As we started our trip, I told Mel that I wanted the theme of our trip to be “God is good and wise, and his goodness and wisdom can be trusted.” I explained my reasonings to her and she asked me if I would publish it on our blog. I told her I would, but that I would need to think it through and take some time in writing it. My thoughts about this post have been long and what follows is something I am grateful to share with you all.
First, I must begin by saying that I am very ordinary in terms of my knowledge and connection with God. My favorite quote about knowing God is from Zig Ziglar who says, “There are three things I know about God; 1.) There is a God. 2.) It ain’t me. 3.) It ain’t you neither.” With that as the back drop for the depth of my spiritual wisdom I can continue.
My most profound “spiritual experience” happened when I was 17 years old. After years of depression, drug addition, drug dealing, trouble with the law, state mandated drug therapy, running away from home, being kicked out of my house, an MIP, my driver’s licence being suspended (I could go on and on), I hit the rock bottom of my life. I was desperate to find a better way to live my life and I had nothing to lose when I attended a church youth group after being invited by someone I hardly knew.
That became a turning point in my life. My “spiritual experience” was nothing more than me choosing to live life in a different way and God (somehow) helping me to change. I saw no angels singing, no clouds parting, no voices from the heavens. The experience was simple- a choice to move in a new direction. Nothing more, nothing less. I will never know how much of that choice came from my longing to escape my miserable life, and how much of it came from the unseen power of God. All I know is that I changed that day. That choice was the greatest miracle and proof of God’s existence that I have every experienced in my life.
That was 20 years ago. Much has happened since then. You might now be wondering what goodness and wisdom has to do with all this. I will get to that soon enough, but first I must talk about love.
After my “conversion” (as it is labeled by popular christian vocabulary), my life went in a totally different direction. I gave up all drug abuse, began developing healthy friendships with people who didn’t do drugs, began volunteering to help the homeless, traveled to other countries on “mission trips,” took leadership positions in the church (again, I could go on and on). On the outside it would have appeared that I was a totally different person and that I was completely 100% changed. But there was still something not quite right for me.
My biggest struggles in life has stemmed from the way I feel about myself. Without going into great detail, for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with feelings of abandonment, feeling unimportant, worthless and feeling unlovable. As I began spending more and more time at church, these feelings did not go away as I had assumed they might. Even my new church going friends were confident to explain to me how “God loves you” and that “God is love”. When I feel unlovable, unworthy of being loved, I can only believe that something is terribly wrong with me if God loves me yet I do not feel lovable or loved.
Did I mention that my spiritual conversion happened 20 years ago. That is 20 years of going to church, watching all my happy, smiling, church going friends talk about the wonderful fulfilling love they feel from God, that I am somehow unable to access. I did everything in my power to feel God’s love for me. I read the Bible more, I prayed more, I become close friends with Pastors and leaders in the church, I served on the church elder board for 7 years. Every attempt to feel God’s love in my life only brought a deeper degree of frustration into my life.
Then, 4 years ago, my inner-spiritual turmoil collided with outer-life tragedy, and I was unable to hold things together any longer. I was already feeling overwhelmed trying to parent 4 young children ages 8 and under, running my small business and struggling to make time for myself and my marriage. My life felt unmanageable, and out of my control. About that time, Mel was becoming more and more involved with her passions for theater and compassionate ministries and my feelings of abandonment and loneliness were reaching all time heights.
In the midst of all of this, the unimaginable happened. At age 18, my cousin, who lived only 30 minutes away from us, took her life. (I have cried for her the last two days as I have been reflecting on writing this post). The tragedy was surprising and unexpected, and though I was not particularly close to her (we were 15 years apart in age) the event effected me much more then I would have ever imagined.
My feeling of abandonment took hold of my life in a new way and even a feeling of betrayal began to form against “the God of love.” I felt overwhelmed with my life. I was struggling with feeling unworthiness and abandonment. I was feeling anger towards God for allowing such an unacceptable situation to take place. The God of love, who was suppose to comfort me, take care of me, protect me. Where was he now? The event wrecked me and I spiraled into depression, anger, bitterness and hatred.
“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself. “I am on the church leadership board. I am friends with the Pastor. I am supposed to be a role model and an example for those who have not yet ‘found God’.” My current social status, and the expectations I assumed were on my life made my situation all the more difficult, and all the more painful. I was ashamed of myself, ashamed of my feelings towards myself and of my anger towards God. Once again, my life was nothing like the way I wanted it to be, nor was it anything like what I expected it should be.
It was much like swimming through a thick sea of unending mud. Often times, I felt so tired from swimming through this mud that I believed that giving up to drown in it would bring me more peace than my struggling to stay afloat. At times, I became so sick of the filth that my life had become that I did not want it any longer. Sometimes, I believed there was no other way of getting out.
After much personal therapy and marital counseling over the past few years I have begun to work through my emotions of abandonment and unlovability. Today, though my life is still muddy, I am learning to better accept this mud as my playground. Through the passage of time, therapy and partnership with others, I am learning to better accept the way things are. I am happier with myself and my life, the way it is. I do not feel the way I want to feel, nor do I feel the way I think someone with a “healthy Christian” life should feel. After 20 years of seeking God, I still have not found the feeling I’ve been searching for. The feeling of being loved by God.
This has lead me to wonder if I have been searching for the wrong thing all along. All these years I have struggled to feel the love of God. My friends seem to be able to feel it, so why can’t I? Perhaps this is the wrong question. Perhaps my focus of feeling the love of God has been the wrong focus. These questions have begun to lead me in a different direction. A direction to seek God, not for the way I want Him to make me feel, but to discover something about who He is. To believe in God differently than I have before.
The greatest miracles in my life have come from making simple choices. Just like 20 years ago, it is hard to say how much those choices have come from my longing to escape my miserable life, and how much of them came from the unseen power of God. Once again, I am making a simple choice. A choice to believe two things about God: that He is Good and Wise. That might not sound like much considering that He is GOD. But as basic and simple as this choice is, it is a step of faith for me right now. To believe that “God is good and wise and His goodness and wisdom can be trusted.”
I do not know where my life will go, where it will take me or how I will find God involved with it. It is my goal, though, to believe that regardless of how I feel, God is good and wise. This has become the theme of our trip and I hope that I will be able to fully embrace this truth while helping my family to explore this truth as well.