Without fail, telling myself the story of my life always brings me back to center. The peace I receive from recounting God's faithfulness in my life is unrivaled. The worship I bring is rarely more pure than what I bring after I've relived God's specific rescuings in my life. I know that He is unchanging and that whatever I'm facing in my present, or whatever I will face in my future, He will come through just like He's always done. There's a reason that God repeatedly told the Israelites to build memorials at significant places and after significant events. He knew those stories would become the core of what set Israel apart as a nation. God's presence was with them (and still is) and they carried an armory of stories to prove it to other nations and to themselves if they ever faltered.
If you haven't done it in awhile, walk back through the days of your life and see God. See who you used to be and what has happened to make you who you are now. See who God used to be to you and who He is now. Where are you satisfied with your story? Where are you not? Where are you satisfied with yourself and with God and where are you not?
Use your pen, use your voice, use your paintbrush or your instrument of choice, but go ahead and make a memorial. Make a few. Make the same one many times. Share it with someone. Gift the painting. Write an Instagram post. Text a friend.
Here's mine that I did for me. May it bless you if it's meant to.
When I was young, I wouldn't stop crying unless I was outside being rocked on our porch swing by my dad. I would climb out of my stroller and run as fast as I could down the sidewalk making my grandma chase me down. I hid in the basement on the first day of preschool because I didn't want to go, making my mom come find me. Even as a little girl, I seemed to always know what I wanted and I fought for it. But the world has a way of working to tame even the smallest of flames out of fear of what they could become.
Feeling pain for the first time is either a very memorable or a very normal experience. Memorable if you process it well, but normal if you glaze over it, miss processing it, or are just plain used to it. What's a child to do? Let's be clear, I was a happy kid who grew up well. My parents loved and provided well and my brother and I would make videos all day long and laugh and fight and build forts in the woods. And I was never afraid of anything. But, again, what's a child to do when things become hard and scary?
We learn so young how to protect ourselves from a lack of love and how to use all sorts of backdoor methods to get the love back that we feel like we've lost. And when we are older, we end up not recognizing when real love is offered to us. What once shielded us from lovelessness won't stand down for the real thing. We become a people constantly begging for love while simultaneously protecting ourselves from it.
Junior high hit and life got real. Boys liked me, I liked them and, all of a sudden, I was the hot, popular girl (things I didn't ask for). All of a sudden, I was feeling a new kind of romantic love. But after a few heartbreaks and relational train wrecks, I wasn't so sure that love existed for me anymore. After a boy told me that I wasn't a good enough Christian girl and that we were too close and that that was unholy, I was confused with what to do with my strong and full love. Where would I put it? Would someone love me this way too? Would love get suppressed and locked away just like anger, disappointment, and insecurity? How could people who once said they loved me and would do anything for me suddenly transform into cold and loveless statues in just a few words?
The summer after my senior year of high school was full of questions just like these. What is grace? What is love? How do I feel them? Who is God really? Can I feel Him? Am I allowed to feel and wonder and think different things that what I've been taught? How do I forgive? Why would I want to? Do my prayers work? How can I possibly trust God when I'm not even sure He's trustworthy right now? Is there anyone who will hear me and not misunderstand me? What does my family think of my sadness? Am I really that depressed?
But the biggest questions I didn't know that I was asking slowly made its way to the surface: does anybody love me? Am I lovable?
I don't know when I first questioned my lovability, but I will never forget the moment when God answered.
Sitting on my parents deck at sunset, tissues an arms reach away, my hope failing, without warning and with absolute authority, God said: I love you.
And my freedom began.
Creativity began to flow, real relationship with God happened, and joy flooded in. I felt grace, forgiveness, hope, and all of the things I had always been told I should feel but could never seem to actually get there. In an instant, God unraveled just one of His many mysteries to me: that He loves even someone like me.
College hits, another boy saunters in, and my steadfastness in God's love takes a few sucker punches. I found myself depressed out of my mind, again. Afraid to be single, afraid because this relationship's love didn't feel as vibrant and reckless as I remember love feeling. I was stuck going from panic attack to panic attack and going back and forth between mustering up the bravery to end the relationship and pushing down my heart with all my might to keep things as they were; to keep change from happening.
And again, without warning and after months of more questions, God swept in. Waking up one morning my sophomore year, I felt like I was engaged. I checked my fingers and quickly went through the boys I could possibly be engaged to. Coming to myself a little more in the morning haze, I realized that I was feeling God's love for me. It felt like a heavy, royal, deep red robe with a tremendous train, longer than anything you'd ever seen before. It felt complete, without holes, with no beginning and no end. It felt sweet, gentle, fierce, and embarrassing. Me? The object of this love? It felt unbearable but like I could never will myself out of it. I was embraced, free, pursued, and found all at the same time.
I know that I'll never question if I'm loved or lovable ever again.
But you did before didn't you, Taylor?
There's a difference between God telling you He loves you and Him showing you with what kind of love He loves you. Once you've experienced "the kind of love that is God's," there's truly no going back. Whatever has taken your breath away so far, will seem forgettable comparable to an experience of God's bridegroom love for you.
I always say that God has more for you. But we have to be raw and admit disappointment and ask the scary questions that we aren't sure have satisfactory answers. This is where God lives. He lives just beyond what's comfortable and safe. It's called trust. It's called faith. It's called relationship. It's called the Gospel.
For God so loved the world, He clothed it with a a deep, blood red train of His affection and sacrifice. He gave His only begotten Son as His proposal. A ring so brilliant it's more like a crown; It's more like a king. So that whosoever believes in Him, whosoever leans past where they've been and accepts a seemingly unacceptable gift of reckless dauntless love, whosoever believes it's meant for their specific soul, might never perish--might never crumble beneath the weight of depression, insecurity, fear, sin and loss--but have eternal life living in the light of His love; Living hidden beneath the shadow of His wing; Living walking arm and arm, with Him carrying a lamp that lights our journey one step at a time, revealing the beauty of a garden He is recreating just for you and within you; Living like you're loved and living like you can rest.
Love is what we are all after. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.
Have a restful life.
Have a strivingless life.
Have a real life that's full of life and life eternal.
This is for you today.
My story is mine, but you can have your own fantastic story of being met by God. You have permission to break down, to ask, to fear you won't hear anyone, and to be changed by the voice that you will hear. To be stunned by the lavishness of the robe; To accept what seems unacceptable.
You have permission to rest. You have permission to be loved.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.