I’ve seen this quote popping up in my feed a lot lately and I’m not feeling it.
A few years ago, I probably would have adored this quote. But now….not so much.
Here’s why: Much about the way this is worded implies that “she” (a symbolic “she” with which all Christian women are invited to identify) “she” is not lovable, is not worthy of forgiveness, and is not good enough to be a child of God. And people…especially women…often accept that as truth.
There was a time when I would have agreed with this quote and not without good reason. God created us, loves us, and forgives us because of who He is. There is nothing we can do to secure our right to exist, earn His love, or deserve His forgiveness. We are a people who found ourselves separated from God by our sin and without any means to close that distance between us, except for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Everything we are and have is because of Him. That is true.
Along the way, however, that truth often becomes twisted: ‘I can’t earn God’s love’ becomes ‘I’m unlovable.’ ‘I am a sinner saved by grace’ turns into ‘I’m not good enough.’ ‘I can’t earn love or forgiveness’ becomes ‘I am not worthy of love or forgiveness.’
See how that works? Take the truth, twist it just a little, and you’ve got yourself a powerful lie. Typical, and oh so very destructive. That’s how the enemy rolls.
Over the last several months, God’s been speaking to me a lot on this subject. Here’s what I believe He has to say: You are enough. You are good. You are worthy. You belong here.
There is more to say than sorry
More to do than turn around
There is you and me
Face to face
Where the light leaves shadows
Across our cheekbones
A deceptive mirror
My right eye in the darkness
We see so differently
Blinded both by darkness
And by light
We stumble all the same
Oh there is more to say than sorry
More to do than turn around
One night, our family was watching the quirky, teen sit-com, iCarly, when my oldest daughter snapped her head toward me, eyes wide, smile flirting with laughter, and exclaimed, “Mom, are you crying?!” Yes. Yes, I was. I cried while watching iCarly. And not because of the juvenile writing and mediocre acting. Nope. I cried because of some cheesy dialogue about the importance of family or friendship or belonging or whatever.
I can find tear-worthy meaning in a shoebox. OK, well, what woman can’t find tear-worthy meaning in a shoebox? Bad analogy. Basically, I can find tear-worthy meaning just about anywhere – rock music, picture books, presidential speeches, Facebook posts, and of course, kids television. So it shouldn’t surprise you that I could dedicate an entire blog post to a two-minute scene from the Walt Disney Studios’ movie, Moana.
WAIT!!! Even if Disney movies aren’t your thing, stick with me. I think you’ll be glad you did. It’s not every day that an animated Disney movie surprises me and while I’ve also cried at Toy Story and Brother Bear,the plot twist at the end of Moana did more than make me cry. It kind of changed my life.
Well, longer than you might think. Just ask Job. Or Peter. (FYI: This post is going to make a lot more sense if you read Part 1.) I guess the simplest answer would be: as long as it takes. Because He isn’t going anywhere.
To be honest, though, I didn’t know that at the time. Whenever I was in a full-blooded rage, I kept one eye on the sky for incoming bolts of lightning and the other on the earth lest it swallow this foul-mouthed, ungrateful child whole.
Yet, because of His great mercy and love, none of that happened.
He never swallowed me up or struck me down. He never shut me up or shut me down. Rather, He let me stay in the fight. And He stayed in the fight with me. The brokenness and depravity of the human heart does not and cannot shock God. He’s seen it all. And He loves us anyway.
Flickers of Light
Often times, during this season, opening my Bible felt like trying to lift Thor’s hammer. When I did muster the strength, the verses, once as refreshing as a cool drink of water, became like dry sand in my mouth. But by God’s grace, I would occasionally stumble on scriptures that glowed like a balefire of hope. Continue reading →
Two years ago, on a misty morning beneath a wooden cross, God spoke to me. He said, “Don’t crucify me again, Nichole. Don’t remake me in the image of your pain.”
How thin the line, if there is one, between warning and prophecy.
At the time, I was in awe, and grateful for a God who knew my tendency would be to run, to divide myself from Him, to define His boundaries according to the edges of my agony.
I thought, What mercy! Thank you for reminding me that when I deny who you are, I harm myself. Surely, now, I will do no such thing!
I recalled the story where Jesus warned Peter, “Before the rooster crows, three times you will deny me.” Peter insisted, “I will never deny you!” and yet Peter denied Him indeed. How relieved I was that God had protected me from such a fate…that He had revealed the traps ahead and that I had responded with a humble heart.
Are you laughing? I am. At least, when I’m not crying.
This is one of my favorite, dearest, most precious blog posts ever – for no other reason that the power of the revelation God gave to me that day. I try to share this every year and today, with the snow and rain and bitter cold, seems like the perfect day to remind us all that Winter is Coming but Spring is Here.
Winter. A season of painful exchanges: flip-flops for bulky jackets, warm breezes for
cold floors, the sound of crickets for the hum of the furnace, which, let’s face it, is basically the sound of money burning.
But the exchange that weighs on my body like a wet, wool coat, is that of light for darkness. Each autumn day, the coming winter snatches another two or three minutes of sunlight, replacing it with night. We wake in the dark, go to work in the dark, come home in the dark, eat dinner in the dark….
As of today, there are 53 more days of sliding headfirst into the abyss.
Well it took awhile for me to get to Part 3 of this series. Will there be a Part 4? Man, I hope not.
Wow. What a winter.
If nothing else, it’s been real.
If you’ve been reading my blog you know I’ve been angry with God. Driving-around-in-my-car-from-midnight-to-2:00am-screaming-until-I-lose-my-voice angry. Yup. It’s been real, alright.
Just Show Up
In April, I attended a women’s retreat with our church, which wasn’t easy to do. The theme of the retreat was Love: Intentional, which made me laugh (maybe scoff is a better word) when it came across my desk for promotion. Just a few weeks earlier, when my pastor tried to remind me that, despite appearances, God loves me, I looked him in the eye and said: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
So what would 42 hours of chatter about God’s love be like? Not much different than the “wah wah wah wah” of Charlie Brown’s teacher, I figured.
Just show up, I kept telling myself. Just show up. Those were simple words God gave me decades ago, and they have served me well. Just show up. So I did.
I wish that never happened to you. I wish that never happened to me. I wish that never happened to anyone. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.
Why? Because people. That’s why.
People hurt. And the church is people. And so, church hurts.
No, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. But nothing in this fallen world is how it’s supposed to be. Not even the church. Not even God’s people. Which is probably why the Bible teems with reminders, instructions and commands about how to get along, how to do this thing we call community, how to live broken and love the broken.
Have you ever seen someone create mosaic art by hand? They begin the long process by mixing earth and water to mold the tiles, which are then dried, cut and fired. The artist then breaks those tiles into smaller pieces – cutting and chipping, sanding edges or sharpening a point, pressing the pieces into a muddy sort of clay before washing them clean. Hundreds, thousands of broken pieces fit together to reveal one, complete, stunning master-piece.
When the sun is shining and I believe God is good and my spirit overflows with gratitude, that’s how I envision community: broken lives on broken lives – with all our imperfect shapes and sharp edges and rough surfaces – being fit together and made to shine. In the hands of the Master, we become a Master-piece.
That’s on a good day. And with spiritual eyes that see through the veil of a fallen world.
But on a bad day…oh, on the bad days, I am fractured glass sinking in mud. Like quicksand, it pulls me under. On every side I am pressed and scratched and pulled and scraped. I want nothing more than to escape. What beauty, I wonder, could ever come of this? Hopeless. On bad days, I am hopeless.
Because sometimes church hurts like hell.
Sometimes going to church feels like stepping onto a battlefied. You come armed and armored, like you’re bringing your fists to a pistol war. And if, like me, your church is not only your spiritual home and family, but your place of work, there’s no escape. Which has been both a challenge and a gift. When church hurts, it’s complicated.
I figured that some day I would write a follow-up to I Hate God | An Ugly Truth – you know, something to resolve the tension, whenever God revealed it to me. But, well, I’m beginning to think I may need more than one follow-up. Maybe a Part II and a Part III? So for now, here’s Part II:
Have you ever hated someone you love? Been so angry with them that you seethe with rage? No? Are you sure?
What about your spouse after a terrible fight? A boyfriend or girlfriend? A friend? No?
Well, what about your parents? Surely, there’s a time in your life that you can remember hating your parents. When you stormed into your bedroom, slammed the door, threw yourself face down onto your bed and screamed into the pillow, “I hate them! I hate them! I hate them!”
That’s what’s happening with God and me. I’m angry – albeit rip-roaring angry – like a child toward her parents.
It’s not that I don’t love Him. Though what is my love compared to His? Like a child, my love is a selfish love.
I love Him simply because He first loved me. First – as in once upon a time I was just an idea in His mind, a thought, a dream. I love Him because He is my Creator, because I need Him, because without Him I am nothing.
He is the artist that sketches and sculpts me. The One who’s coloring me in. I love. And I love Him. But it’s a pale, thin love. Like gold leaf, precious but weak.
So when I say I hate God, it’s not because I don’t love Him. And I don’t think it’s heresy either. It’s not false to confess that I hate God for what He’s allowed. It’s just the truth about my feelings. If anything, it’s an indictment against me, not God. An indictment against my frail, transparent, brittle love.
I take comfort in remembering that God is bigger – so much bigger – than my hatred. His love conquered the rebellion of the world on the cross. Surely, He can conquer me.
And that’s really what my hatred is about. It’s a war between the Lord and me. It’s the remnant of the most epic battle of all time: the battle between the Creator of the Universe and anything and anyone that opposes Him, the battle between good and evil. And every day, that battle rages in the universe, the world, between nations, between people, in my heart, my soul and in every single cell and atom of my body.
We are on the battlefield. And we are the battlefield.
My hatred for God may make you uncomfortable. Heck, it makes me uncomfortable. But war wounds a person. And some wounds fester. This place I’m in – of admitting to you and to me and to God that I hate Him – it’s the best thing I’ve done in years. Because I have finally opened a deadly, poisonous wound. Actually, I should say that I have finally let God open that wound, because He is the one who revealed the hatred. He is the one who exposed the condition of my heart. He’s known all along. I needed Him to show me.
And when I finally gave in to the fear and the denial and the rage, when I finally wailed and railed and beat my fists against His chest, He stood there. Steady. Unchanging. Unmovable. My hatred can’t move the unmovable Rock. My emotions, no matter how overwhelming, can’t shake the unshakable God.
Because He is Real. He is Reality itself.
And His love is Real. It isn’t pale or thin or fragile. His love, like Him, is solid, unshakable, unmovable.
If I want to enter into the Real, into the Reality that is His love, then I need to go through the painful process of letting God make me real. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, I’ve found myself worn and tattered and ugly and lacking. But I am becoming real. And someday, my love, like His, will be real too.
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10
I would be terrified to type that out, except for one thing: He already knows.
I’m the one who’s just finding out. Or am I just finally able to admit the truth?
I hate Him. I hate Him. I hate Him.
Sure, part of me feels sorry…or at least wishes it wasn’t true. But it is true. I am overwhelmed with hatred toward an Almighty God. Gently, I remind myself that feelings are just feelings. You can’t reason your way out of them. They just are.
Feelings aren’t the problem, but rather the symptom of a greater problem. And feelings aren’t sins either. It’s what we do with our feelings that matters.
And I’m blogging mine. I guess I’ll let God be the judge of that.
I can only imagine what my believing friends are feeling right now: horror, indignation, worry for my soul.
The rest of you? I don’t know. Maybe you’re thinking “Yes. Finally. This girl’s got a clue!” Or maybe your just confused – wondering how a Christian can talk this way.
But I’m simply sharing the rhythm already beating through my heart:
I hate Him.
I hate Him.
I hate Him.
I hate Him for all the pain. For making me so achingly sensitive and then tossing me into the raging waters of life to flail and wail and splash and thrash to survive.