Love Scared

I am continually amazed at what deep themes lie waiting to be discovered in young adult fiction.  (Now if you aren’t a fan of YA fiction, don’t leave just yet because there’s more here than you realize.)  I recently read Katie Parker Productions, a series of books, by Jenny B. Jones. There were four books in this inspirational series for teen girls. At a glance, it seems like lite lit or chick lit and it is but it’s still fun to read. And it’s not, because under the lightness, there are some pretty deep themes running through the storyline.

One that got me thinking was this; we can love scared. Because that was what Katie was challenged to do. She’d had a drug addict Mom that had abandoned her multiple times and she ended up in a home for girls (basically an orphanage) and then into foster care. Her foster home ended up saving her. She had, for the first time, parents who cared about her. But those wounds of abandonment and feeling unloved are deep and Katie, as she got older, didn’t trust anyone to love her. She was afraid to love too. She was still the tossed aside girl, not worth anything, in her mind. She kept running away from the love that was extended to her.

In the last book, someone challenged her to love, even though she was scared. To quit running.

Isn’t that the challenge for a lot of us? To love is to risk. To love a spouse or a child is to bet against the odds.

To love in sickness is gut-wrenching. Loving a parent through old age and all that comes with that is worrisome. To love friends takes time and commitment. To love a community takes bravery. To love the church, takes the supernatural. To love strangers takes a divine intervention. To love, to commit to that love and to act it out, it is all alarming. It feels like we are on the edge of a cliff with no safety net of any kind. To love for many of us, is to love frightened out of your wits.

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Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Or harder. It doesn’t sway my choice either way. Because that’s what it comes down too. A choice. To love. Katie had to make a choice. Run or love even though she was so scared. Flee or trust in the person offering that love. Turn away or turn to.

I believe we have been given a great capacity for love because we’ve been created in the image of One who knows no limits on love.

The ability to learn to love is there in all of us. Even those of us who feel like we have no heart. We are tin-men. I see it in even the most begrudging of relationships. We actually like hearing those stories because they are hopeful. The grumpy old man learning to love the mischievous neighbour boy. The baby opening up the hearts of the angry grandparents. Enemies who realize they are fighting for the same thing. The old mangy stray being taken in by the widow. The guy and girl who fight all the time but you know there’s more to it. That fine line between love and hate. Sometimes I think the hate is more about the fear.

Loving scared means taking on the risk. To love and be loved. For some of us, accepting love is so foreign that we feel like we can’t navigate that language.

To love and maybe have that love thrown back in our faces. It’s so painful. And humbling. And wounding.

To love and have it go away. Not necessarily on purpose. But still it happens. Death. Sickness. Loss of any kind.

To love and know that there is no payoff. To know it is the endgame. That takes courage and humility.

None of this is new to me or to you, I’m pretty sure. It mirrors the love story that the bible is.

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Jesus explains it in the story of the son who ran away from his loving dad. (Luke 15)  He took his money and lived how he wanted, on his terms and didn’t risk anything. He loved only himself. When the money ran out, he was alone. Of course he was alone. He had served one master. Himself. All those that loved him were back home. He had a couple of options. Choose love and his father (even if that meant becoming a servant) or stay in his rut. He risked rejection from his father and returned home to love. I’m sure he was scared with every step he took. But he chose to love scared rather than not love at all or be loved.

We never get to know what happened in the years after the son returns. I’m curious if the older brother ever came around. We know the father loved extravagantly and I’m pretty sure that never changed. The son though? He had to live every day with the knowledge of his choices. He had to learn to trust his family. They had to trust him, that he wouldn’t run off again. For all involved, it meant loving each other, scared, hurt.

The story of the prodigal was told for our benefit. But there is a huge difference to the love of God. God does not love scared. He loves perfectly, something none of us can do in this lifetime. And the cool thing? The irony of it all? Perfect love casts out all fear.

1 John 4:18 (NIV) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

The Hidden

If you kill the good girl, then you at some point, you have to figure out the girl who is left behind.

It’s a lot more difficult to do than it is to write it down here. It’s easier to hide behind the imposter. Or insert a new one. Walk away and leave the hidden original buried. Hiding and invisibility have been a couple of “sacred echoes” as Margaret Feinberg calls them, that have been weaving in and out of my life for a while now. You know those messages that keep repeating themselves in books, movies, conversations, etc. For me, it usually means God’s trying to have a conversation with me about whatever it is that is echoing down the corridors of my life. You’ve had it happen too.

Last week, my husband and I went out and saw the movie Joy. (Fantastic movie!) In the movie, one of the themes is hiding. At one point Joy realizes that she had been hiding for too long in a long list of responsibilities. She’s killed off a part of herself that was vital to her not just living, but thriving. (Killing off this part of you is not the same as killing off the good girl/imposter. It is just the opposite.) Joy realizes that sometimes in hiding, you hide from yourself. For those of us who have hidden parts of ourselves away, we know that it can kill joy (pun not intended) as well as creativity, fun, hope, etc., etc..

We hide behind the roles we are given. We hide behind the truck load of responsibilities we all have. We hide behind our work. We hide behind our front doors. And we hide behind the imposters and the masks.

But if you kill the imposter, whoever she/he is, then it’s time to stare down the real person hiding and drag her out into the light.

It’s not about reinventing yourself. It’s about discovering the person who has been there all along. The person you thought wasn’t good enough to be seen by others. The person you probably thought wasn’t worth the time or effort. Who was too much or too little. It can be a little disconcerting to be suddenly left with this person who you no longer really know or understand. Reacquainting yourself is gonna take some time and effort. It’s worth it because it’s life giving.

The funny thing is that Jesus never lost sight of him or her. Jesus always saw the real person. He saw the man hidden behind the legions of demons. He saw the woman behind the false bravado and reputation at the well. He saw the heart of a disciple behind the tax collector. The courageous leader behind the fisherman. He sees the entrepreneur behind the mom struggling to look after three, under the age of two. He sees the leader behind the gang banger. He sees the artist behind the bookworm. They were all hidden but Jesus saw the real them, right from the start. He cut through all the lies, the layers of identities and covers. He knew them because He’d created them.

He created them for a purpose. He’s waiting for them to show up. So is the world. Because they have a job only they can do.

I’m reminded of the song i used to sing as a little kid. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

The little light we were created with, it isn’t with the imposter. It’s inside the real person who we sometimes hide away. It’s time to get to know him or her and find the light and let it shine.

Matthew 5:15The Voice  Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house.

What’s your ‘sacred echo” today?  What parts of you have you hidden away? Why?

TURN to Vulnerability

Vulnerability
1. The state of being vulnerable or exposed. Type of danger
2. Susceptibility to injury or attack. Type of weakness
(according to vocabulary.com)

This week I was doing some research for another writing project, and it had me reviewing notes from a Beth Moore Pastors’ Wives conference I attended back in 2009 in Nashville. I came across these words I had written in a notebook.

What will I do in response (to the first session)? “Be vulnerable before God. Feel.”

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At some point, we had been encouraged to let our true hearts be seen and to allow ourselves to feel. That’s what I’ve got written in my notes. Because as Pastor’s wives, it isn’t always easy to do that in our own churches. I think they wanted us to experience a freedom in worship and teaching that was all our own. No ties to the speaker, so you don’t have to worry how it’s being received. Or how you totally disagree and spend the rest of the sermon, planning how you are going to tell said speaker at home. All.About.it.

Definitely there was a desire to set us wives free!

I do remember wanting to do exactly what I had written down. Be vulnerable to God. Feel. I did try to do that, then I went home and over time, the cave became more comfy. The self-protective walls like a security blanket. Who wants to be vulnerable before anyone, let alone God? I mean, look at the definitions I copied at the beginning. Isn’t being vulnerable setting yourself up for hurt? I don’t really like the words exposed or susceptibility, weakness or injury. None of those things make me want to do this thing. Zero.

It’s not just about people either. If you follow Jesus then you know how much more scarier it would be to open yourself like that before God. Not scary in that He’s scary but more about the fact your heart, mind and attitude is an open book before God. He sees it all. And He can deal with that perfectly fine. The problem is that we don’t want to deal with it. Because really it’s easier to ignore the places deep down that we don’t like. That little bit of jealousy. The real reason we hide behind our masks and busyness. The blackness of our hearts that we dress up in laughter, sarcasm or sniping. We fear being exposed like that because we don’t want to see it. But we lose out if we aren’t vulnerable.

If we can be brave and turn to vulnerability, some cool things can happen. Vulnerability = Exposure = Openness. Allowing ourselves to have an attitude of openness is one of the most freeing experiences ever. Your senses are alive. You are on the alert for whatever it is you are looking for. Openness is expectation. Turning to something is usually a sign that we are expecting good. Turning our backs on something signals we are expecting bad. So turning to vulnerability is really a signal we are hoping for something good.

And so we should. God is good, all the time. That’s the saying. God calls himself good in scripture. His plans for us are for good, says Jeremiah. I have come to realize that good things can be hard things. It may take a while to get them to shine but eventually they will. But first I have to be open to the hard things. To grab hold of them and stare them in the face. Sometimes it’s a fight. Other times it’s surrender. Often both.

I forget the kindness of God. Reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge reminded my how gentle Jesus was with people. People who turned to Him. The law-breakers. The tax collectors. The sick. The VULNERABLE. He told them truth and showed them the way to it but He was always kind and gentle. Why do we think He’s changed? He hasn’t. He won’t. Still.The.Same.Today.

He’ll be gentle with our exposure and our feelings. It’ll probably be hard and it will hurt. But having to deal with our issues, our feelings with a good and kind Dad is sure a lot easier than not.

That spring weekend in 2009, I turned to vulnerability and emotions. I let God in. And I discovered some things I had buried deep. I acknowledged their presence and I have spent the last few years dealing with them. In some ways, that weekend exposed the lies that I let define my life. If I hadn’t turned to that vulnerability I may have missed out on that particular beginning. A beginning of healing.

Rereading my notes again this week, makes me wonder what would happen if I chose vulnerability again? There are some areas… I need to open up and expose them to God’s truth and healing touch. That’s extremely scary to consider. I like my walls. A lot. Doesn’t make it good for me though. Being reminded of what happened that weekend makes me wonder what I’m missing out on in our Dad’s big grand plan? Maybe my self-protection isn’t just protecting me from the crappy stuff, it could be keeping me from the good stuff too. It could be this blast from the past is actually an invitation from my Abba Father to come out from hiding, to embrace what He wants to do in my life. Do I want to run (again) or do I want to be vulnerable and trust His goodness? Turn to or turn away?

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Because Lord Jehovah is good and his grace is for eternity and his faithfulness for a generation of generations!
Psalm 100:5