Everyday Grace

Searching for goodness in the ordinary

Day 8: As You Are // 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness

Oct
08

photo: Tobi Dami

Hi there! This is day 8 of a series I’m writing this October called 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness. You can find the entire series here: 31 Days of Hope in Brokenness.

So, disclaimer: This post has a cuss word in it. I hope that won’t stop you from reading, but if it does, then okay. It was the only word that felt right in the context and gets my point across the way I wanted to. I love Jesus, but I cuss a little. If you think you might be offended by that, now is the time to click away. Okay, onward.

Before I took my first breath, my father decided he didn’t want to have anything to do with me. To this day I’ve never met him, and I don’t know anything about who he is or what he is like. He has sent zero birthday cards and we have had no phone calls. I don’t know if he even knows about me. I don’t even have a picture of him, or know his name. 

Somehow, this event embedded itself deeply enough into my soul that it has always left me feeling worth a little bit less, and leaveable, like who I am just isn’t worth sticking around for. As a kid, I thought maybe if I were prettier, or thinner, or less awkward my dad might have stayed. I wasn’t equipped to realize yet that his decision had nothing to do with me; he likely wasn’t ready to have a child, or maybe he didn’t know about me. His reasons were his own and his choices are his fault. But my adolescent brain couldn’t process that he would have left any child, not just me. As an adult, I have of course realized this, but it’s been a little trickier to get that truth from my head to my heart. As a result, I have always felt a sense of deep inferiority, and this lie has penetrated into every corner of my life, even infecting my relationship with God.

God portrays Himself as a Father in the Scriptures, and as a fatherless girl, this was difficult for me to get my mind around. If you grew up with someone in your life who positively exemplified what a father is supposed to be, you will probably make the intended leap with this metaphor and be able to understand that God is telling us He is a protector and leader who loves us fiercely and tenderly, as fathers are supposed to love their children. For a fatherless girl, a picture of God as Father doesn’t translate. What do I have to compare Him to? What picture did my biological dad leave me as a lens through which to view God? If I go by my life experience, fathers leave. Fathers decide they don’t want you anymore and give up on you. Fathers will, sooner or later, get sick of you and discard you and never look back. This is not who God is, but this is who my father was. It has taken my Heavenly Father years upon years to unravel these lies that have blocked my view of Him and made me scared to trust Him. I confess that I still don’t. At 29, I’m still learning how.

One of the slowest and most effective ways He has taught me He won’t leave is by simply not leaving. Over the years, the message started to sink in and I started to believe it. Some people’s salvation story happened in a moment, like they got hit by a bolt of lightning all at once, and everything instantly changed. My salvation story happened in years, like I was a dog at the pound that had been kicked too many times, and it took Jesus a long stretch of patiently sitting across the room with His hand outstretched before I would venture over. He had to play the long game. I remember meeting God so slowly that I can’t actually point to the day or exact experience when “I got saved.” I know I am, but I couldn’t tell you when exactly.

I remember being 14 or 15 and just terrified that God would get tired of my bullshit and my sin and my emotional baggage and just leave. I had been left by a father before, I knew how this went. Eventually, He would figure out I wasn’t worth His time or sacrifice. I began obsessing over holiness and trying to prove myself to Him, that I could be His daughter. I got baptized, I got up early and went to Sunday school, I was in the Word constantly – and some of this was due to honest hunger for God because I was a brand new baby Christian, but some of it was because I was trying so hard to get God to like me. My constant prayer was please don’t throw me away. 

But then I turned 16, and 17, and so on and so forth and He was still there. He proved He wasn’t going to leave by just not leaving. As He continued to not-leave, I started to believe maybe He was sticking around. He has continued to stick around. I don’t always feel Him, but my faith that He is still there even when I don’t has grown stronger and steadier with time.

I’m telling you this story because if you are anything like me, you may have felt at some point that you had to clean up your act before God would want to have anything to do with you.

Our culture is obsessed with self improvement. We want to be skinnier, prettier, faster, stronger, more powerful, wealthier, and ageless, and we will spend a lot of money and time to get that way. Our perfectionism shows through when we are searching for God, too – we think that we need to get ourselves together before we approach Jesus. I’m so grateful we are wrong.

There are tons of instances in the Bible that place Jesus with broken people. He is accused of socializing with the wrong crowd, hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks. The people who move Him in the Scriptures are prostitutes, drunks, tax collectors (I think of the people who come after me to pay my student loans), and other folks the religious people don’t want to be around.

He did not wait for them to be their prettiest and best selves. He wanted to hang out with them regardless. He still does.

I have good news and better news. The good news is that we don’t have to clean ourselves up to come to Jesus. We can run to Him as we are. Fatherless, prostitute, drunk, tax collector, something worse…bring all your crap. He can handle it.

The even better news is that God wants us as we are, but hope says He will not leave us that way. If He can become a Father to a girl who barely knows what one is, I’m telling you He can become what you need, too.

I believe the God of the universe has such healing for my father wound that one day, I will barely remember it. I believe that one day, all that will be left of it is a scar and a story, a way to make it not be for nothing, but transformed into words that will heal others walking through their own brokenness. I believe this for you, too. I’m telling you this part of my story because I was once a girl afraid to run to God until my brokenness was patched up and I was acceptable. What I didn’t know was that He was the only one who could patch me up and make me acceptable. We don’t have to get ourselves together to come to Jesus; we can run to Him as we are, and He’ll get us together. So now, I am a girl running to God expecting Him to do something beautiful with this hot mess I’m bringing Him. My hope comes from Philippians 1:6:

“For I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,”

and Isaiah 64:4:

Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” 

I am waiting for you, Jesus. Amen.

-c

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