My heart cried out for God to separate Himself back out from the crowd.
He wants me to stop achieving and start resting, to know that my value is not set by how well I please Him in a given day. His love is not dependent on my performance. My God’s support is not reflected in a successful check on a to do list. He is God and He loves me.
With a Father’s eyes, God sees me… all of me and loves me.
I don’t know where you are on your journey of faith. Your story might not be my story. But I do know that sometimes, we all need just a simple reminder of a simple truth.
God loves me.
God loves YOU.
Oh, that I will live in THIS truth. And no other. Will you live it with me?
*Annalise created this word in the sand with things she found along our beach… beautiful.