True Love Is Like A Light
I've written about this here before, but there was a time in my life when I decided to walk away from God, the Church, Christians, and pretty much everything I'd been raised to believe regarding religion and faith.
I even had a moment when (like author Donald Miller) I said "I don't believe in God!" out loud and waited for something to happen.
When no lightning bolts struck, I remember laughing a derisive laugh to my friends who'd heard me say it, but deep inside I was actually disappointed.
I discovered what I thought was a dirty little secret about Church, God, faith, and all the rest of it---something that I came to believe had been kept from me my whole life: When I left, I didn't miss it...
Seriously... I lived my life. I slept pretty well. I had fun. My Sunday mornings were free--along with my Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. We were Baptists so we went to church three times a week, you see.
It wasn't that I didn't believe in God, I just wasn't sure if God existed. Also, I didn't care all that much about it.
I figured it was enough to be a decent person, and figured I'd grow up at some point, have a family and a career, but I sure as heck wasn't going to raise my kids to be religious, and I never wanted to darken the door of a church again... ever.
And then I found myself back in a church because my wife informed me that we were going to find a church to attend, and she settled on a Presbyterian church near our apartment at the time.
I went, thinking that I'd soon find enough excuses to bail on this notion and at least be able to tell her I tried.
Then I found myself weeping uncontrollably on that first visit, and then on every visit after for about two months. I couldn't explain it and didn't understand it, but I felt like I was hearing for the first time in my life that God loved me.
Honestly, that wasn't far from the truth. The churches I went to as a kid didn't talk about God's love all that much---they preferred a more severe, judgmental kind of God, you see.
So there I sat, weeping, and wondering why. I was filled with guilt and shame for all the things I'd said about God, and how I didn't believe in God any longer.
But the more I attended (and wept), the more grace I started to give myself because I realized that the God I said I didn't believe in, didn't exist.
I'd walked away from that God, but I'd also closed myself off to the possibility that there could be another---one that was true, real, and who actually loved me, unconditionally and with great vulnerability.
Rachel Held Evans wrote this in the book that was published after her death:
Because true love can never be coerced or controlled, God does all of this without the guarantee of reciprocation. Divine love, like all love, is freely given and freely received. Even if God promises never to walk away, we can--and we have, over and over.
All those years ago (nearly 30 now), I began a journey back to God's love that I am still on today. There are still moments when I decided to make my own path, out of anger or frustration with God, but I seem to find my course corrections a lot more easily than I used to.
And I also know that the love of God has been and will always be the guiding light that will lead me back home when I've wandered too much.
May it be so for you today and every day from this day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.