For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:6-8
God never had to prove His love to me. When you are Love itself, I suppose simple existence is enough. I Am, He calls Himself to Moses. Even I can't explain the depth of who I am.
Some things you just have to know.
I was in the dark again.
This time it was postpartum depression. It was financial stress. It was months of processing backlog. It was Pete not passing the Bar.
It was me trying to live without God.
My prayers were falling flat. I tamped down my desire. I grabbed hold of every gift I'd been given, refusing to open my hands and my heart to Him. To give Him place in my life to say "no."
To my understanding, there was nothing different about living my life with God than there was living without Him. Nothing except dashed hopes and expectations I couldn't meet.
There were things I didn't say then to anyone, but in my heart, I was building my case against God. I felt betrayed. Brokenhearted. I wanted to pay Him back.
Pete had retaken the Bar in February, 2008. Our financial limitations had driven us two houses from the home I loved, the home where we spent our wedding night, the home where I had my first baby.
I couldn't settle anywhere. I pushed Pete and Piper away from my heart, weeping silent in quiet dark hours, knowing God made no guarantees, knowing that I had lost deep once - nothing would stop me from losing again. I couldn't love and lose again.
My health had taken another turn downhill. The lack of sleep after Piper's birth (she didn't sleep through the night for two years) was too much for my system, and my depression cycled downward with the return of the collapsing and convulsions.
His whispers were the familiar broken record "I love you."
Yeah right, God. Sure You do.
Pete passed the Bar, and his office hired his replacement under him. He was working as a floating assistant for several different attorneys - too much work for too little money. We were looking for jobs in California; nothing was coming. I ate the stress, retreated deeper into my shell.
Our house didn't have any light. I hated it. I hated me there. I hated everything.
I refused to pray.
A job opportunity opened up in Charleston. He pursued it. Interviewed via phone the day after he'd queried back. Flew down for an interview a couple of days later. By the end of the week, he had an offer.
And it was too low for us to accept.
I was trapped.
When Pete called me to tell me the offer was too low, I clawed at the strictures of my life. I hung up on Pete when he tried to talk to me about God after telling me the news. I remember screaming into the woods around our house, looking into the trees and asking God where He was, if He bothered to care about me.
I remembered His "I love you."
No, He was God. He was going to do what He was going to do. He wanted me to lay down my life for Him, and guaranteed nothing in return. Nothing but Himself. I wanted to spit on His offer. Why would I want Him?
I told Pete that I was done with God. I couldn't un-believe His existence; it was the only thing that made sense. But I was as close as I had ever been to hating Him. I didn't want to have anything to do with Him. I didn't want Him to use me anymore. I felt manipulated and betrayed and... dead.
God didn't care about me. And if He did, I didn't want it.
He was nothing more than a concept to me. A concept I was supposed to believe. A concept that was supposed to change my life.
A day later, Pete was given a second job offer. We were moving, in a week's time. Our landlord flipped out. The landlord who had been okay with our five-times-telling-him that Pete was between jobs and we might need to break our lease. The landlord I'd respected and liked. The landlord I'd hand-picked to stop the freak-out from happening.
I succumbed to the shock and anger that day.
I screamed at God. Screamed and screamed and screamed. The events of the last several years, the bottled anger, the disappointment, the sense of betrayal, the obligation I had felt to be godly, my constant sense of shame, the repeated "I love you" in the face of my fear of loss - I threw it all up at Him with all the passion I possessed. I shook my fist at Him from my knees. I shook both fists.
And I curled into a ball and wept.
It was like a defibrillator. My deadened heart was shocked back into life and everything I had shut down and pushed poured out into real again. I dumped all that I had been holding against Him out that day. My case was big enough to convict Him of not loving me now.
Pouring my heart out before the Lord left me empty. Clean. My accusations had been flung at Him. My anger had finally been spent. Giving voice to my complaint against Him had freed me from it.
The next day in the car, I quietly tried to apologize to Him for my anger, embarrassed over my loss of control.
He surprised me with His response. "You were in pain."
All that anger, and that was what He got?
It was like He hadn't been listening. It was as if He hadn't heard. It was as if He had been with me in it all along, aching with me, dying with me, waiting for me to bring it into His love.
I had nothing left to hold against God. I spent the next months waiting, quiet, learning my dust, learning His Godness.
We moved to Charleston; I didn't like the house we moved to, but there was light here. The depression wasn't so bad as it had been. I began to give shy thanks for His provision.
Pete was home more than he had been. His commute was ten minutes long instead of forty. We got a chance to be a family, to get to know one another again.
I didn't say much about God. I listened. I filled my time with pictures; a Flickr addiction came and went; I learned what exactly it meant that Jesus had died for me.
It was morning. I can't tell you the date. I can just tell you the way the morning sun came through the window at the house I didn't much like. I had my camera, but I didn't photograph it.
It came deep, still, like a breath into the core of my soul.
God loves me.
You know how they always say that when you fall in love with someone, you "just know" you were meant for each other? I always hated that. I always wanted the explanation, the how, the why.
But it's true. The deepest love can't be defined, because God Himself is Love, because He is infinite, because He has no beginning and no end, because He is Beginning and End.
God loves me.
I just knew.
Once upon a time, in a time before time, a perfect, holy God loved me. Before I existed, before I knew I needed Him, He made a way for me to know His love.
I ask Piper when we go to sleep together if she knows who loves her. She gives her answer: "God loves you, and Jesus loves you, and Mama loves you, and Daddy loves you, and Uncle Kate loves you and Mickey Mouse loves you..."
He sent His Son Jesus, God-in-flesh, to be broken for me, to wear my dust, to be my sin so that I could wear His righteousness and approach Him in His holiness to obtain mercy.
I ask Piper if she knows how we know God loves her. She doesn't yet, but I tell her: "Jesus died for you." She doesn't know what that means yet.
This great God who loved me sealed my heart with His Spirit for the day that Jesus will come for me, to bring me finally into His presence to be one with Him.
I wonder what Piper's love story will be; how will God teach her heart His love for her? I can't wish my story on her; I can't wish away His love.
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son
- Revelation 21:1-7
And they will live happily ever after.
Love Stories: God and Me, Part I
Love Stories: God and Me, Part II
Love Stories: God and Me, Part III
Love Stories: God and Me, Part IV
On Thursdays in February (because I never know quite what to post on Thursdays), I was writing out my love story. Not the one about my crushes or my first love or even my love for Pete - though those stories all play a part. Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista and Holley Gerth at (in)Courage challenged us to write out our God love stories, and I had one to share.
This is my last official installment on this particular series. More love stories to come, though, as inspiration hits... Thanks for sticking with me.
(Image © Informal Moments Photography)