Coming up on almost three weeks since I last posted, I have to confess the main reason I haven’t is because I haven’t known where to start.
My nature as a documentarian is rising and my need to relate EVERYTHING I’ve been thinking/learning/doing, etc. in it’s entirety is tempting me to not write at all, because I couldn’t possibly do it justice. There are dozens of thoughts tumbling around my head; nearly 50 pages of journaling in the last two weeks alone and I’m sifting through, as much as I possibly can with our schedule, to see which thoughts are worth sharing and which ones are just for me.
Appearances are so deceiving.
More of that Pollyanna face as I destroy myself with my pen, harsh words for my lack of faith, parroting the thoughts and lies whispered into my head with almost equal passion as the verses that leap off the pages and breath life into me, as Jesus looks directly at me and I break our gaze to point to a dark corner of my soul and say, “But what about this?”
What is it about myself that urges me, as I’m sitting with fresh fruit, while my mouth is still full, with the juice running over my lips, to reach my hand out and implore, “Is there more? I will be hungry later.” My natural inability to enjoy the immediate (in regards to how God is moving and speaking in the moment), would be the death of me, YET, God is patient and has new mercies each day. I am learning, with much trial and error, to recognize that God is at work in the gradual, as much as the immediate. He functions outside of time, since He created it, and what He’s doing now, He’s finishing over time, and the result over time begins with what is happening in this moment.
I think sometimes I’m afraid to be honest with God, really let Him have the full of who I am. I doctor the unbelieving and skeptical parts of my heart as I stumble back into His Presence and recite my Sunday school answers obediently, looking as prim and proper as I can, even as my mind falters back to the impossible “whys” and “do yous?” and “can yous?” I feel like I’m not entitled to ask. Like I might break God or try His patience to the very limit or at the very least be frowned upon by those standing in His Presence with me. As if God is some crudely constructed wooden idol, that if I punched my fist against Him moment of heated frustration or questioning that He’d just shatter.
“You are afraid that if you ask, I’ll be found wanting.”
Am I? Are you?
I’m a cryer by nature. If you know me, or have even casually spent time with me for any length of time, chances are you’ve seen me cry. Whether it’s silent tears or the little-kid-bordering-asthmatic cry, with a red nose that would put Rudolph to shame, my eyes turned almost electric green against my puffy, red eyelids…welcome to my standard reaction to every emotion under heaven. If I watch a documentary on sex trafficking, I’m going to cry. If I’m so angry I can’t articulate myself, I cry. If someone says a kind word to me, I cry. If someone says something hurtful to me, I cry. If I say something hurtful to someone else, I cry. If I find out I’m going to Tanzania, I cry. If I leave my family, I cry. If I hear God speak to me, I cry.
I have no shame. Somehow my lingering ‘don’t show your vulnerability’ mindset I have doesn’t apply to what I deem to be a normal form of expression. I only really feel bad when I make people uncomfortable or make them feel obligated to “fix me”. (Sorry to every guy friend I’ve ever had whose ‘need to fix’ has been tried by my constant salty dispensations.)
Someone once said to me that my tears don’t mean anything because I always cry. That has stuck with me for months and there has since been a nagging guilt every time I feel the tears coming. What if you’re just being too dramatic? What if you’re burdening everyone around you? Why are you so immature and selfish? No one else is crying. Get it together, Steph. All these and more have been festering in my mind.
This past week was something VFC calls Encounter, which is an intensive inner healing, spiritual deliverance weekend with different speakers and a symbolic burning of your past, written down on pieces of paper. Forget trying to control the waterworks, it was over when I heard about it. In passing, a woman there mentioned (with a good natured smile), “Oh, you cry every session.” Immediately all my insecurities that my tears are a meaningless, biological expression that inconveniences others flooded back to me and I was suddenly sorry.
I was sorry for how I always cried, because it must not mean anything being such a normal occurrence. The thought snowballed, further and further, gaining speed and gathering mass. I’m sorry that I’m so touchy and want to sit close to everyone and touch them. It must be wrong, I must be wrong. Why can’t I just be less like this? I’m sorry I am the way I am.
All this from one comment, made with absolutely no malicious intent. Jesus, help whoever ends up married to this needy, ‘word-love’ woman.
As is custom with suppressed, unaddressed thoughts, they surfaced later after I was prayed for, sitting on my face in tears. Suddenly a vision of Jesus came to mind, quite out of the blue. He was sitting in a chair and I, as a little girl of about 7, was sitting on his lap. I reached up and touched His face, with tears in my eyes and He smiled at me. I all but audibly heard:
“I do not despise your tears. They are valuable to me. They mean something. I don’t despise your need to touch and be touched to feel close to someone. I gave that to you, and it is valuable to me.”
I’m literally typing with tears in my eyes. Do you even know? Can you even comprehend how freeing that is? I need to cry, to be held and for years I’ve tried to justify myself to others and to myself when none condemn me, and Jesus took the moment to let me see Him and I, as He sees us. It is okay. I am permitted, welcomed, invited, desired on His lap, and He doesn’t despise my unbelieving heart and hands reaching for the scars on His hands to know for sure. No matter how many times I reach to just touch His face or just sit and cry, He will not stop me or silence me. He loves me. He loves me.
Instantly I forgave and forgot the words spoken to me that contradicted the truth of Christ. The Word says that He bottles our tears (Psalm 56:8), that He wept when He saw Mary weeping at the death of her brother Lazarus (John 11:34-35), and that He understands us and that we can come boldly into the throne room and freely receive grace (Hebrews 4:15-16), so I’m not just riding on emotions here. God simply breathed and gave me a full revelation of the Word come to life, in a simplistic and elementary image that washed over my soul like a tsunami. “I do not despise your tears…”
It is simple. It is almost stupidly simple, and if you read it hastily, it might not sink in. You might sit back and wonder why am I still harping on Jesus loving me? Aren’t we past all this? We’ve all sang the children’s song and we know that Jesus loves us. Aren’t there great theological doctrines or revelations to discuss? How are you practically going to build churches in another culture?
I feel bad for those of us in the church who feel we have grown past admiring the miracle of unconditional, irrevocable, undeserved adoration from Christ and try to supplement the void left there by church programs or missions or bible studies. I’d trade all the superfluity of Christian culture we’ve created to mask the fact that we forgot why we’re even in church, why we’d even love others, why we’d go to the nations with the message, why we even are saying and believing the things we do…I’d trade it all, just to hold onto the revelation that Jesus values me.
There is more for me to learn, there is more to experience and there are most entries to be written beyond the focus that I’ve taken the past two. I am studying and learning about Tanzania as much as I can, and growing with my team and creating disciplined patterns in my heart and life.
This is just the miracle, the heartbeat of it all and I will never refrain from stopping everything to focus on Him.
“I don’t despise your tears…”