I have been following Jesus since I was six. However, when I first gave my heart away it was out of fear not love and any attempt to give a part of yourself to another based on fear will only work until the fear either suffocates or paralyzes you. This is the only outcome. There is no freedom in fear. There is no life. Fear is without a doubt the worst negative emotion a human can feel. And this marked my walk with (or more accurately away from) God for the majority of my life.
I was raised in a part of the country that (at least during the time I was growing up) was still very legalistic. Following God was simply a "get out of hell free card" or the lesser of two evils. Messages were centered on judgement, fear, or earning God's love through good behavior. This kind of message binds people. It tightens the chains that already threaten their souls and lives. I was convinced that God's love for me was based on how good I was or how much I could earn His approval. And I NEVER felt good. Certainly not good enough to earn God's love. I believed deep within my soul that any false move was going to earn God's wrath and judgement. How can there be any peace or assurance in this kind of life?
The ironic thing was that I never lost my faith. I never completely turned my back on God. There was something always pulling me back to Him. It was like a magnet, always drawing, always pursuing me. It was a force I did not understand. There was a lack of relationship with Him, however, turning to Him only in times of desperation (which looking back now I see that He was always waiting for me--even then). After my grandfather died in 2008 the fear began to cripple me. I assume this was because it was the first time I had really lost someone (that I was old enough to remember) and was forced to deal with the secret things I had tried to bury for years. The fear started to comes in waves now. I had so many questions. Who is God really? Why do bad things happen? How does suffering fit in to this thing called life? Does He really love me? Is he really good? Fear became my closest companion.
By the time I graduated college I wasn't sure of anything. I continued to try and pursue God's "rules" hoping that if I could just become righteous enough then bad things wouldn't happen and my fear would leave. It only intensified. The questions were still there, but I was too afraid to ask them. What would He say? What would He think? Would He be angry? There didn't seem to be a lot of room in the church to ask these types of questions. You were supposed to just nod and smile. It seemed to me the wisest course of action was to just accept everything. I was trying to have someone else's relationship with God. I didn't have the first clue how to have mine own. At least not a healthy and authentic one. Until one day...
In July 2013 things began to break. One night the prior year I sat at the edge of my bed, tears rolling down my cheek, in a moment of pure honesty and vulnerability and told God that He could have His way in me. My heart was earnest to give my life over to Him completely. I was tired of hiding. Now was the time. However, before He could take me to the next level, He had to rid me of years of "junk" that had taken root in my heart. It was a painful process. I didn't understand. I didn't make sense. In His infinite love and wisdom He knew that in order to rid me of my fear, He had to allow me to face my worst fears head on and see me through to the other side. At the time this seemed to be harsh and cruel. Little did I know, on the other side of this fear, after I had reached the bottom of the murky pit, was freedom. As we see in the Psalms, "He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps." (Psalm 40:2). I was about to break free. Victory was right around the corner. The night was dark. But one day...
His joy was coming. By placing the right people in my life at the right time, the power of the Spirit, and a relentless and fierce love for me, God saw me in my pit, had compassion, and wouldn't stand for it any longer. He fought for me when I couldn't fight for myself. He started breaking chains, he started healing wounds. He was mighty. A warrior. He was....Big. Bigger than I ever dreamed and yet more intimate than any love I had ever known. I started being my true, authentic, vulnerable self in front of Him (fears and all) and the more real our relationship became and the more honest I was with Him (even in the times I cried out to him in anger) the more freedom I gained. I asked the hard questions. I told Him my deepest fears. I told Him I doubted Him. I told Him I was angry and disappointed with Him. I told Him I needed Him. He wrecked me. In the most beautiful, powerful, and life-altering way. I wanted more and more. Who is this God that is mindful of me? Who is this person of Jesus that knows me so well? Who is this person that put the starts in the sky, yet knows the longings of my heart and took care in forming me in my mother's womb? I want more. More of you, Jesus. Your love is intoxicating. You are healer, rescuer, savior, redeemer, justifier, sanctifier, helper, friend, and my truest love.
I will close with this, for all you singles out there, I am crazy about my husband, and he was crucial in my healing process. He showed me the heart of Christ for me through his tenderness, compassion, and selfless love. However, nothing can compare to the love story I share with Jesus. He is my true love. My heart's desire. My hope. Cling to this truth. Let God write His love story on your heart. Let Him be your joy and your satisfaction. For those of you marrying, you are entering into a beautiful covenant that mysteriously represents this relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:32). For the married people, keep loving. Keep fighting. Keep forgiving. Keep being renewed. And Rejoice. Sing Praises. Let your heart explode in love. For when you are in love, truly in love, you want to shout it from the rooftops.
Since my simple words don't seem to accurately convey the depth of my feelings, I leave you with this song by Lecrae who says it much better than I can.
(The second photo is from: http://www.goliveoriginal.com/true-freedom)