God met me this weekend. Last week as I was preparing to speak with my pastor for the first time, I was highly nervous. Part of that was a struggle to discern what God had to say to me in the topic. So, I asked a few friends to pray that God would show me what the message was for me.
Well, God delivered. Not what I expected. Not anything related to the topic I was speaking on. But, over the past two days, I’ve had one of the most powerful God moments of my life. I’m overwhelmed. I even started writing poetry again for the first time in ten years (Meme, if you’re reading this, you’ll probably be thrilled about that, though the poem itself is rusty and clunky. Further, no, I’m not showing it to anyone at this point, possibly ever.).
It all began with communion Sunday morning.
I had survived the Saturday night service, and the self-critical movie loop kept playing in my brain all night. So, I arrived Sunday morning feeling exhausted and nearly as anxious as the night before. I felt terrified about the words I would say and worried how my presence and words would be received. Am I enough even though I’m a woman? My inner feminist resents that statement, but that fear was still there. I braced myself for rejection, hoping that somewhere in all the nerves and preparation that God still had a word to say through me and wouldn’t leave me forsaken.
In a flash, I no longer saw the folks sitting out there as a mostly hostile audience, but as my family. The same Jesus who died for them, died for me. The men and women out there are my brothers and sisters — not just church folk I know or even strangers. We are kin because we follow Jesus. I’m not cold calling strangers. Instead, I’m talking to folk who are in pursuit of the same God whom I love and who holds me tightly in His grasp.
Yeah, maybe there’s that family member who is going to be meanly critical instead of constructively critical, who maybe sees my flaws before my person. But overall, people just see that I’m Elizabeth (or Beth…still have a hard time not writing my full name when I type), part of their church family and more than how I perform once.
Even more poignantly, there’s a crucial few who know my heart and who are going to still think I’m awesome even if I fail in front of them. They’ll hug me and help me get back up again. One failure does not define all of me. In the meantime, rather than expecting me to suck, they’re rooting for me and actually excited to hear what God might say through my mouth.
I am loved.
Yes, I knew that intellectually. But, the feeling of it washed over me like a tidal wave just as I was about to drive into the arboretum.
Suddenly I didn’t just know it with my brain — I experienced it. And friends, thank you. That experience was utterly staggering for me. That kind of overwhelming love is humbling and life changing.
It brought me to my knees metaphorically speaking; I was sitting and driving — so physically falling to my knees wasn’t actually possible. Puddles of tears came up out of nowhere.
Special treat for the gate lady: weirdo me with tears streaming down my face as I hand over my membership card. I’m not a crier, unless it comes to movies. I’m more of a suck it up and hold it back kind of girl. Monumentally embarrassing moment for me.
Before the tears welled up, I had flashbacks of seeing key people in the worship center each service, and family and friends who happily showed up just to hear me. Friends who came because they wanted to or just because they think I’m awesome.
I also remembered snippets of conversation from people after the service was over.
I don’t know how God showed up for others or what (if anything) God said to them, but through the kindness of others, God showed me that I’m more than my speaking, more than the tasks I perform. I am loved and welcome just for existing.
I’m not entirely sure why some people think I’m neat or thought I did great or why they like me — probably because I’m too busy being overly critical of my flaws.
But, more importantly, why people love me or might think I’m awesome isn’t a helpful question. If I had reasons why people think I’m awesome or why they love me, then somewhere subconsciously I’d want to capitalize on them. If I just do more of this or that behavior, then people will like or love me more and I can make myself feel (falsely) more secure and in control.
The truth is we don’t love for a reason. Love is freely given, not earned. There’s a beautiful (and terrifying) element of whimsy. It’s not “I love you because…” It’s just “I love you.” You are you, and I choose to care for you. Some behaviors make it easier (or harder) to love people, but love is a committed choice rather than payment for services rendered — else it is not love.
Through community, God taught me how to rest in that knowledge just a little bit more. I am loved. Not loved because I am this or because I did this. I am just loved. I am not forsaken. So, thank you friends and family who helped me feel (not just learn) that lesson this weekend! Thank you for choosing to love me! I am incredulous at and so very humbled by that fact. And even now as I type, I find myself tearing up again.
On a closing note, I leave with you with the song Softly and Tenderly, which was newly released by Audrey Assad; it’s a rendition of my favorite hymn from childhood, and it’s the one that’s been on repeat as I’ve been typing out this blog. Somehow God introduces me to a song of hers at the exact moment I needed it.
Just like Jesus has been calling to me the past few days, I pray you find your own invitation to be welcomed back home and to rest in the contentment of knowing you too are loved and wanted. Not because of your performance, just for existing. You too are precious and a gift.