a backpack of rocks

The wilderness can feel like a lonely place. Being out here all alone. No street lights or signs of civilization.  No communication in the hustle of the world.  Just trees, dirt, rocks, and the great expanse of the sky above.

It can be really quiet out here.  Thoughts, breath, the crackle of a fire, the crunching of leaves, the smell of smoke and earth beneath my feet.  The trails are narrow.  Confusing.

There’s a stillness in the wilderness that does not match the rage and chaos within me.  At times it can feel like this place is trying to temper me – to force me to quiet down inside by some external pressure.

No place mirrors the state of my heart quite like the wilderness does.  All distractions and numbing agents no longer available.  Mechanisms and ways of being that used to bring relief, now don’t.  I cannot busy myself with cleaning my house or running errands out here.  I cannot task a to-do list because the only list is to BE.

All my life, I have loved being in the outdoors.  Get me to an open valley or a mountaintop, get me on a trail and enveloped in the trees and I feel God and his connection to us in ways I simply do not experience any other way.  Being in nature, in his creation, is an act of worship for me.  It’s a coming home.  A re-situating of my rightful place in this vast universe.

But when my life on the inside – my heart and soul – finds themselves in the middle of a thick wilderness, the feelings are on the contrary.  I don’t experience God the same.   I’m still here in Orange County doing my life, while my insides are somewhere else completely.  The incongruency can feel like “something’s wrong with me” as I judge the state of my heart.

There’s a lost-ness in the wilderness. This feeling like the compass is broken and I keep passing by the same familiar paths.

Did I take a wrong turn?

Am I making the same repetitive loop?

There’s a feeling of abandonment – like God has left me to my own devices to find the way out.  Every direction seems like the wrong one.  Every step is labored, paired with the beating of my aching and broken heart.

Every self-sufficient, prideful effort to find the nearest wilderness exit puts me further and further away from surrender.

My way doesn’t work. It never works.

Out here I weep often for seemingly “no reason.”  Perhaps the reasons are so deep, so complex, that knowing their detail would altogether take me out – so he keeps them hidden from me – in his goodness and in his mercy.

Out here I throw sticks and rocks at the air in anger.  I kick dirt.  I target the tree trunks as if they were the reason itself…

Why didn’t you protect me?

Why did they leave?

Where were you?

How could you?

There is a deep mourning beneath all the rage.  Behind the rock throws and target practice is a girl who internalized her sorrow and pain, taking it on like a burden to bear.  A backpack of rocks.

Up until now, I thought my wilderness walk was solely to “teach me something.”  A lesson, almost like a punishment.  It’s no wonder why I’m angry.  And though I am learning out here, punishment-belief free (almost), I’m realizing that Jesus didn’t bring me here to “teach me a lesson” as much as he did to give me himself.

And not the Jesus of my fractured belief system, but the real one.  The one who loves me in my rock-throwing, faith-shaking, doubt-carrying, heart-breaking moments.  The one who sees my scars and kisses them as tears fall down his face and mine.  The one who takes my heavy-loaded backpack and carries it himself.  The one who clears the branches, lights the fire, and sets the stars in place for me to gaze at.  The one who journeys with me in my sorrow, in my anger, in my questions, and in the absurd, unexplainable joy found in each.

In his mysterious and upside down Kingdom, Jesus doesn’t reward accomplishments, he rewards the battle scars.  The truth of that reality has depressed me at times, I must admit.  This infamous “Man of Sorrows” came to bring the “good news” and yet at times, the suffering way can feel like carrying a heavy, unfair weight.

But in the quietness of the wilderness, I can translate with my heart the unspoken language of my tears.  I can feel the toxic poison leaving my body as I scream out in anger at the top of my lungs, hearing my yells echo throughout my surroundings.  In my spirit, I can feel the voice of my cries reach him.

The length of this wilderness leg of my journey isn’t knowledge or insight I have.  And I’m still very much in it.  So to end this with a pivot to a pretty, wrapped up Jesus lesson wouldn’t fit – and quite honestly, doesn’t fit with me any longer.

I am in process and will always be.  There will be another wilderness leg at some point after this one.  Struggling is inevitable, being hurt I can count on, loss is a part of this fallen world.  Those are not things I can control and strategize to avoid.  For if I avoid “the bad,” I avoid the good.

I suppose at this point, on this daily-bread day, the Jesus I experience is the one who carries my backpack and kisses my scars.  I feel seen by himand I had no idea that would be so big for my heart when I’ve spent much of my life wanting to disappear.

He sees me.  And the real breakthrough is: I want to be seen.

How beautiful: there is life-changing breakthrough in the painful, sorrow-filled wilderness.

I call that joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sky Rocket

The other evening I sat and stared at a blank screen for much too long. My fingers hit the keys to type out words only to lie on the back button and erase. Countless times I moved my cursor over the sentences: highlight, copy, delete.

For months, I have battled with this frustration. The desire to write yet nothing comes out. The longing to put to words the dynamics of my internal world; but they come up short and halfway through a piece I’ve started I get stuck. Call it writer’s block, call it something else.  I don’t know.

And that’s just it: I’m living in the “I don’t know.”

Somewhere within this last year, God jolted me awake in areas I didn’t know I was in slumber. I came into 2016 feeling numb and out of touch with my heart. I’m leaving this year fully feeling and in touch in ways I didn’t know existed.

These last few months have felt like my heart has been floating in space. Like someone blew up the box it safely lived in and rocketed it into the sky, out of the earth’s atmosphere, and into mystery.  

Somewhere in this trajectory, I outgrew my theology. I outgrew the beliefs in my heart that kept me from the real Jesus. For much too long, I’ve projected character traits onto him that resemble something like an imperfect, broken parent (because those are the only parents that exist).   Somewhere in the depth of my hurt not mourned, in my forgotten righteous anger not felt, in my fear of upsetting the Almighty God of the universe, I withheld some of my true feelings out of shame (as if he didn’t know they were there). Somewhere, in my desire to win and keep his love I forgot myself.   There is so much more to the story of how I ended up here: re-learning the heart of the real God and un-learning the one I created.

So much damage is done to the human soul when we believe in a Jesus who is disappointed, upset, or disenchanted by us. I could tell you with great conviction that I know how he feels about me, but to believe it and wrap my life around it is something different entirely. There are pieces of me that have absolutely believed and there are pieces that have been deathly afraid to tell him how I really am and how I’m really struggling – even with him.

It’s mind-blowing to me how long I’ve lived scared of him. Scared to upset or let him down. As if God is a giant thumb and I’m under it. The burden of it is probably what turned me so numb, unable to bear the weight of withholding the parts of me that didn’t understand, grew confused, or even frustrated with what he was allowing.

Which brings me back to my I don’t know.   I don’t know how to relate with this God. Which is why Christian platitudes fall flat and feel fake.  They’re trite because they’re true – and yet their power gets lost in the spoken redundancy of them.  I have to do away with them for now, though I firmly believe on the other side of this, they’ll be a much richer truth to me than they ever were before.

To “come as you are” has taken on a completely new meaning and look (ie: messy). The depth of that invitation has allowed me to experience a love I’ve only read about in scripture. I’m learning to not simply stumble, but to fall flat on my face in failure before him and to wrestle to express the depths of my heart, being honest with what’s there. I’m learning that I no longer like “holding it all together,” and if people see my mess then so be it. I’m learning that I don’t have to have the right job, the seemingly perfect marriage, or the life-changing words to matter.

Theology is such an illusive field of study because the closer I get to Jesus, the bigger he gets and the more I realize I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. The ways in which I have humanized him is such a tragedy of idolatry – I suppose he was done with my golden calf.

So in my desperation to feel as I begged him to un-numb my heart, un-numb it he did. And in the process, pain has ensued, but a necessary pain: the evidence of things coming alive. As the blood rushes back into my veins and pumps the life-blood to my heart, I’ve never felt more out of control, more alive, and more disoriented in all my life.

The Jesus I thought I believed, I believed only in part. That is why this place of mystery and I don’t know, this feeling of heart floating in space outside my safe little box is wildly different. To go from one (false) belief to a true one takes time. And residing in the in between requires a trust in him that I don’t think could be built any other way.

I think of the unknowns of the universe. The billions of stars, countless galaxies, the planets, suns, moons, and infiniteness of it all. I think of the money spent on space exploration, “pioneering” the uncharted territories to discover something new. I think of it’s grandeur and how majestic the sights of various galaxies must be close up. And I realize, even in all our explorations we’ll never fully know, grasp, or see it all. And I suppose that’s the beauty of it – for the mystery is what makes it beautiful.

I’m starting to get it, this little piece, I’m starting to believe in the goodness of letting the mysteries of God remain as such as I learn and draw close to him, being fully Cortney. There is something precious and valuable in the ‘I don’t know’ seasons of life. It’s when God breaks down our box and sky rockets our heart into space. Into mystery.

An Open Letter To God

(Swear warning).

 

God I don’t know if you’re real anymore. I just don’t know.

I yelled and cursed at you the other day – so loud, so angry I scared myself. As you know, that’s not a common occurrence for me and I find myself now, days later, having no clue what to do with it.

I told you I hated you. I told you I wanted nothing to do with you anymore. I told you I don’t want to follow you another step. I screamed, I cried, I hit my steering wheel, and I went home and fell into heaving sobs. In those moments overcome by anger toward you, I realized the god I’ve believed in is false – merely an idol of the lies I’ve adopted about who you are.  I also realized that my honest and raw feelings toward you leave me right smack in the middle between what I know about you to be true in my head versus what I believe in my heart.

Not long after my car conversation with you, I asked if I could take it all back. “I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean it;” there I go again, back pedaling. I caught myself, wondering why I felt the need to placate you, the Almighty God of the Universe, and then it hit me: I don’t believe I am loved in my anger. In my understanding and experience, anger is not allowed to be felt or expressed, let alone at you.

It feels so wrong to be so angry with you: someone who’s done nothing but good.  Though I know you can take it, it’s something I prefer to avoid – which I have… up until now. Anger is a signal that something’s wrong – and something here is very, very wrong.

“Do you believe He still loves me?” I asked my husband a handful of hours later. I couldn’t get it out without crying. If I tell you how I really feel, if I tell you how I really am and how this Father, Daughter relationship is in total breakdown for me, I then question if your love has reached it’s limit in the throes of my honesty and doubt.

In my arrogance over all these years, I somehow thought I would hurt your feelings if I ever got mad at you. In my fear of conflict and being out of right standing with you, I thought you’d get angry back – you know, all the defensives and ‘how dare you’ and ‘I didn’t mean it that way’ – kind of like how people do. Kind of like how family did growing up.  If I ever asserted myself that mirrored to them their own shortcomings, the shit hit the fan – so I learned to shut up and stuff it.

That’s not working for me anymore.

In fact, I stuffed so much anger I didn’t even know I was angry. “Who me? Angry? No no… you must have the wrong person.” After all, “angry women” are those women we don’t associate with – they’re the bitches of society and there was no way I was going to be her. So I learned to be the “nice girl.”

So here I am, Father, almost 33 and as mad as I’ve ever been… at you. The great divide between my head and my heart feels like such a Grand Canyon chasm I am absolutely terrified of how the gap will ever be closed. The God I’ve always known and believed in, the Rock I have built my life on, now feels like quicksand. The Word I’ve girded myself with now feels empty and hollow.

So where are you, huh? WHERE ARE YOU?

It feels like I’ve reached the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of my soul. I have been in some dark places before, but never in a dark place of faith. Even in times of heartache, depression, crisis, transition, and distress, I’ve never doubted your character – but these last few days, I doubt it often.

In the last few days I’ve heard people tell me “oh wow maybe you shouldn’t swear at God, or maybe don’t tell him you hate him… it’s okay just ask him for forgiveness.”  Christian platitudes make me want to vomit.  I feel them pushing me into some place I’m not ready to go. Pressing me toward being the “nice little girl” daughter because heaven forbid I tell you how I really feel. I suppose it makes them uncomfortable – but surely not as uncomfortable as it makes me.

Not just uncomfortable, but deeply painful. It’s taking all the courage I have to allow myself to feel this. Heart-wrenching, beating out of chest, where is home, who is God, who am I kind of painful. Down here in what feels like the pit of my soul is loneliest place I’ve ever been – you feel absolutely nowhere.

I’ve not been here before and I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t know how to reconcile my head and my heart. I don’t know how to believe the things I so desperately desire to believe. I don’t know how to reach for you when all I do is push and pull, cry and groan.

I do know that at the end of this there will be some forgiving I have to do and forgiveness I’ll have to receive, but I don’t know if I’m there yet. I want to be there right now as it feels more comfortable to quickly skirt along the surface, to make nice, so as to not feel the tension of this – but I choose to believe that until then, you honor my wrestle with you.

I choose to believe that you are here and that as I doubt, question, wonder, wander, and tell you how suffocated my heart has felt, you will love me still. I choose to believe that this is true intimacy –  exposing to you my deep and inner parts, however messy, embarrassing, and screwed up they look and feel.  I choose to believe that you welcome my honesty, no… that you cherish it and you’re not frightened or alarmed by it.  I choose to believe that you want authentic Cortney over some nice-girl image and never-rock-the-boat-or-tell me-how-you-feel-kind-of-Cortney. I choose to believe that in the upturning of all the trash I’ve believed about who you are, I’ll come to embrace the real God, my true Father, in ways I’ve feared longing for until now.

And yet in all my anger, in all my frustration at you – I can’t type without weeping.  Because even though I’m mad, I want you so badly, but not the you I’ve settled for.  Behind swollen eyes and a distorted cry face that looks like a punching bag, I long for the real you and not this bullshit, copout crap idolatry I’ve settled for. I long for true relationship where I can tell you how I’m really feeling and get mad if I need to.  Beneath all this anger I long for you, in all this anger I long for you.   I refuse to leave this wrestle until I get all of the real you.

 

the best is yet to come.

At times it can be far too easy to believe that the best years have already happened.

We may reminisce about the “good old days” or our childhood youth and and I’m sure often wish we could go back to a time when life was a little less complicated and, of course, full of hope.  Something happens as we get older – life comes in like a runaway train it seems.  We go through the motions into adulthood and then hammer out the mundane – get a job, pay bills, on and on.  Somewhere between playing at the park and getting our first job we forget what it was like to dream – to let our hearts and minds soar with an untamed imagination, not entertaining the fears of “what if I don’t make it?”

God has planned to give each of us a “hope and a future” and such plans don’t stall when we pass 30, 40, 50, or more.  They don’t fade if we’ve failed and fallen flat on our face for the hundredth time. They’re still as intact now as they were when we took our first steps.

But the fire in our hearts fades to a glow if we don’t fuel the passion, stand in our courage, and diligently walk out what we’ve been given. That is OUR part – we carry the glorious weight of responsibility.  Co-laboring with him in our piece, as Jesus does his alongside us.

Each of us, uniquely made to carry a dream, & the birthing of such doesn’t come without its hardships, heartache and pain.  But a life held back out of fear (among other things) would undoubtedly be a frustrated one.

I came home to this today – a sign from my husband “the best is yet to come.”

It’s seared into my heart even darker now, as its a truth phrase I have been living by this last year or so.  No matter where my mind races when my feet hit the floor each morning – this I know: I have HOPE – and you do too – that no matter what and who may happen – the best is still to come. I choose life – in all of its fullness, mixed with the continuous struggles and joy. Perhaps this is partly why Paul ran his race so well… He pressed on.

FullSizeRender-5 copy

Weeping Joy.

Ever felt like if someone asks how you are, you might spit out tiny shards of broken glass that were once a part of the whole of your fragile, now shattered heart.

Like if someone went into hug you, you’d heap yourself onto them, like on the lap of a father, and you’d heave and sob from a deeper ache that even you were aware of.

Ever climbed into the shower with the sole intent to weep – undisturbed.  Where the waters mixed with the salt down your face and you didn’t have to reach for the tissue or wipe away your leaky nose.

Ever felt so broken – again – and wonder why you’re back here – again – where the hurt feels as fresh as it did the very first time.

Ever wonder why brokenness always feels like heartache and every pulse feels like thumb pressure on a bruise – and in those moments on your knees you swear you’d give anything not to feel what you feel right now.

You’re angry because it hurts and you cry because there’s sorrow – and as your fists and tears find their expression, in a split second of God-strength you cry out to him…

HELP.

As my head meets my hands and tears flow through the cracks in my fingers – in a moment of stillness and clarity, I feel Him.

I feel His arms wrap around me, strong, tender, and steady – as my chest shakes from the weeping.

I feel Him on my deep breaths in, and when I exhale out, and in the midst of my hurt, I ask Him to take the pain and make it into something.

“Make it into something,” I mumble in a cry voice that can hardly be heard.  Because few things are more tragic than grieving in vain.

It hurts.  Nothing hurts like a broken heart.  There’s no bandage for the bleed, no ice pack for the swelling, no over the counter pain killer to take the edge off.

You have to live with it. Do life with it. The world still spins and responsibilities still call, all while this thing inside of you feels like it’s going through a war.

I have come for the weary.

The broken hearted.

The crushed in spirit.

I recite His words to keep me from plunging into despair.  And then I hear, faintly in the stillness, “I will turn your mourning into dancing…”

For only a heart that has experienced depth of sorrow, could experience such depth of joy.

God doesn’t kill pain, he uses it.  And though the mysteries of why I may never know, I have to trust it – trust Him – or else I’ll fall into the blackness of sorrow.

In the middle of my weeping, I’m not always comforted by “there’s a purpose to this,” because sometimes only a Father’s arms can do that – but I am reminded, in the quietness after my emotional storm, that He promises to make this good.  To make it better. To use it – for me, for Him, for others.

And the reasons as to why or how are left as unanswered questions for a God whose ways are higher and wiser than mine.

I’m not saying I always like it – that he has chosen to use pain in this way – but I trust that He’s good, even when it feels horrible – and that He’ll take my shattered heart, my swollen eyes, and my shaking chest, and He’ll turn it into something beautiful… in time.

So once again, I give Him my heart – all the tangled messes of it.  And I ask Him to make do with what He can.  To set right what’s gone off course, to mend what’s cracked, to fill what feels devastatingly empty.

And so I climb into bed at night, remembering what His word tells me “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit,” I await, in anticipation and trust, for His rescuing.

As a final tear rolls down my cheek and onto my pillow, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” I look forward to the sunrise of His joy, for I know that my weeping has a purpose – that it’s beyond meaningful – and He will see to it that this, and everything else that comes my way, will end in His perfect hands that maneuver all things for the good of my heart.  Joy.  That’s called joy.

 

 

Inferno.

I don’t know where I learned it. Maybe the world taught it. Maybe this fear quenched it. Maybe the boxes I’ve built over the years, shoving God in, kept me from it. Maybe the heartache and pain numbed it. Maybe the years of avoiding buried it. Maybe this unworthiness disqualified me from it. Maybe the voices of self-condemnation lied to me about it.

Maybe feeling out of control feels… unsafe. And I need safe. I really need safe.

God’s love is read about, written about, and preached about – so much so that in my lifetime of following him, I’ve stumbled over it like it were some elementary concept I learned years ago. Yeah… he loves me… this I know.

But I don’t know. I’m realizing that I don’t know much at all.

My heart breaks as I write. And I am reminded as to why I fought him on scribing these words as tears flow down my face because… because facing the truth is hard. Even when that truth is that God loves me. I mean really loves me.

Who knew. Letting myself be loved is downright hard.

I squirm. I shift. I shake my head no. I pull my gaze away from the holy of holies because how can he love me – still. I don’t trust it – and I know if I face him, I’ll unravel completely. An unraveling in a way I’ve never experienced before.

Control. Apparently, I prefer it.

“Let me just go forward with my life, Lord. Yes, yes you love me I know. Regardless of what I have or haven’t done or anything I will do, you love me still. I get it.”

I might as well kick him out the door.

The truth is, I haven’t been brave. Because God’s love asks that I bravely trust him. He asks that I bravely trust that he loves me just as I am – not as I should be. He asks that I bravely trust that he loves me day in and day out, on my good days and bad, regardless of how I feel, and in the face of all the world tells me I have to “be” in order to be loved.

It feels like free fall. Like being out of control. Like waves crashing overhead. It means I have to burn the boxes I’ve put him in. It means I have to un-numb my heart to feel again. It means I have to dig up what I’ve avoided, and dare, absolutely dare to trust that he sees me as a dad sees his daughter – unstained, unblemished, and worth loving.

It means cutting the ties and snipping the strings that have sustained my heart at a place of safety; but safety isn’t really what it is at all. It’s more survival really – and a heart living out of mere survival is living out of fear.

Fear. I hate it. And I’ve lived in it more often than I’d like to admit. Is it only coincidence then, that Satan loves to confide with me there for “perfect love casts out fear;” for if I let God love me, fear must flee.

But instead, I hold Fear’s hand and ask it to stay.

Trust.

I lack it.

Why don’t I trust his love? Why can I tell a complete stranger the grandeur of his love and not receive it for myself? My receiver is broken. That precious gift God gives – that little girl in me who believes and receives – she’s lost. She doesn’t know where she fits in, in this big, wide world.

That little girl – me… I’m scared. No, terrified really.

Rejection. I fear it most. Not being chosen and loved in the midst of my all out mess. I don’t know what that feels like – I’ve not let myself feel at all. To put my whole heart at his feet sounds more like a cause for self-implosion.

“1, 2, 3… jump,” I tell myself. Like a bungee jumper off a bridge, I imagine myself plunging into the depths of him. But my toes curl the edge and as I look down, my heart beats wildly, and with shortness of breath,

I shrink back.

From the outside it looks so easy. But the complexities of the heart know different.

Just jump.
Just trust.

“Coward,” I think to myself.

Lack of bravery.
Fear and self-concern override.
Lack of courage to face danger.

But it isn’t danger I’m trying to face. It’s God’s love. HIS face.

God’s love… dangerous? That’s how it feels. Because he calls for complete surrender. Full body. Full heart. Full everything. He tenderly asks “Can I have all of you… just as you are?  Can you share with me all that’s stored up inside your lonely heart?” And I have to make the courageous choice to relinquish control of this tattered, beat-up heart that I’ve mismanaged for far too long.

I hear him whisper.

Let me love you.
Let me love you.
Let me love you.

I strike a match and the boxes start to burn.

God loves if…
God loves until…
God gets tired of loving you…
God love you more when…

The boxes of lies, self-condemnation and unworthiness start to go up in flames. And the embers of courage flicker off the edges of the fiery blaze and my cold, numb heart starts to heat and smolder, like the friction of sticks, it ignites.

Inferno.

I crave his love right down into the very depths of me, but I’ve held it at arms distance for fear of losing it. I’ve feared the total abandonment of self, diving into the infinite waters of Jesus’s high, wide, and everlasting love because I was afraid.  I’ve always been afraid I’d lose it.  Fear felt more safe.

Fear lies.

As the consuming fire in my soul ensues, that little girl inside me is learning to receive again. I’m learning to let in what I’ve fought so hard to keep out – for love as I experienced it was too shifty, too wavering, too conditional. At the expense of my heart, it simply wasn’t worth it.

“Grace,” he tells me “all is grace.” And instead of striving to somehow pay him back, as if I ever could, I’m learning to say thank you instead.

Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you, Jesus.

For choosing this heart to die for. To pursue. To fight for.

To love.

I’m learning to trust him again – like a little girl would. For in the eyes of him, I am always a child. And it’s okay to unravel.

“Make me brave,” I ask him, “Jesus make me brave again.”

And he stands there with me at the edge of the fire and we watch as his love burns out the fear. “Courage,” he tells me, “it’s like the flick of a match… all it takes is a spark.”

I try again.

My toes curling the edge and as I look down, my heart beats wildly, and with shortness of breath,

A flick.  A match.  A spark.

I jump.

And the fear vanishes as quickly as it invades as I picture his face – beaming. He’s beaming.

From Death to Life.

In preparation for The 4th of July (or Freedom Day as I like to call it), I asked my wonderful husband if he would write something.  This is our incredible nations celebration of independence, but it also marks his 5 years sober.  It only seemed fitting, not only to celebrate this miraculous milestone and how 5 years ago today, his deadened heart beat again, but also what our incredible God has and continues to do through him, bringing light to a struggle that so many suffer from.

We live in a broken world full of broken people. None of us have arrived, have it all together, or win the award for “most gracious” when facing hardship head on. We all need something (Someone) greater than ourselves. To live a life of “just trying to be better” is rooted in a self-strength and a bootstrap mentality that ultimately enslaves in the long run. We can’t do this life – this wild, joyful, incredible gift that is equally painful, confusing, and all around heartbreaking at times – we can’t do it by ourselves, in our own self help “wisdom” or successes or strivings for more. Inside each of us is a deep need to be known, loved, and understood for who we are at our best, our worst, and everything in-between. We all struggle- every single one of us – but the question is, do you live out your struggle in secret and despairing? Or, do you bring it into the light, with someone you trust, and trusting in the love of God even on your most horrific of days. Life is messy. Our hearts are messy. Our pains and trip ups, mistakes and obstacles, ways we’ve really screwed up, hurt others, or devastated our own soul- it all has a purpose- in the grand story of Gods Kingdom, he enters and whispers “I have a thing for you…yes, even now!” In the noisy clatter of our own mind, self condemnation, or hopelessness, God longs to enter and offer a way out. Sometimes, he delivers us completely. Seemingly overnight. And other times, he delivers us through his guidance. He teaches us, with great truth, grace and love how to conquer. How to become fighters of light against the darkness in our own soul. He enables us the authority through Jesus to split the spirit in two, marrow and all, dividing the light from the dark. 

There’s something about a person who’s endured this fight. Who’s lived to stand on the other side with joy and proclaim to those who’ve suffered the same “I made it out. You can too. There’s more to life than this. The struggle doesn’t define you. Freedom can be yours.” Something about a person who has reached the end of them self, whose looked to the magnificent face of Jesus and said, “You must do this. I can’t.” There’s something about a person – who’s been through the trenches, the pain, the heartache, whether by their choices, the doings of another, or simply the hand they were dealt – who knows what it’s like to have nothing left in the emotional and physical reserve to merely “get through it,” but rather, to allow the weight of the affliction break their heart so the only One who can mend it may find his way in.

Our stories, no matter how tattered, ragged, or embarrassing we may feel them to be, can change the life of someone. You never know who may relate to what you’re going through, what you went through, and the struggle you can’t seem to shake. The greatest gift we are given is our opportunity to have a relationship with Jesus, and then with one another – for life was not meant to be lived alone and struggles were not meant to endure in solitude.

We can find rest beneath the refuge of the Almighty who tells us that our suffering is not in vain. Every sin is covered by his love, “for love covers a multitude of sins,” and the God of Heaven and Earth knew what your struggle would be, before you ever did – he knows how to enter, he knows how to rescue, and he takes great delight in doing so.

None, absolutely zilch of your pain or sin or mistakes or suffering is wasted if you give it all to Jesus who “turns all things to good for those who love him.” It’s a radical mystery- and it’s true.

Even now, in this moment, God is pursuing your heart to reconcile you to the Father. In other words, he wants to make you whole. Whole in him.  Though we try to find satisfaction, worth, and value in worldly things, they fall short every time, only widening the gap between the Father and child relationship; reminding us all the more that the emptiness we feel cannot be quenched by the finite, but only the eternal.

To any person reading and struggling, God’s love for you hasn’t wavered based on your progress or lack thereof.  It’s as constant, deep, wide, and high as it’s ever been and ever will be.  Your pain is not a waste, your sin is not too big, and your heartache is not the end of your story. He did not create you to simply survive, he divinely fashioned you to be “more than a conqueror.” It takes effort, diligence, prayer, and hunger to seek him – but of course, none of this is done without his unfailing love and abounding grace that envelops it all – and above all else, it requires that you embrace surrender, knowing full well that God loves you right where you’re at, and he’s in control, no matter how out of control you might feel. Those who cling to their life, inevitably lose it. But those who lose their life (to him), find it.

Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like you and me.

From the words of my husband – here is his story:

From Death To Life

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:13

So far in this journey of life I have yet to meet a person who has not experienced heartache of some kind. It is a thread, often tragically, woven throughout our stories. As I look back on my life, my heart soars with the visions of a joyous childhood, and plummets with the memories of personal deprivation and self-destruction. Growing up in the typical middle-class family, my childhood was filled with family vacations, little league baseball, and pointless fights with my sisters. The family environment I was raised in was deeply devoted to God, safe, fun, and an excellent atmosphere for a young boy to flourish. I had everything I could ever need. I have many friends that survived the horrors of broken families filled with abuse, neglect, and every other form of dysfunction, yet this is not my story. My mother and father provided for me a safe and loving family setting in which to thrive. The soil of my life was ripe for success and upward mobility.

However, this also is not my story.

I was not that high-school kid that blatantly rebelled without care or respect for authority. I rarely ditched class, and was terrified of getting in trouble. I believe this stemmed from a deep, seemingly tectonic, insecurity and fear of being seen as different and ultimately rejected. This created in me an unquenchable thirst for validation and a misguided striving for self-worth that always seemed beyond my grasp.

Enter drugs, alcohol, and sex.

These things are extremely powerful, especially to the developing brain of a teenager. When I began dabbling in these counterfeit forms of joy I had no idea I was starting down a road that would ultimately lead to my complete undoing. While at first fun and exciting, drinking and using drugs immediately became the most important thing in my life. The scariest part is that there was no real period of innocent, recreational use as is many others’ stories. I knew as soon as I got that first buzz/high that my mind worked differently than most. I am an addict, and I have known it since I was 16 years old. It didn’t take long for it to get bad enough that at 19 my parents arranged to fly me to the east coast to meet with a renowned counselor. Yes it helped, temporarily, but my addicted mind never went away. I can even remember taking handfuls of Tylenol PM in the hotel room each night just to feel something other than myself.

Needless to say, my addiction spiraled out of control for years and years. Name a drug and I can tell you how I have used it to destroy my life. There were periods of hope, but those were always brief and followed by the conscious, outright insane, decision to again go down the rabbit hole of deep addiction. When you are a full-blown drug addict, whether you want to or not, you associate and partner yourself with the evil sides of this world. Your friends become predators, your surroundings become dark and oppressive, and your hope for a life free from pain vanishes. I continually found myself in rooms surrounded by the likes of hardened criminals, violent skinheads, the kind of company found in nightmares. All because I was a slave to a chemical. If you were to ask me if I wanted help, if I wanted to stop, I would have told you yes. However, in my mind, I knew there was no hope for me. I knew I would never be able to not choose the drink or drug. I knew I would die a tragic, young death. I would join the group of famous renegades who all died from drugs or suicide in their late twenties, only without the fame or any recognition other than an obituary in the newspaper on page C17.

I constantly envisioned my family burying me with tear soaked faces, wondering what they could have done to get through to me. The truth is, there was nothing anyone could have done to save me.

My addict life accelerated to the point of critical mass at the age of 25. At the tail end of an 8-month Methamphetamine binge, I had reached my point of no return. I had hit many bottoms before, all with different levels of pain and sorrow, but this time it was different.

There was nothing of myself left in me.

The levels of depravity and personal despair I had willingly involved myself in had completely enveloped me. I had thought of suicide many times throughout my life, but this time it wasn’t just an idea, it was my only way out. All I wanted was to no longer exist, to be free from what I had become. With easy access to a firearm where I was living, the decision was made. That night, as I wrote what would be a short, pathetic suicide letter, my heart broke completely in half.

My life, which started with such hope and promise, would end with a flash and a note.

Yet on the darkest day of my life, where all hope had vanished, HE showed up. He had actually been there all along. In that place of total emptiness, Jesus, the Risen Savior, quietly whispered in my ear a word of love. Here I was, broken, addicted, in blatant rebellion against God, yet he chose to pursue my ragged, shame-filled heart without regard for all the ways I had disgraced him and myself. Jesus didn’t wait for me to repent, to turn from my ways, or to become a better person. He came to me in the midst of my brokenness and said, “My Beloved, I know your pain. I feel your heartache. I have loved, and always will love, you deeply and relentlessly. I have seen your rebellion and the twisted ways in which you searched for love and life. I have great plans for you. I am incessantly bragging to my father about you. Will you take the risk of letting me love you for who you are right now, not who you think you should be?”

My answer of “Yes” has and always will be the single greatest decision of my life.

5 years ago today, I took that risk to let Jesus love me completely, and he has set me free from that dark life of alcohol and drug addiction. It hasn’t been easy, and there have been plenty of hills and mountains to climb along the way. I haven’t always felt joyous and free, but what I always have known is the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father. He is a good, good father… it’s who he is. And I am loved by Him, it’s who I am. His goodness seems to never end: I have a family who has walked with me through this journey and who loves me unconditionally; I am about to graduate from an incredible University (better late than never!) with a pastoral degree; I have a job that fulfills me; and the greatest of gifts, I have met the woman of my dreams. Cortney has become the woman of my reality, a wife with such faith, courage, and depth that I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life exploring the magnificent mysteries of her.

On this Independence Day, I celebrate the freedom of life and spirit that were undeservingly gifted to me by Jesus of Nazareth. He has healed my broken heart. He has quenched my thirst for life. He has renewed my hope and paved the way for my adoption into Sonship with the Father.

Jesus called me home. He is calling you too…

  
 

Becoming the Beloved.

Jesus,

I want to see the me that you see.  The me that’s made in your image.  The me that you wildly, relentlessly love.  The me that you simply couldn’t do without – knitting me, forming me – all for your delight and pleasure.  Show me her.  Self-doubt, fear, and disappointment have plagued me too long.  Restore my eyes, Jesus.  Restore my heart – this heart that I’ve mismanaged for too long.  Enable me to see the Daughter you see so I can become her – my truest self – wrapped up, immersed, drenched in your love and the identity you’ve given me as your treasured Beloved.

 

My knees hit the carpet like it’s what they were made to do.  My tears saturated the floor before me as I wept from a place inside I had never felt before.  My heart ached.  It ached in a way it never had until that day – I could feel it, physically throbbing in my chest, like I was going to bleed out.  

My tears, like thick raindrops, fell from my eyes.  I had no words.  No prayers to pray.  Nothing left I could do.  I was at the end of my rope.  I was at the end of myself.  I remember that moment like it was yesterday.  The smell of fresh jasmine coming through my window – early spring had arrived, but my soul was imprisoned in winter.  Inside I felt a hovering darkness – a loneliness I simply couldn’t shake.  No matter what I did, no matter how often I prayed, read, and cried out, the emptiness followed me.   And the deeper I sought to uproot it, the deeper it went.  

As my knees gave way in tired desperation after another long day – everything inside me wanted to give up.  

Sometimes surrendering feels like that.  

Because it requires that we let go of all control – the thoughts we think, the actions we take – sometimes they are just our way of trying to make it on our own.  Trying to fix ourselves.  Trying to fix our life.  “If I just do this, then I’ll feel peace.  If I get a new job, get married, move out of state, go on a mission trip, switch churches, pray more…” on and on, we develop protocols to sustain our well-being (or lack thereof).  

I lied on my floor in a puddle – God’s love covered me that day in a way that changed me forever.  I had exhausted all my trying, hiding, fixing, and feeling sorry for myself.  I was done.  There were no other angles or adjustments I could make to get me where I wanted to be.  So I threw my stuff on the bed and fell to the floor and wept in utter surrender.  “I give up God.  I’m ready to do it your way.”

It was transforming. It was healing. In that moment, the bush burned before me and I was surely on holy ground. I stayed there for over an hour, basking in his presence like a child on her Fathers lap, gazing up at him- her safety, her protector, her advocate, her Dad.  Nothing could get to me, sway me, disturb me, or threaten me. It was me and him. My Abba.

That was the first time I ever intentionally allowed Jesus to love me.  I finally let my guard down.

What is it about us that keeps God at arms length in a “Jesus loves me this I know” kind of way, but doesn’t invite him to actually step in to the valleys in our heart and seal the chasms?

In a world seemingly gone mad, Jesus walks into the storms and messes of our lives and he affirms, “I love you.  What hurts you matters to me.”  So many times I’ve heard him ask me, “Can we talk about it?” and I turn my face away like a child not wanting to go there.  Because I prefer doing something about my struggles rather than bringing my struggling self to Jesus.  Doing something means I don’t have to vulnerable.  But talking about it, giving him my load and my heart, requires an intimacy that breaks every self-protective barrier I’ve built over the years.

The less that I surrender, the less of his love I experience.  Not because he holds back, but because I do.  Intimacy with my Father requires I lay myself bare.  My heart must remain exposed, naked and unashamed, in the presence of a God who knows the fullness of who I am and loves me still.

Before the Father of all fathers released his one and only Son into his 3 years of ministry, he spoke to him after his baptism and said,  “You are my Beloved.  On you my favor rests.”  He gave Jesus an unshakeable, immovable identity – Beloved.  God knew that life would strive to swallow Jesus whole… swallow him into despair, discouragement, and doubt.  He knew the worlds ways and the enemies schemes to sway, tempt, and oppress.  God knows every lie Satan has formed to cut his creation at the knees, dissolving their sense of worth into insignificant vapor.

He did not say to Jesus, “Go out and be strong!”  He did not say to Jesus, “Go out and make me proud!” He did not say to Jesus, “Go out and change the world!”  Though Jesus did all those things… God said, “Go out and BE-LOVED.  Above all else, know that you are loved, to the very depths of your heart, and from there – from that place of identity in my love– you will find life, you will do your greatest work, and you will know me like a child knows their Father.”

But in church on Sundays – we often miss it.  We miss the grave importance of what it means to be loved by God in a way that changes everything.   This isn’t the “oh yeah I know God loves me” type of love that we utter without really thinking about it, “I learned that back in middle school” or  “I learned that when I first got saved.”  This is a love-affair.  And by sheer definition it does not end at conversion.

I’m talking about real love.  It’s gritty.  It’s messy.  It’s unpolished and raw.  It’s rarely romantic or like some Hollywood hit.  Because God doesn’t come onto the scene like some mortal handsome hero with nice hair.  He doesn’t enter in like the beautiful woman of your dreams.  He makes the clouds his chariots and rides on the wings of the wind as the King of all kings… and he enters your space, your room, your sacred place where it’s just you and your thoughts. (Psalm 104:3)  He knocks on your door – and if you crack it open just a little, I know he’ll stick his foot in and open it wide.  He’ll do it because he wants to love you.  He wants to be a part of what ails you, hurts you, and keeps you up at night.  He wants to place his hand on your deepest wounds, shed light on your darkest secrets, and love you where you feel completely, utterly, and hopelessly unlovable.

Your identity is the Beloved.  And just because you may not be able to agree or believe it right now, doesn’t make it any less true.

Every spring when the jasmine is in bloom, I remember that tear-filled night on the floor of my apartment bedroom.  It’s sealed on my heart like a branding iron as I felt Jesus say to me, “You’re mine.  You’re my Beloved.  You’re mine.  You’re my Beloved.”  He repeated it over and over and over again.  I’m certain he knew all along that at some point, I would come to the end of myself.  At some point, I would stop seeking to be “found” anywhere else, but in him.  At some point, I would stop striving and trying so hard.  At some point, I would stop pushing him away and enduring the dark loneliness that comes when I stick him in a corner.  At some point, I would just let myself be Cortney and be okay with who I am, where I’m at, and all the questions I don’t have the answers to.  And the greatest thing about it – is that I didn’t get up off the floor that night “all fixed up” and ready to go.   Something far better happened.  I got up off the floor that night as a known and loved daughter of God and that is worth a thousand tears.

God isn’t out to fix you.  He is out to know you.

Martin Luther once wrote that our greatest need is to be deeply known and deeply loved.  And the older I get and the more of life I experience, the more I realize how right he is.  We want to be known, but we fear it… because what if we aren’t loved for all of who we are?  And we want to be loved, but we fear it… because what if we aren’t  loved where we need it most?  It’s that ongoing dichotomy struggle – we want it, but we also want to protect ourself from further rejection and pain.  Therein lies the great need to know our identity as Beloved children of God and the eternal inheritance that comes with it.  Being deeply known and deeply loved equals freedom.

You can hide and strive and clench and control all you want, but at some point, your knees are going to hit the floor and you’ll hear a small voice rise up in your heart as you reach the end of yourself – and that voice will cry out “Do you love me? Can I be loved even like this?” And he will answer back with a resounding, excited “yes!” and you’ll never be the same.

The courage to surrender our heart and expose it to God marks a fork in the road of our journey with Jesus and our walk toward the freedom he’s already assured for us.  That kind of surrender feels like free-fall, it feels like a complete loss of control, and that’s because it is.  No longer is our heart gripped in the finite and clenched fists of our imperfect grasp where we get to control how much we let God in – now it’s in the hands of God who is “greater than our hearts and knows everything.” 1 John 3:20  Now it’s in the hands of the Master Surgeon who can do his finest work as he stitches up our wounds and lets the Light in as he whispers, “You are my Beloved.  YOU are my Beloved.  And on you my favor rests.”

 

Dirt and Deserts.

Screen shot 2015-03-19 at 4.18.50 PM

I look down and my hands are covered in soil. I think about how many times the crevices of my heart have also been covered in soil – like dirt jammed beneath my fingernails from digging through nutrient-dense earth, God has gardened my heart in like a seed.  A seed that he’s planted with great intention and the promise for new growth in due time. But the time for sprouting hasn’t come yet, so my heart remains here – in the dark and plain soil – that quite honestly gives me no glimpse or insight into how or when this sprouting will take place.

In seasons of waiting, our hearts are like tiny seeds. He hems us in and asks that we trust him.

During germination, water diffuses through the coats of a seed and into the embryo, which has remained dry, but as the water makes it’s way in, a swelling occurs; a swelling that is often so great that the seed coat is ruptured. With the new found oxygen the seed has received, energy is made available for growth. There is a continual breaking down or “dying” of a seed that occurs deep in the soil before green life pushes through the surface.  Any gardener knows that with the right amount of water, good temperature, and nutrient dense soil, their seeds will produce fruit in their due time. But that period spent in the ground, covered in dirt, to the natural eye it doesn’t look like much at all. Any passerby’s wouldn’t know there was life growing beneath the surface because their eyes can’t see it. Because for awhile, all it looks like is a pile of mud.  If in our mistrust and impatience we keep digging up the soil to see if the seed is doing what it’s supposed to do, we’ll kill the process. We have to let it be and relinquish the temptation to control what only God can do. 

When we are led into periods of waiting on God, our heart is strengthened.  “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength…” A type of training occurs that no other season could do.  Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and nights and he was trained and tested in the waiting – the enemy tried to tempt him. But Jesus fought back with the word of God, from a place of utter conviction and faith in the goodness of his Father, even though he was hungry, tired and thirsty. He knew there was more going on besides just a wasteland of dirt and a hot sun.

But life feels like that sometimes doesn’t it?

When we are in periods of waiting, the temptation is to look to the natural for a way to bring inner relief for the pressure we feel inside. We dig up that seed and long to see something, anything happening to bring us a sense of relief and that all will turn out okay.  But when we meddle with God’s timing, it seems to cause us undue heartache and prolong the wait –  and he doesn’t lengthen the waiting to punish us; he’s not surprised or thrown off by our meddling, but he’s after our heart and the refinement of it.  And so if waiting is what our heart needs, then waiting is what he provides.

The more we look to the natural world around us for some “sign” that he’s working, the more the pressure builds, and the more we worry, fear, and lose hope. Because what we can see in the physical is merely temporal – a vapor – and it’s never going to bring the consolation that faith will.

The substance of what’s hoped for. The belief in the unseen.

Our trust in him is absolutely vital. Because much of the time, we’re not going to tangibly see what he’s doing or know how it will all turn out.  A seed doesn’t know that it will become a plant or a tree that bears fruit.  A tiny acorn doesn’t know it will someday become a giant, royal oak. And if centuries ago we discovered seeds for the first time, I doubt that we’d imagine such a tiny thing would produce something so great… in time.  We can’t analyze and assess what we think God is doing or how he’ll do it.  That only breeds discontentment, discouragement and fear that’s riddled with a control that, ironically, ultimately ends up controlling us.  We are required to trust and stay humble – and he’ll do the growing.  When our hearts are planted in the soil he’s toiled, we look around and all we see is dirt. At times, we may catch glimpses of his hand, but all in all the work is a hidden work – a buried beneath the soil, heart-hemmed-in-dirt kind of work.

It was after Jesus spent those days and nights in the desert that he began his ministry. It was then that he began to preach, call the first disciples, heal the sick, and perform the miraculous. I don’t find it a coincidence that Jesus spent time in intense waiting before God released him into his ultimate call. In that lonely desert, God was after something in his Son’s heart that only a desert of waiting could do. I truly believe that seeds were planted in Jesus’s heart in those 40 days. Seeds that would bear fruit in his ministry and bring healing and freedom to those that believed.  Though he was fully God, he was also fully man – and there were things God had to work into and out of Jesus’s heart before he could move him into what he had planned next.

Don’t look to the world – because more often than not it’s going to discourage you – it’s going to appear that nothing is happening, or that God abandoned you to your own devices; but rather look to his word for it never returns void.  He’ll guide your eye to something on those pages that’s going to breathe life into your weary soul.  Outwardly, things may look dim and murky.  But internally, God is sifting your heart like gold.  Surely, it doesn’t feel good and there are times of raw complaint where you may groan an authentic cry like David,

“How much longer must I wait?!”

God? Are you there? Have you forgotten about me?

There is an enduring spirit inside of you that can only develop through time spent in training to wait. This is where you deepen your roots. A seed never sprouts until its roots are securely fastened, gripping the minerals of the soil. If you halt your waiting prematurely, you’ll miss out on the ripened fruit.

Let patience have its perfect work.

If you don’t, you’ll remain ill-equipped for what God had planned for you next. Keep in mind, such halting doesn’t worry or anger him, he never loses his patience with you, and he’ll create detours where need be.  You can’t thwart the will of God, but you can drift “outside” of it.

Abide.

If you hold out, grip to hope and trust in his infinite faithfulness, you can bypass the detours altogether.  Because God is always looking to give you an upgrade.  For the waiting isn’t a way to merely pass time, but rather a cultivation of heart that learns the still, small voice of a God who uses dirt and deserts to grow you.

FullSizeRender

A waiting heart ripens with time.  With tears and with prayers.  With hope that feels dashed and yet stands back up again.  It ripens with suffering – when it feels like he has toiled enough – even more than we can handle.  It ripens with watering from his word, his presence, and his love.  It ripens with faithto see past the natural and transcend the circumstance to see things that aren’t as though they already are.  A ripened heart has been broken and mended. Broken and mended.  Broken and mended.  Much like the seed, when God breaks down a part of us that needs breaking, whether it be a false mindset, an attitude, pride, etc., it creates room for him to enlarge our heart and inhabit inside of us in areas we didn’t give him permission to before.  With each breaking we get softer and more humble, with each mending we grow more whole and more dependent on a God who will do what he says he’ll do.

Our life here on earth seems to be a constant pattern that includes season after season of waiting.  We can moan, complain, kick and scream while we wait or we can trust, pray, trust, and pray until that tiny, strong, and relentless sprout emerges through the earth and toward the Light.  The times where your heart lay buried in the soil, are times of a necessary darkness – not an evil, torment type of darkness – but a time where God can foster a faith inside you that will transform you from the inside out.  Eyes of faith transcend the dark – so if you’ve never journeyed in darkness – how do you develop eyes of faith?  In training periods like these, what will bring you the most peace is the learning of his word.  That’s how Jesus fought back Satan in the desert.  “The Word of God says…”  And not “the world says” or “my fear says.”  For a heart in waiting must be packed in by a soil that’s dense in the truths of God – if not, you’ll despair, you’ll lose hope, and you’ll accept defeat.

It’s not forever as this season will turn into another – reap then sow, reap then sow – so don’t let fear take root and rot what God has planted.  Before long, you’ll be bearing the fruit of your patience; you’ll have developed a renewed strength, soaring on wings like eagles.  (Isaiah 40:31)

Your heart must be ripened and prepared – or else the sweet joy of the blessing will taste bitter and bland.

The Harvest is coming.

Fusion

When I was a little girl, the age of “thirty” represented grown up and old. Yet here I am, and I feel neither. Deep down, I feel like a little girl still; a girl who wants to ride her bike until the street lights come on and play wiffle ball with her brothers where the street sewer represents home plate. But as the days fly by and the seasons of life exit as quick as they enter, I am reminded that growing up is never-ending and just because my digits get higher, my state of heart doesn’t have to.

I believe we all carry within us a little girl or a little boy; the child that lives inside even when we’re 92. When I get around my mom, there are parts of my childlike self that come out, uncontrollably so, wherein they won’t surface around anyone else. There’s a child in each of us, and it becomes quenched with time, life, and pain, as the outside world and circumstances pushes it deeper and deeper in until it’s barely recognizable – almost a nuisance. But before we are anything else, we are children of God first, and such an identity carries a much more glorious weight than an age.

Inherent in each of us is the need to cry out to our God “Father!” as a child does, in times of distress and trouble, joy and celebration, in pain and sorrow. And yet so often, that doesn’t happen. It’s a tragedy, really. We don’t reach out to him because we don’t know how, our earthly father wasn’t the example we needed, or we think we don’t need his help – maybe we’re too fearful he won’t give it.

But there’s a God of heaven and earth, who formed and fashioned and knows you, who longs to Father you, and he’ll never push away the voice of his child.

A handful of months ago, I entered a season of life that I knew would carry with it immense healing for my heart. What I didn’t predict, however, is that such healing would come by way of allowing the little girl inside of me to receive love, care, and compassion in ways it simply never had before. I have felt like a 12 year old trapped inside a 30 year olds body – on one hand, I’m moving toward marriage, but on the other, I want to lay on my mom’s lap and ask her to rub my head like she used to. I feel torn. The little girl in me has emerged after a long time in hiding and the woman I have become is struggling with how to fit her in.

The dichotomy of such far transcends age, just as all of life does, and I am left with a split heart – half girl and half woman – experiencing the Father of all fathers, my Abba, fusing the two into one. If that’s not healing, I don’t know what is.

So there I was, on a run in the neighborhood I grew up in, weeping my eyes out as my sweat mixed with tears, and it dawned on me that I am not alone in this. Many of us, far too many to count, have allowed our childlike self to be buried inside, lacking the understanding that it is in this place where we experience the Father.

Because no matter the age, your heart and mine beats for the leadership of a Dad.

We need him to be there. To show up. To teach us. To guide us through matters we don’t get, can’t get, and may never get. We need him to be available, all the time, no matter the hour or urgency. We need him to raise us up into grown men and grown women, but never losing a heart that needs, trusts, and depends on him like a child would. But most of all, more than anything else on earth, we need him to love us wildly, deeply, and relentlessly. We need him to pursue our hearts, like a father wanting to know the depths of his child’s thoughts, so that we can be assured he loves us just as we are, in the very midst of all that we are – imperfect, but perfect through his eyes.

The purity and innocence of a child, the creative ability to dream, the vulnerability and inherent courage to trust with joy, it’s already inside of you, it’s just been beaten down by the mundane and by pain, by lies like “that’s impossible” or “that’s not a real job,” and by hurt that was never mended and comforted, forcing you to steel it off, shake it off, and act like a grown up at age 10.

I am coming to realize that I can’t really “grow up” unless I allow myself to be a child first. And even more than that, a daughter. We are all Sons and Daughters of the King – we entered the world that way, we’ll exit it that way, and we’ll live eternally that way. It’s who we are. So to live a life that rages against the childlikeness inside would be absolutely heartbreaking. Not only for you, but for Him – because Father is the very essence of who he is.

Independent, self-sufficient, and I-can-figure-this-out-on-my-own, will never work out because there’s a child inside of you crying out for a Father. That little girl or little boy is your gateway to true wholeness of heart. Dim the noise of adult life and chatter and hold up the microphone to the soft voice of the kid inside. And then listen.

Maybe you had to grow up fast. Maybe you didn’t have much of a childhood. Or maybe you lost yourself somewhere along the way. Whatever your case may be, it’s never too late to come out of hiding.

And when you do, somehow in time, he will fuse your split heart into one. I know this to be true because I’m experiencing it firsthand. He blends the little girl in with the woman, the little boy in with the man, effortlessly so, never losing the distinctions of each, where they come to work for one another and not against. The child inside is no longer buried, hidden and pushed away – no longer a nuisance.

You can cry out “Father!” without thinking twice because a child never would – and he will answer “Yes! My beloved, I’m here!” with a sheer delight to know you because a Father always does.