Becomer

I read a remarkable quote by the always-remarkable Nora Ephron today that said this: “We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was [in my twenties], I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy.”

I’m always trying to be more like people like Nora Ephron, and I was waiting on my lunch to digest before I got back to work, so I figured I’d play. The first word I thought of was lover, which was a relief (I mean, what if the very first one had been nose picker or grouchy?) And I think it’s true. Just yesterday, Caleb told me, after I’d just remarked on something or other being the best ever, “There are a lot of things that are your very favorite things ever.” He’s right, unless I’m feeling grouchy, which happens, you know, occasionally. (But just to be clear, we all know that besides Jesus, coffee is the real best thing ever.)

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So I was feeling pretty good about that. The next word I thought of was remarker, which is actually not a word according to this Word document. You’re not a real writer unless you use made-up words. I learned that in college, where all my English professors turned everything into adjectives just because they felt like it: “Today, we’ll be talking about Wordsworthian theory, and then we’ll be focusing on my sweater vestian fashion prowess.” Seriously.

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The third word I thought of was clumsy. Last night, I dropped most of a pan of kale on the floor. Last night, I had kale. I’m sorry you had to know that, and no, I don’t have a picture.

The fourth word, though, was what made this whole thing worth it. “Ah!” I thought. “What am I doing in this chapter of my life? I am learning.”

me + caleb

I’d like to submit to the Official Board a decree that you’re not becoming anything until you realize how much you’re becoming, how much you’ve yet to become. There were—I kid you not—times in my life (previous to this moment, of course) when I felt sure that I had things “together,” as they say. I felt pretty good about it, you know? I loved Jesus, and I felt like I was a kind, compassionate, generous person a fairly good portion of the time. I felt like I knew enough vocabulary words. I felt like I was really good at writing. I felt like I had a servant’s heart. I felt like I knew how to boss around my hair with a 67 percent success rate.

And then, something happened. Or rather, a lot of somethings happened. Those somethings began rubbing me, and therefore changing me, and after awhile, Jesus set me in front of the mirror and said, “Oh, see, you look better now. More like yourself.” And it was true: I both didn’t recognize whom I saw and knew her in the depths of my being. It has been made clear to me, too, that maturity comes not from regathering things together, but from realizing how little it matters what you have together and what you don’t, which is to say I’m probably never going to have it together again. It meant that I stared in the mirror (metaphorically, I think. Or maybe I really did stare in the mirror. It’s hard to remember) and I began to understand how much I have to learn, how much more becoming will be, in regards to my Jesus-loving, to my kindness, to my humility, to my hair.

See, I am learning. I am learning how to let grace tread the path before me, throwing jackets over the puddles. I am learning how to be the jacket-thrower for other people, too, especially at the times when my own shoes might get wet in the process. I am learning how to be disciplined, how to look in the mirror and see the parts of me that are dirty and gray. I am learning how to listen to the gentle voice that invites me to be washed clean. I am learning that I’ll be washed, and then I’ll get dirty again; I am learning about the mercies that really are new every morning. I am learning that I am learning that because I—me!—need new mercies every morning; that stuff isn’t for other sinners who aren’t me and don’t have it together. I’m learning to find joy in the moments when I feel the familiar rawness of rubbing (learning! I’m learning this. I don’t have it down yet.) It’s then that I know that things are changing, that I’m looking more like Jesus, if only in, say, the nose a bit.

scout flowers

I am learning how it feels to let unsightly things be swept away. Pride, greed, lust: I want them all. I am learning a lot about my heart and how quickly it sells out. My love is like the morning dew, Hosea says, and I see that now. How much it must pain my Father to watch me peddle it to idols again and again and to sometimes be taken up on my offer. But I am learning—slowly, I imagine—how to pray for the binding of my wandering heart. I am learning that I am the prodigal son, and he’s me. I am learning that my return is not just welcome, but celebrated.

Every day, it’s something else: How to be content. How to love in a way that empties me out. How to be joyful. How to stand unmoved when the world calls me elsewhere. I’m learning how to fix my eyes on Jesus, and that it really is that simple.

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And somewhere along the way, I’ve learned that this becoming is what life is; or rather, it’s what it should be. The world can make you feel like you should already be, but then, my friends, you would miss out on the grace of becoming: “Oh, you know, I think I’ll pass on the grace for today. It’s shaping up to be a fine Tuesday, and I’ll give mine to that fellow over there, who looks like he can use an extra spoonful.” I’ve said that. I’ve walked my cup of grace over to that fellow and set it down next to him. But I’m learning that my own dry soul is always needy, and I’m learning to revel in that neediness. I’m learning that becoming is grace and grace is for me.

I’m learning that I need to say this in case you’re discovering you’re becoming and that grace is for you, too. All of us becomers, us losers with broken souls who can’t get it right—we are the graced. (In the moments when we forget, we’re graced still.) And though it can be traumatic to discover you have nothing together, that you never really did, that you’ll always be a becomer, the beauty of this is that you find there that you’re loved just because you are, and not because of how much kale you eat or how servant-hearted you are or whether or not you’re on time everywhere you go. Then we can get together and encourage each other and not feel bad about how much coffee we drink and how often we get it wrong because where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. And as we do this, as we fall deeper into grace and further from ourselves, we do begin to look more like Jesus.

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My fifth word was joyful, because that’s what kale will make you.

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Redeeming Love

I want my mom. I wish my mom was here.

That’s what I wrote in my first-ever journal, when I was in the eighth grade and learning that the best way for me sort through my feelings was to stretch adjectives and verbs and punctuation around them until I could breathe again. I found the journal, shoved in a forgotten drawer with some YA books, a while back. I traced my finger over the words. I wish my mom was here, I’d written.

***

Losing a parent is hard, I’ve heard; losing my mother was impossible. For all of her shadows, she was sunshine, and even her shadows were what I knew. She was home base, even when she was unreliable, even when she was sick. And even when she was unreliable, even when she was sick, she was like me. We were, figuratively and literally, made of the same stuff. And for a long time, the day I lost her marked the day my life catapulted into an After that seemed, well, impossible. Time and again I lay in bed, which had the tendency to change locations, learning how to cry silently, always rehearsing the same words, over and over, like a mantra: I wish my mom was here.

Two years after her death, when I moved in with my brother and his wife, I was unaccustomed to normalcy. I’d spent the past two years learning how to draw lines and build brick walls and cry silently; I had no interest, really, in being told what time to go to bed or being told that I couldn’t go somewhere or, frankly, in being a part of a family. What had been lost, I believed, could not be recovered.

***

It’s been 10 years since they asked me if I wanted, maybe, to stay for good; I have no idea whether they or anyone else thought that I would. What has happened to us has been part grace and part hard work, part sticking it out, and part never, ever wanting to leave. What has happened is something that completely supersedes DNA and age and the figurative life lemon of loss; what has happened is that we’ve became a family.

family

This didn’t happen immediately, or even kind of immediately. It didn’t happen within the first year or even the first five years. My missing-mother ache settled down after awhile, but it didn’t disappear completely, and I decided that what I had—a family, after all—was good enough that I shouldn’t push it. But time and grace both have a way about them, and as I walked through the shady paths of forgiveness and release, the ones that took me into the clearings of joy and acceptance, I often found that it was my mom who walked with me.

At first, it was more about structure and reliability and trust; she never forgot my orthodontist appointment or to pick me up from school. Because I had been hurt and because this was her first experience at mothering a hurt, angsty teenager, it took us a long time to figure out how to speak each other’s languages, but the thing she never failed to give me was her presence. She never delivered emotional monologues to me, but when I got my wisdom teeth out and was bleeding more than I should have been, she paced by my bed on the phone with the doctor. When it was time for me to go to college, she took me shopping for cleaning products and dorm linens. The night before I graduated from college, she slept in the bed with me because I wasn’t quite ready to be completely grown-up. The more she showed up, the more I began to believe she would show up. I didn’t realize this for a long time, but she was the first person to teach me the foundational truths of perfect love: It never gives up; it always shows up.

After awhile, I began to believe that, and I began to understand that perhaps this is how it was meant to be. Though there’s still an ache when I think about the things my biological mother missed and will miss, there’s no longer that biting throb of withoutness that accompanied her loss for so long. And while I am still taken aback by the remarkableness of the whole thing, of a God who sees and hears and fills us, sometimes I forget that this isn’t just how it is, that the two of us aren’t just a normal mother and daughter who do life together and love each other a whole lot and occasionally disagree about how much floral is too much floral.

***

Psalm 68:5 says that God is a father to the fatherless, and for a long time, this made me shrug: What about the motherless? But what I found was that they seemed to be one and the same; either way, there’s a void that puts the Grand Canyon to shame. Here I am to say, though, that the love of our God is more powerful than the most impossible sadness.

My mom and I are still learning each other, but every day, she chooses to be my mother, teaching me by the hour that love is a choice—the choice. I believe this was His plan all along, as he worked in both of us. Because of her, I know more about His goodness and His grace and His redemption. And because of her, “motherless” is not a thing I am anymore.

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The truth is, those familiar words still come up all the time. If I’m having a particularly rough day, if something exciting has just happened, if I need someone to tell me the floral pattern is a bad idea, they resurface. If I’m dreaming or if I’m breaking or if I’m standing on the sidewalk on a perfectly normal day but suddenly, I feel alone, I hear them again: I want my mom. I wish my mom was here. Except now, she’s only a phone call away.

***

Despite the normalcy of our relationship now, I still notice it. I know what it’s like to be reminded again and again of the thing you’re without, and so when those moments pass without the pang, I notice it. She would roll her eyes at the cheesiness of this truth, but it’s the tiny, baby mama moments that slay me; it’s when I have someone to call to ask where the chicken broth is in the grocery store or does she think it’s probably just allergies. It’s, “You’re never going to believe this,” and “And then he said…” and, “I’m coming home this weekend.” It’s saying it–Mom–every single day.

And sometimes, it does escape me, because something’s wrong and I need to hear her voice. I forget that this isn’t how it’s always been and I tell Siri, “Call Mom” without giving it a second thought. When she answers, I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Mom? It’s me. I miss you. I wish you were here.”

“Hey,” she says. “Everything is going to be just fine.” And I believe her, because she and I? We’re made of the same stuff.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. Thank you for choosing to be mine.

On Saying Grace

Sometimes I don’t realize it until I’m halfway through. The pasta is getting cold, or my friends are mid-tacos and mid-laughter, and it hits me: I forgot to say grace. Saying grace—when I was a kid, we called it “saying the blessing”—certainly doesn’t make you thankful. I remember, as a child, that saying grace was something that got passed around, forced on the least-assuming or last-to-arrive member of the family. Though we often said it, it was almost always rushed, the last hurdle to jump through before we could eat. And we loved to eat. We often said it in a song meant for children, because nobody wanted his or her prayer to be judged. And all of that for nothing, it seems, because I still forget to say grace.

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Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, the person I’ve met for dinner asks me if I wouldn’t mind blessing, or I extend the invitation to her. “Do you want to bless it?” I say, unsure if this is still something everyone does. I know that because I live in the Bible Belt, everyone knows about it, and for many people, it’s just a ritual.  As someone who was raised by some of the sweetest, most Southern Southern Baptists you’ve ever met, I know the power of a ritual. Sometimes, they bring us together; other times, they’re to make us look shinier and feel good about how shiny we look. I’m all for tradition; I’m less for meaningless rituals. So sometimes I falter before I say grace. (For what it’s worth, I can’t make a potluck casserole to save my life, either.)

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But at the heart of grace is just that—the grace we receive. It’s about food, sure. It’s about padding into the kitchen in the mornings to find plenty of manna left over from the day before. It’s about not worrying about where my next meal is going to come from; it’s about understanding hunger only in the most meager sense. It’s the grace that makes it possible for me to show up to the lake, peppermint bark tucked in a Christmas tin. It’s grace that causes me to pause, mid-conversation, to ask what has just occurred to me: “Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” It’s grace that means I can say yes when Tuesday night messages come, asking me to meet friends for dinner. Sometimes, at these dinners, all of that slams into me as the waiter sets down the plate, and, fork poised, I say it for all of us, out loud, whether they want to or not: “Thank you, Jesus.”

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But I’ve learned something in all of that business of dodging rituals. I’ve learned a lot about freedom, about how we, as children of God, are allowed to love truly and deeply and madly, in ways that upset dogma and make grace tangible. In fact, I’ve learned a lot about love, how I’ve been loved and how that love compels me. I’ve tasted and seen God—the goodness of him, the sovereignty of him, the gentleness of him, the carefulness of him—and all of that has compelled me to return to saying grace.

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But I don’t say it like I used to.

I am learning the art of blessing. Each day, I try to know more about how to look people in the eye and say grace: “I forgive you” and “I’m sorry I only have coins to give you” and “You’re going to be alright.” I know, now, that I can say grace with every text message and phone call and blog post and tweet. I have always been a girl of many words, but I understand now that I haven’t always been gracious with them. And sometimes, I hear, the most grace-filled way to spend some time is in silence. I have said grace, I hope, in the way that I can’t keep walking if I see a pile of red leaves in a parking lot unless I take a picture. Something about the beauty of it is grace on me, and I hope to be a woman who turns it back into praise. I have said salty grace as I cried, because that’s the only way I can get the grace out. I have said grace when I didn’t want to, because grace has been said to me. In the early mornings, while I drink the first cup of coffee, I charge myself to be a grace-noticer, a grace-speaker, a grace-giver. Sometimes, before I’ve left the house for work, I’ve already failed.

When I go home, we still bow our heads before our meals and say the blessing. When I’m with my friends, sometimes the laughter quiets as making the meal passes into eating the meal, and our hands find each other. Grace is said, a blessing on the food and each other, on the hands that made it and on our conversation. When it’s finished, we move on, picking up the stories we were telling. When I’m by myself, sometimes I mutter a quick prayer of thanks, not for the ritual of it, but because I am so thankful. And there are still times that I forget.

But in perhaps the most beautiful twist in the story of the world, there is grace for that.

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“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God.”
–Hebrews 12:28

The Woman’s Testimony

I am sure I have never drank in the sun quite so deeply.

I am perched on a rock wall, bushes behind me, a parking lot before me. Even my heart does not wax poetic about beauty in this parking lot, but this is my spot, parking lot or not, and I drink up the sun. It’s reprieve from my desk, from the chasing of dreams in an unfamiliar place while wearing high heels.

It occurs to me while I eat lunch here, dress getting dirty on the rocks, that maybe now–now that my prayers have been answered–maybe now, I lose my credibility with you. Maybe now that I could write a post titled, “On Everything Working Out,” you throw your hands up, and where we used to identify because of the ache that comes from praying hard, we now find ourselves on different sides of the divide. And I am afraid that here, I lose you. I am afraid because the very thing I rested my provision on–that what the Lord promised would be–has come to pass, and I look back across the divide to those who pray harder yet.

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This fallen world of ours is the only place where hope turning into the tangible can get tangled up with fear until it all looks the same. But I have never drank the sun quite so deeply, here on my lunch break, and I ask again. I pray still.

I pray that fear leaves, flees, that the grace of God would wash me of it again, so that my knees do not shake as I walk back inside or as I write this.

I pray for those across the divide, those who are losing by the minute, losing babies, marriages, dollars, faith, their favorite shirts. I pray for those who are lost themselves; I ask that they may be found, that we sheep who are part of the 99 call for them to come back. I pray our baa-ing reaches their ears and I pray that they point themselves home.

I say another prayer of thanks, only it feels different on my lips. For months, I wrapped my soul around the truth that I am grateful or I am nothing, and I learned how to serve up thimblefuls of gratitude on days when my faith waned. “Even today,” I would whisper, “I am thankful for…cheese.” But here, in the land of Big Prayers Answered, of Promises Fulfilled, of Just in Time, my gratitude is almost paralyzing. I approach the throne meekly, the holiness of God and the inadequacy of myself clashed up next to each other as if they fit. Before my very eyes, His holiness begins to leak onto me.

I ask if I can still be used here, in the land of the reaping. I ask if people will think I don’t understand, if I’m the one whose prayers got answered. I say that I know this is silly, but…

I open my eyes and I’m still in the parking lot, still dirtying my dress, still a girl with a prayer.

Maybe that’s what He says to me this day: Pray still, for mountains will move. Pray after you’ve been answered, for this is a big world and there are many, many things to miss when our eyes keeping drifting to our own lives. Pray, He says, for I hear you.

In the season of wildflowers, when your heart drops with both gratitude and uncertainty, for there seem to be so many prayers unanswered, when you are wet in the river of blessing, drink up the sunlight. Let your heart burn with gratitude, let your lips turn blessing into praise.

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Pray still, and then find yet another promise.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony….So when the Samaritans came to [Jesus], they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” –John 4:39-42

 

On [Not] Getting a Job

I started this post six different ways.

I’ve been writing it in my head since March. I thought, “Should I title it, “On Getting a Job” so that you would all know that’s what happened?” Around July, I decided I’d call it, “On Finally Getting a Job.” I don’t have that title for you. By grace, I don’t want to.

***

There’s a baby asleep in my arms. Even asleep, her cheeks give smiles. I know it’s probably gas, but it calms my heart to watch her smile in her sleep, to imagine that she’s in a place where dreams are real, and that hers are good. I am talking to her mother, one of my closest friends, talking to her about life and how it’s not what I thought it would be, and though I’ve spilled my enough tears over that to make dehydration a concern, I find myself smiling now. I explain that I’m in a place where dreams are real, and that mine are good.

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For dreams, I’ve been learning, are not stagnant. They are like we are, constantly changing and morphing, true and real before we even realize we’re living the dream. I don’t have a “dream job,” but man am I living a dream life. If you stacked my success up next to so many people who are doing so many cool things, it might look small. And yet, life feels big.

It was my dream to be a writer. And here I am, coffee-shop sitting, writing for you.

It was my dream to go where God called me, and I’ve been in the city he whispered in my ear for three weeks now. I don’t think I’m leaving (for a good long while anyway).

bham coffee shop

It was my dream to be used to knock down the walls of the Kingdom, and just today, I told that little baby how much Jesus loves her. If she were the only one I told, my life would be worth it. But I get to tell lots of people.

As someone who has always taken much pride in her accomplishments, someone who did things right and well and who could be depended upon to be sensible–as someone like that, I’ve had to learn the rhythms of living the dream. They look like early-morning fog dancing around the church in the stillness before the broken and the joy-filled and those in between come to worship. They sound like the whoosh of filling morning cups of coffee, maybe three in a row, with a friend who insists I can stay another night even though I’m making the toilet paper disappear twice as fast. They  feel like the baby bounce, the back-and-forth you learn to quiet the whimpers of tiny souls. It tastes like grace, more grace than I would ever have thought I’d need back when I was doing everything right.

Every day is all grace, grace in coffee and grace on toast and grace in the way I make it right on time. Every day is all grace, grace in coffee shops and grace in old friends and grace in new ones. Every day is all grace, grace for me here living the dreams I didn’t know I had and grace all over you, because you’re doing it, too. Every day is all grace, grace to stamp out fear and grace to be brave, and wouldn’t you know it, grace in tears and grace in anger and grace when you just go to sleep instead.

***

I didn’t come to this coffee shop to write this post. I came to write an email, to edit a magazine proof, to have a latte. I didn’t write the post to let you know I still don’t have a job or even to let you know that I’m okay with that, though both of those are true. I just wanted to write, and I kept putting down first lines and taking them back up. I thought about that post that’s been lingering, waiting on dreams to come true.

And in a flash of grace, all of this hit me. On [not] getting a job: I’m already living the dream.

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From Where I Sit: Summer 2013

“It’s been the best summer of my life.”

That was the caption on someone’s Instagram photo that made me pause until the car behind me honked because the light had turned green. “It’s been the best summer of my life.” The phrase didn’t resonate with me, exactly, so much as it made me wince.

***

This summer has been different than all of the others. I’ve said it to about a million different people: “The Lord has taught me so much in this season–maybe more than the last four years put together.” Then I offer a laugh and say, completely seriously, “But I’m ready for it to be over.” I would insist that I know it’s just a season, that I don’t believe God had forgotten about me as I watched all of the people closest to me slip into their Great Big Plans. I was talking to my best friend, an elementary school teacher, who started school on Aug. 5th. “Summer’s over for me,” she said. Summer can’t be over, I thought, panicked. I haven’t figured a single thing out and this was supposed to just be a season.

***

I thought about summer again today, though. I thought about how it’s been a season of changing and breaking and losing and longing. I thought about how I’ve learned to sing quietly, despite the rain (it was a rainy summer, no?) I learned how to trust despite fear, to return again and again to my anchor of hope, to insist on joy. I learned how to take my perspective and wrangle it with the strength I’ve gained so that I become smaller, so that the thorns in my side ease their pinching. My troubles are still there, my longings still loud, my fear still fierce, but when I consider the providence, I lose my breath in wonder.

I thought about how I’ve learned how to pray. And I thought about how my prayers have changed: In April, I was asking for a job. Yesterday, I was thanking for that providence. Every single day, I have a come-to-Jesus meeting with Jesus himself. Every single day, I walk away from those meetings leaking courage he poured into me: “Do not be afraid, little flock.”

And of course, I have learned how to say goodbye, or at least that you can’t learn how to do that.

***

I’ve told people, too, that I wouldn’t want to change it–I worry now what might have happened to me if I’d had a full-time job offer right out of college. First, let me tell you where I sit: On my friend’s couch, without a full-time job or a permanent address in the city to which I’ve been called. I’m not telling you that I’ve gotten things all figured out, that I’ve mastered trust when I don’t know anything more than where I’m going tonight. But this much is true: I worry now that I wouldn’t know how to recognize peace that surpasses understanding if I wasn’t sitting here. I worry that I wouldn’t know what it’s like to stop treading water and instead walk on it, my eyes fixed on the Giver of all good things. I worry that I would tell you all of this–tell you I have a God who is real and true, who provides and comforts, who hears and loves just as much as the Bible says He does–and you would shrug your shoulders, because, well, I’m sitting on my own couch in my own apartment with my nice job, and you, you’re on your friend’s couch. So hear me loud: Here, He is here. And I wouldn’t change this.

There’s been much fear this summer, as you might know if you’ve talked to me at all. But I suspect the fear was always there, stifled by the security of doing things right and having a plan and walking down the paths I’d picked out for myself. Here, this summer, all of that has melted, and I was left to decide whether I was going to be afraid or drink my coffee. Sometimes I choose fear, and sometimes I worry that I am going to get to Heaven and the first thing I’ll hear from God will be, “Why were you always so afraid?”

What I’m learning is this: When I catch sight of the throne, when I run up to it and get bathed in grace again, it’s me who looks in the mirror and asks that question. It’s Abba who, with one glance, calms my heart.

***

This is my summer recap. These are the lessons that haven been sown into my marrow over and over. I have learned, if I’ve learned anything, that the things I’ve been taught this summer are up for debate every day; trusting God can be unlearned with one fell swoop of the heart, with one glance at the bank account, with another blog post that declares, “I still don’t know what I’m doing.” I’ve learned it’s every single day, many times a day, that I look up, breathe like I mean it, give it up again.

***

Recently, a good friend of mine asked me what was next after Tuscaloosa. I smiled and told her I was still praying for opportunity in Birmingham. “So you’re going to take a leap of faith if you don’t have a job by then?” “Yes,” I said that day.

What I’ve learned is that steps of faith lead to a life of faith. And if that was the only thing I learned all summer, it would still be the best summer I’ve ever had.

sunsetdreamsRead more recap posts here, and don’t forget: You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and in your inbox by scrolling down to the bottom of the page. So much thanks for reading!

When the Wild Thing is Love

I’m pretty fearful.

You must know this already, if you’ve been around for any time at all. I fear being left behind, and I fear being the one who has left. I fear the unknown and I fear staying the same. I fear failing, and I fear succeeding, and I will always, always fear being pulled behind a boat attached to a string. I’m interested in getting over all of those fears except the last one.

I fear loving and being loved–I especially fear these things done perfectly. For we have been told, “perfect love casts out fear,” and I guess that I fear losing all of my fear: What would I cling to then? How would I know when I’ve gone too far? For what other reason would I climb into bed again and leave it until tomorrow or decide, instead, to look out for my own best interests?

flowernotweedsBut a bigger part of me–or at least a part that is growing steadily, some part that the fear touches, but does not consume–knows this is just the scaredy cat of my heart mewing. This nugget knows and believes in perfect love and what it does. And whether this part of me is beating in some corner of my heart or burning down in the gutsiest part of my gut or standing on my shoulders ready to run, it intrigues me, challenges me, asks more what-ifs about loving perfectly. It suggests that I do not lock my car doors or avert my eyes when someone on the street looks at me, questions in his eyes, on his lips, in his hands: “Ma’am, do you want to buy a newspaper?” No, I don’t, get away from my car, I’m a girl, I’m a young girl, get away from my car, you’re scaring me.

***

I like to control how I’m loved–that’s silly, isn’t it, but there all the same–but I don’t mind being loved, per se. I like it most when people steadily drizzle their love on me, so that I may take it in slowly, taste its sweetness, announce at once if I wish it to stop. That process is all steeped in fear, for if it’s a rush, if I get drenched summer-rainstorm style by someone’s love, I’m left dry if they take it away.

I like to control how I love, too. I like to love extravagantly, I do. I like to love endlessly and tirelessly, but I like to decide how I do this. I like to love the people who do not make me uncomfortable. I like to encourage and pray for and pour into and lavish those souls who have proved that they love me back, that they’re interested in being loved by me, though I can’t claim to love even them perfectly. But at least I know they don’t mind imperfect lovin.

1044913_10200553799139981_1876305815_nBut then this is spoken to me, a refrigerator verse if I ever heard it: “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Get your toes wet in that, though, and you might want to take it down off your refrigerator.

Love and trust, these things walk hand-in-hand down sunset beaches and through the slums and in the grocery store aisles, arguing over what kind of spaghetti sauce to buy. Trust and fear, these things cannot be in the same room without lessening the other. So this is the call: Step into trust. Trust what you cannot see. And to that call, I so often say, “No, I’m sitting in a chair if I can’t see it.” This seems wise.

But oh, the wise are shamed. And our God takes things the world dubs foolish and calls them smartypants. And he asks me to sit in a chair, to get so wet I’ll never dry out, to turn around and love the old man on the street corner–the one selling newspapers–like I know for sure he’ll love me back.

Being able to do this, love so deeply that you must turn down your happy music when you pass someone hurting so that you can have a reverent place to cry, love so fearlessly that you go back into the houses of those who have hurt you and try again, love so remarkably that the recipients want to try it themselves–this takes 100 buckets of trust and not a single one of fear.

photo 1It takes you, on your knees, tasting first the kind of love that fills you up and drives you forward, with no time left to consider safety.

I’m pretty fearful, fearful and yet learning all the time to spend my days loving, loving where and who and whatever is before me, loving practically and grandly, quietly and gently, through and through.

I’m pretty fearful until I find myself loved so wholly that it must be perfect, and then–then I am not fearful any longer.