As believers, we were not taught to look into the past. To squint our eyes and focus through the mist at the untended garden. As a young person my goal was to climb the wall and escape the constraints. There were people who believed in my potential but no one who nurtured it. There was a molding instead, of thought and of action, resulting in shame, fear and then anger at the world for being a mean place. Determination to find a peaceful, hopeful place drove me to climb the garden wall and escape.
By the time I was 13, I worked after school and on weekends. When I was 16, I bought my own car. The beginning of my senior year in high school, on the day I turned 18, I moved into my own apartment and did not look back for 20 years.
My path to intimacy with God was a bumpy one. A deep longing for love drove me to places I wish I had never gone. I had no understanding of acceptance or even a belief that I could be accepted because it died, crushed when I was in grade school. It was pinched off at the root by a friend who asked me why I was trying to please everyone. At the age of 12, I listened to my best buddy explain that in life you could never make even one person satisfied by your actions. And if you could manage to do every single thing for one person, that person would still not be happy with you. There would always be something more they would want. It would become a life of watching just one other person to see how to act, to dress, to play, to work…and in the end I would never know me, only them. Being accepted meant being manipulated by someone else’s expectations, so I left it behind.
I built high walls around my heart from a belief that there could be no relationships without extreme demands upon my identity. Though I did not have a clue who I was, I was convinced I would never find out by listening to others slap my every dream into place. My understanding of the power of vulnerability and the essential need for belonging is a fairly recent paradigm shift…which has led me to this backwards walk climbing the old garden wall looking for what is alive but dark that must be pulled out and what is frail but beautiful that must be nurtured for my heart to finally experience truth and beauty.
This garden of my heart is the place of my uniqueness. A place where Jesus has come in. A place where the Holy Spirit of God is helping me nurture, grow, and weed so that I may become that which I am.
Jesus is the only person, the only God, who when we look fully into His face, we see ourselves as we are completely born to be. We are reflected through His perfect love wholly accepted, touched by the beauty of the Divine, empowered to fill the true, unique space that is our own.
There are some things I am learning about my Heavenly Father. He is good. He enjoys me. He likes to talk with each of His kids. He is always looking for people who will love Him and believe what He says.
The trouble Eve had, as do all of us, is that when the enemy of God pointed out the forbidden fruit was beautiful, she looked and seemed to forgot what God said about it. She pondered with her own eyes and mind that since it was lovely, then perhaps knowing good and evil was a good thing. Not quite calling God a liar out loud, but being deceived by the voice of a snake, she chose to believe what he said rather than the words of her Father.
There is no snake in my life that is quite so obvious. Although to Eve a talking snake in a garden full of newly formed creatures probably wasn’t obviously out of place either, but in my world, it is more that I let circumstances dictate who God is and how far His powers reach. When my world is out of control or when pain comes close, that’s when I begin to think that God is less than I need. He is smaller than my problems, perhaps too small to fix my particular challenge. The place of refuge under the shadow of His wings doesn’t feel quite so safe anymore and since I have not seen Him help me yet today, I take this as evidence of His character, His will, His strength. Then I look at the pain around me in other people’s lives, and believe in those circumstances letting them dictate my belief of who God truly is. Or worse, I take it as His response to me, to us. I listen to the voice of a circumstance taking it as a sign He doesn’t really love me or us. Or that we have sinned too large for Him look upon us with provision or bless us with help.
The great problem with this approach to a spiritual life with God, is that everything in His word and everything that Jesus said and did contradicts it. His word tells me He created us to be in relationship with Him and He loves us so much He sent His son to die to keep that relationship possible. His word tells us we walk by faith, not by sight and that when we believe with our hearts, then we see and then blessings come alive. He responds to our faith, drawn to its fragrance as evidence of love. He longs for our love. He loved us first. He gave His all for us, first, before we ever responded.
I hear Him calling me to Honor Him as God, to have no other gods before Him and to believe what He says, not listen to the voice of a deceiver or the noise of a circumstance. I hear Him asking me to have faith as small as a mustard seed in Him and it will move a mountain of pain, lack or bondage sending it crashing into the sea.
John 10:3-5; 7-10
3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him [the shepherd], and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.