Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Father's (and Grandma's) Undivided Heart

I'm not one to usually let people into my inner life -- not that I don't want to, it's just that historically I've found that people don't know what to do with the unfiltered me. As a result most people see me as a quiet or private person. Tonight, however, I've decided to let you get a peek into my inner life. Not a full exposure, mind you, just a peek.

One of my biggest struggles in life revolves around whether I'm likable or lovable. What does a broken person have to offer the world or God anyway? This has been a struggle of mine since childhood. During my childhood, I distinctly remember asking God to take me away from my family and put me in a family that was kind, supportive and loving; rather than one that was abusive and critical. I remember crying at night and through my tears praying this prayer for weeks. And finally one night, I asked God to do it or I wouldn't believe in him any more. He didn't do it, and I quit praying. I didn't really quit believing in God, but I certainly felt abandoned and unloved by him.

One of the bright spots in my childhood was my grandmother, Grandma was what I called her. She loved Jesus, and she loved me. I don't once remember her raising her voice to me, or ever even saying no to anything I asked (although I must say that the most outrageous thing I ever asked was to eat cereal for dinner). My mom tells me that she did spank me once when I was 2 for cleaning the fake snow off the windows she had just sprayed on. Apparently I thought she was cleaning the windows and was trying to help her. When she figured out that I thought I was helping, she was devastated. Whenever I would come to visit she would include me in her hobbies; she taught me how to pour, fire and paint ceramics, she let me 'play' her piano, and she let me help in the kitchen. She was a Sunday school teacher, and she would often practice her lesson (flanelgraph and all) on me.  I never outgrew going to Grandma's because of the love that she showed me. She died when I was 17, and it was her display of love that brought me back to God. So in one sense, you might say that my coming to faith is unusual. I didn't come to faith by fear of hell, but by love. One peculiar thing that I was told later in life was that my Grandma treated me differently than other grandchildren. She wasn't mean to the others, but she didn't spend the kind of time with them or show them love like she did me. I couldn't figure that out, until tonight; more on that in a minute.

It is hard to try to condense my history to help you understand where I'm coming from, so hopefully sharing all this will make sense to you as an outsider. Anyway, fast-forward to 2006 where I'm in what may be my deepest moment of doubt that I'm loved by God since my childhood. By this time, I've been well trained in religious thinking, and with that thinking comes the idea that if you aren't sinning then life will be good. Life wasn't good, and I'm thinking that I'm a total screw up, my family deserves better, and God must hate me. It was during that time that I stumbled upon the Jake book, and through that Lifestream. You might say that it was a message straight from God to me, once again replacing Fear with Love. In reading the books, and listening to the transition series a huge piece of my own great sadness fell off. And it brought me to a place where I could feel safe enough to ask God to show me how much he loves me.

Still there was that lingering question of abandonment during my childhood. And because of that question, along with some of the traditional teachings on God. It seemed that God had a divided heart toward humanity, and toward me. It's brought to the surface when I hear of a child that is abused, neglected, or killed. And it's brought to the surface every time someone talks about hell or God's 'wrath'. Such events send me into a mild depression, although nothing like I faced in the past. So tonight (after hearing a sermon on Sunday on God's wrath), I was walking in the neighborhood, and I asked God to show me how much he loves me, like I have many times over the past 2 years. After that and some random conversations with God, my mind wandered back to my Grandma and how she had loved me, and how that love brought me back to God. I was wondering why she treated me special, thinking that maybe she was there when my mom examined the impressions of my father's belt on my back. While I was thinking of this God spoke to me. He said, "I asked her to love you with my love." I don't often hear things so clearly, but I clearly heard that (and yes, I blubbered like a baby). God showed me how much he loved me; a love manifested in my Grandma. He showed me I wasn't abandoned after all, and that his heart was never divided. Tonight another large chunk of my own great sadness fell off.

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