I’m finding that I have a hard time writing about life as it’s happening. I’m better at narratives, which means I find my footing better in hindsight. Bear with me, as I attempt to share in the midst…
2017 has had some really big moments. We bought a house, Hosanna learned to walk, Josiah started reading…we also lost a baby. Just writing that sucks the wind out of me.
I’ve found myself back in counseling, because I’ve been a total mess since the miscarriage. I feel like there’s usually a single gripping moment that makes or breaks a blog post, but please understand, the point of this post isn’t about our loss.
The tragedy that I’ve wrestled has been even deeper and more profound than the loss of a child, if you can even imagine such a thing. What was revealed in this loss was a weakness of faith I hadn’t anticipated. See, long before I got pregnant, I had forgotten how much God just wanted to love and be with me. When I found myself in a dark place, I felt extremely alone, completely out of control, and as if I needed to somehow become perfect to be loveable and safe again. It’s like the miscarriage confirmed what my heart already feared…I was broken and unworthy of love, even in God’s eyes.
I’ve been rattled with deeper anxiety in the last few months than I can ever remember before. I found myself grasping for control over anything and everything, because life just felt so incredibly chaotic. Everything felt wrong, and nothing felt right. (Part of this was sleep deprivation, so please do not underestimate the role of sleep in your life. I got some medicine to help me rest, and the anxiety monster shrunk to a more manageable size.)
I’ve been a Christian for almost twenty years, and I still usually miss the point. I still try to nail down concrete ways to earn my salvation, when Jesus already died on the cross to take my sin and shame and secure my place in heaven. I still forget that God wants ME, not my perfection. I think as humans, we find it easier to mark off a list of dos and don’ts than we do to experience deep intimacy.
Intimacy is so frightening. The vulnerability of letting someone into the deepest, darkest parts of your soul is too heavy. Just like the religious people in the Old and New Testaments, it’s much easier to focus on a list of rules to perfect than to reflect on the state of our hearts.
Yes, the Bible says to watch your life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16) and that loving God leads to obeying his commands (John 14:15), but before the cross and after, God’s desire was for our hearts to belong to Him, not for our behavior to match a mold. You don’t have a child to create a law-abiding minion, but to share life and love and joy with another soul. You discipline a child to show him how to live a full life. God didn’t give us rules for rules’ sake. He’s merely showing us the way to closeness with Him, which is the ultimate life of freedom.
I find that we scour the Bible for rules and guidelines, because we want to be holy, and rightfully so. However, even without the Scriptures, those of us in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit, which is GOD IN US, and yet I obviously can lose sight of this!
We can memorize the words in the Bible and still be terrible human beings. It’s why some of the most outspoken, talented preachers I’ve met are arrogant, hypocritical turds. They’ve memorized scripture and mastered the fine art of public speaking, but they have no apparent nearness to God. They can lay down a great sermon, and then leave the church building and commit heinous acts, even by the world’s standards. Bible knowledge that isn’t backed up by the Holy Spirit in us won’t get us to heaven.
Although the Scriptures are “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), they are not God. They are a tool He has given us to help us understand Him. But without the nearness of Him, we are incapable of following even one letter of the law. It’s why I’ve read my Bible more consistently this year than I have in a decade, and yet I find my faith weaker than it’s been in years. Reading your Bible without paying attention to God in the here-and-now is like reading love letters from your husband, but never having sex with him (Woah, did that just get weird? Nope, okay). It’s like watching videos of your kids on Facebook, but not paying attention to the adorable thing they’re doing right next to you in real life. When push comes to shove, how well will you really know your loved ones?
I’ve found myself trying to be perfect to right the ship of my life, when all I needed was to focus on God’s presence. Even in our greatest storms, He is there to steady us. My anxiety, my fear, my self-loathing were all a result of my heart forgetting that He was near and that all He desires from me is nearness. Holiness, following His commands, doing good works…those are all results of proximity to God. He is the focus. They are secondary results of living in His presence.
Now, if you’re reading this, and wondering, “What does that even mean?!” I can totally understand. What does it look like to live in God’s presence? It’s different for each unique person. Just like my kids draw near to me in different ways, people drawing near to God is not a cookie-cutter situation. The Bible offers what we call “spiritual disciplines”, that is, prayer, fasting, Bible reading, fellowship, etc. I think of this like certain concrete ways that my children can develop closeness to me, such as hugs, kisses, snuggles, chats, crying, quality time, receiving gifts (think “love languages”). These are all solid ways to get closer, but Josiah prefers to chat, while Hosanna prefers touch. They both do all the bonding type of things, but they’re unique. If Josiah only ever hugged me, we probably would grow apart in some deep ways. He and I both know that chatting and quality time will connect us more. If I only ever talked to Hosanna, she’d not understand my love, because she needs to be held.
I think the same goes for us understanding God’s nearness, experiencing it, and choosing to remain in His presence. There’s no prescription. I read my Bible, meet with other Christians, fast…and yet, the ways I draw nearest to God include prayer, spending time in creation, observing His work, and creating artwork. It’s like when I get weird and crochet to R&B and breathe deeply knowing God loves me just the way I am. It’s why I cherish all the ways people are “weird,” and why I don’t want to raise my kids to fit society’s ideals on how they should live. When we are weird with God, we can really experience Him in the most personal ways, the ways that will seal our understanding that He does truly love us. We don’t have to strive with God. Lay that striving down, and just live in His presence.
I was striving so hard to get myself back together after the miscarriage that I very nearly fell apart. Let’s face it, what power do I have on my own? I’m not entirely okay. My heart aches for the baby I won’t get to hold come March 18, and the world really doesn’t feel like a safe place right now. But it’s okay with Jesus that I’m not okay. That’s a greater comfort than having it all together ever could be. I’m now leaning hard into God and counting on His presence to carry me through. I can breath a little deeper, and I can live a little fuller, and I can share with you that His presence in my life is what gives breath to my lungs.