I thought there was only one way to tell the story. I was sure there was only one way to begin.

The beginning was the black page in my own little copy of the wordless book. The beginning was the black bead on the bracelet I made in Vacation Bible School. The beginning was the first bullet point in every gospel tract I’d ever seen. The beginning was that first brick on the Romans Road to Salvation: we all have sinned.

Sin, separation, estrangement: this is how the story always began.

***

the weight of knowledge

***

I thought I knew the story. I thought I had it right.

It began with a great debt. I owed this Christ everything. This is the story I was taught, and this is the story I believed.

This is the story that has shaped my whole life. And this is the story I still believe.

But I spent years crawling my way back to the beginning of the story. And ten years ago, I arrived. Desperate with pain and unmet desire, I let go of that black page. I let go of the blood-red, and I let go of the white.

I’d spent my whole life clinging to my own cleanness, my own goodness, trying to pay back the debt I owed, but it no longer mattered. The only things that mattered were these: was I known? Was I loved?

***

When belief unraveled, when it no longer seemed to matter if I was good, I heard this: I see you.

God didn’t care if I was good. And he didn’t care if I believed. But he cared that I was hurting.

Because he loved me like I love my babies. And he held me like I hold my babies.

He held me until I could say, like Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

***

It is Lent, and I am thinking about sin. I am thinking about the Love I encountered ten years ago.

My prayer these weeks has been the same every day. It is brief and simple: search me, O God, and know my heart. The result has been surprisingly straightforward. It has felt like God placing a mirror right in front of my face.

I can’t help but see what the mirror reflects, and I cringe. I see something ugly, something so buried I would never have discovered it on my own, and I feel the expected shame. I’d like, just for a moment, to forget what I’ve seen. But then another thought occurs to me: it takes such love to hold up that mirror. Thank you, God, I whisper. Thank you for loving me enough to show me this.

It’s as if God is the friend who won’t let me leave the house with spinach stuck between my teeth or toilet paper clinging to my shoe. What a relief it is to have a friend like that.

***

And so, I have finally arrived at the black page. The black bead. The first brick. But I am not afraid. I am not ashamed. At least, not for long. Because I know what comes next. I know about the blood-red, and I know about the white.

And this story?

It is a love story.

***