The generations before mine knew God like the Israelites who came out of Egypt–He was the Master, to be served as well as possible for fear of heavenly retribution and eternity in hell. God was to be feared, to be held far away from them so that the stench of their humanness would not compel total annihilation. Holiness was a shield from destruction; righteousness a guarantee that one could squeeze between one set of the 12 golden gates passed, the 24 elders and the arch angels who defend the purity of the throne. Everything in their lives felt this way–there were no questions, no wondering, no fluidity: either you were saved or you were going to hell. And they would pray for you, but you were alone in your personal afflictions as you lay on the altar in your despair and shame.
My generation revolted.
We wanted more. We wanted forgiveness, and grace, and understanding. We wanted to touch God beyond the list of rules we knew we could never keep. We wanted a God who was honest with us and with whom we could be honest. We wanted safety. We wanted love and acceptance. Not a task master like the white men and women we encountered every day; not cold judgment like we received from our families when we faltered from the pain they inflicted; not the fickleness we dealt with from our friends who were too damaged themselves to care.
We wanted a real relationship.
It is funny how you crave the things you don’t have.
As I dig deeper into God, just listening and being in God’s presence intentionally, God keeps revealing these pockets of unhealing that need to be touched. This last one has been hard to deal with, this driving desire to be pursued by a man–any man, in fact. My own father walking away from me and never even attempting to find me or be in my life; my complicated relationship with the father who raised me, love chafing under the strain of me not belonging; my disillusion with my marriage as I stood pleading for things I had no words for… all these feelings and emotions overtook me because nobody has ever loved me enough to pursue me–not because they wanted something from me, mind you, but just because they saw me as worthy to pursue.
And I met with a struggle in my relationship with God because all I knew for a long time was the pain and agony and fear of my fore-bearers–could I keep up with the list of things I couldn’t do to stay out of hell? Could I make it without enough sin so that I could squeak into heaven? That life of slavery coupled with my own image of self as not being worth enough for anyone to love me with abandon caused me to walk away from my faith privately. I could still do all the outward things–sing the songs, pray the prayers, complete the rituals with smiles and bows; yet my heart was filled with torment as I grappled with feelings so strong and painful that sometimes I wanted to die.
But God is nothing if not faithful.
Through 14 years of rocky relationship and marriage, 36 years of complicated step-daughterhood, and 39 years of longing for a father that I would never really have, God has done what no man has ever done for me. God ran me down like a dog on a foxhunt. At every turn–in dark shame-filled bedrooms and dirty corners at clubs, in the middle of alcoholic stupors and the euphoric highs of ecstasy, in the depths of despair and longing, in the midst of fist fights and angry, evil words, in the loneliest moment of my life–God kept pursuing me, kept coming after me.
Until one day, I realized how much God loved me. How God looked at me and said, “She is worth everything I have.” And then gave it.
The cross of Jesus Christ is more than just this single historical event logged in the canon of scripture. The sacrifice of His life sits in eternity, never-ending and everlasting until death. Above the illusion of time, God looks at me–at you–and declares, “This one. This one is worth saving. Still. Pursue. Overtake. And recover that soul.”
God is looking for you, too. And I need you to know that, unlike any and every relationship you’ve encountered, God’s love is pure. God’s heart is intentionally turned toward you. God wants you. Particularly and especially.