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.
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.
And I breathe a deep, cleansing breath! A sigh of relief!
Thank you, Tracy. Love having you here.
“It is Lent, and I am thinking about sin. I am thinking about the Love I encountered ten years ago.” It was only three years ago for me but I too have been thinking about sin and the Love I encountered…and His love story for me continues. I’ve never previously observed lent but I’m learning when we give something up (that we really needed to give up) and give to Him, He in return gives us so much more. He fills us.
Blessings to you.
It’s true, He does! Thank you, Beth.
Some translations of Palm 139 use the word wicked instead of offensive way in me. At first I didn’t want to aa pray with that wicked word… After all am I not beyond wicked? But as I thought aren’t my offensive ways… those more subtle wicked ways the wicked that God is holding up my mirror to?
I don’t like some of my thoughts. That offensive way is subtly about me. I can’t get beyond it. Please Lord lead me in the way everlasting.
I must keep rreading your words.
Thank you, Sue! This is a powerful prayer, and I am so glad you suggested it.
I fell asleep last night reminding myself, or rather God reminding me, of how to break a shame cycle and not be drowned in the cesspool I see staring back at me. Lent is a rendering of the most painful kind. I’ve seen the ugly parts of my heart that are often masked with frenetic paces of life. The challenge is to remember I don’t have do anything to fix it, just surrender to Jesus. Loved this. Love you! Your words are a comfort this morning, thank you.
Christie, I so love this tender, honest post. Lent has become a season of such beauty to me. How we can learn to see LOVE in the brokenness, and joy in the struggle of refinement. He is WITH us and so He is our good friend, our comfort and companion, when we see the ugly there in our reflection. I pray that as you continue to look, you always see Him there, next to you, loving you right to the very edge of yourself. Love you, friend.
I have been experiencing a bit of despair lately, and this reminded me that even when I’ve heard and seen, I still forget. Just like the ancient Israelites. But I am known and resting and that “knowingness” walks me through another day. Thank you for a beautiful, grace-full reminder of Christ’s love.
You are welcome, Cindy. Praying Easter comes quickly for you, in every way.
Great hope, Christy. Thank you for sharing ALL the truth – that we are desperate sinners, but really, truly, our beginning is Him. Everything before Him was black beads. He is the beginning of our true identity…and then, gently, the mirror. Love your Lenten posts.
Thank you, Tresta! So glad, as always, to have you here.
This is lovely, deceptively simple and feels like the first tendrils of spring (even though spring has come before and will come again). Thank you for sharing this love story with me.
Thank you, Cara. I’m so glad my story spoke “spring” to you. Lent is long, this winter has been very long, but, yes, something new is springing up.
It makes me so sad that we, who grew up with the Lord, somehow by someone’s instruction or the Devil’s lies, we have the missed THE message of love, not condemnation. Raising children has been the biggest lesson in a parent’s unconditional love – not in spite of their flaws, but because they NEED me because of their flaws! It’s my joy to love them. I think John Eldridge said it best: “Sin is not the story. Sin is the blight ON the story.”
Oh, Christie, Christie! This is fabulous. I wrote about that book with the black page in my Q & A series, but I love what you’ve done with it here. You turned it all on its head by coming back to it from the position of the one who is loved. And that makes ALL the difference. Thank you so very much. (And I’m TICKLED TO DEATH that you’re with us at ADS.)
This was my post: http://dianatrautwein.com/2014/01/q-a-week-three-remembering-what-comes-first/