So I thought about a lot of words leading up to January 1. There were a lot of dreams and desires and not nearly enough prayers. But what I’ve learned in my past two years of choosing a single word to meditate on is that the words I chose really chose me. They were circled on a map before I ever started the journey. This has been the case more so this year than ever. I was reading a friend’s email and the word beloved crawled out of the computer screen, took my hand, and said I want you to live here.
See, in my short 25 years, I’ve lived under a lot of banners. I’ve given other people the power to assign my worth. I’ve slept with liars, as Hannah Brencher says. I’ve let them set up shop in my heart and watched as they mass produced themselves like cancer cells. Their half truths echo the garden’s question: did God really say? Did he really say that he was trustworthy and dependable, that he created you just to love you, and that he really is in this for the long haul? I read it out loud, the verse in Hosea chapter six where he tells me what he really wants is love. All the things I do to make my heart look presentable don’t really matter to him.
I didn’t realize until just recently that what I’m battling is actually shame. The devil’s made it his mission to sneak in the back door and pervert everything good and true about love. For a long time, I have felt like I have to be perfect in order to be loved. I thought that even the slightest imperfection would render me unable to add anything of value to the kingdom and disqualify me from ever having meaningful relationships. I have lived under the banners of “try harder” and “never enough.”
But Song of Solomon says there is a feast to be had, and God is inviting me to the banquet. When I squint really hard, I see that his banner over me isn’t “look good,” or “try harder, and I might love you,” or “you should have known better all those times you screwed up.”
His banner over me is love. Plain and simple. No prerequisites or strings attached.
Its a lot to grapple with, this love for the sake of it. It seems too good to be true most of the time. So I run from it. I work hard to build my own cities, as Emily P. Freeman writes. I look for security in the things I vainly think that I can control. I work hard to accomplish and then become frustrated when accolades don’t keep me warm at night. But the beloved life? I’m learning that it actually looks less like a check list and more like an invitation. I don’t have to do anything except show up. Honestly, it feels a bit like I’m showing up to my own intervention. A literal come to Jesus meeting. And there are some walls that need to come down. Like my need for control, my pride, my overwhelming need to be seen, and my constant search for contentment in worldly possessions and other measures of success.
Beloved. It sounds so tranquil, but the truth is, it might take a war. Now that I sit with that, I realize that it did take a war. And the war was won.
He made a way.
He came all the way.
He is for me.
He is a good, good father. It’s just that sometimes I get nervous and squirmy and take my heart off the table. I’ve been a Christian for 20 years now, but it has taken me every single day of those 20 years to realize that you have to give him your heart over and over again.
Perhaps my most honest prayer is this: I’m sorry for all the days it didn’t take.
I’m so, so hungry.
And finally, teach me how to be still, to trust and taste and see.