My guest post today is by someone whose blog I’ve been reading for a little while now. I appreciate her writing, and love for God, and I’m confident you’ll enjoy what she has to say, too. Lindsay O’Connor’s post today reminded me of myself and my own relationship with God and brought me to tears as I thought about how God cares so infinitely about each and every one of us–enough to speak right to our hearts. I encourage you to visit Lindsay over at her blog: Rooted in Love.
by Lindsay O’Connor
I had the pleasure of attending a women’s retreat recently. The retreat center was close to home but felt surprisingly rural with beautiful woods and a tiny chapel on the property. We had a chunk of time when we could choose from among several activities, including going outside for quiet reflection. I kept thinking of a retreat I went to several years ago when I felt like God spoke to me through Scripture I saw in a chapel, and I felt again the tug to go by myself into the chapel. I was so eager to get there that I practically ran out of the room as soon as our free time began, hoping I didn’t seem rude in my pursuit of solitude.
My steps slowed as I approached the door, and I felt a little afraid. I had the strong sense that God had something to say to me in that chapel, and I wasn’t sure what it would be or if I would like it. I waited, fully aware of how ridiculous it was to be afraid of going into a building to hear from God when He is already outside of it with me. I thought of the first time my (now) husband asked me on a date after three years of friendship. I was so nervous, I had had to tell myself, “It’s ok, it’s just Chris. It’s just your friend, Chris.”
I used the same kind of self-talk again: “It’s ok, it’s God, the one who loves you dearly. No need to be afraid.” With that, I opened the door. I looked around, noting the few rows of pews, the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and the large narrow window at the back with the cross centered in it. I waited, remembering the other chapel I visited three years ago, when a framed scripture on the wall had stood out to me.
“Words…words…I need words,” I thought desperately. I scanned the walls. No words in sight. I felt embarrassed by my need for things to be so obvious and literal, and I wished I could be more artistic and abstract, like so many people I admire. I felt a little ashamed, like I didn’t have enough faith to hear from God in some other, more sophisticated way.
My eyes came to rest on the only words I could find, carved into the wood of a small altar in front of the window with the cross. They read, “THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME.” I turned these words over in my mind, thinking of the Last Supper and of the importance of using memorials to remember what God has done. I wondered what He wanted me to remember at this moment, and then I thought about the words being on an altar. An altar. The words had brought my attention to the altar, a place to leave something, to make a sacrifice.
I walked up to the altar to examine it more closely, running my hand over the ridges of the painted wood.
“Let go of your fear and anxiety. Let go,” the whisper of a thought seemed to say.
I’ve spent the past year learning about my true self and my false self and have found that my false self is wrapped up almost inextricably in anxiety. Romans 6:6-8 says,
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
For me, to die to myself and to the “sin which so easily ensnares” me (Heb. 12:1) means to die to my old way of being–anxious and fearful. I prayed for God to help me leave my anxiety and fear on the altar. I waited a moment longer and sensed that that was the end of what I was supposed to hear.
As I turned to leave, I took a few steps and then turned around to look back at the altar, as though Jesus Himself were standing there. In my mind, I asked, “Is that all?” I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss anything else I was supposed to hear. Through the silence, the words came into my mind, “I like words, too.”
I smiled. I like words, too. Jesus, the Word that became flesh. I realized that He made me a lover of words, just exactly as I am, because that is exactly how He wanted me to be. I basked in His pure delight in me, releasing the shame I had placed upon myself. I thought of the words of Anthony DeMello: “Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.”
The next day at church, the sermon was about the baptism of Jesus, when the heavens opened up and the voice of God said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Lk. 3:22). The pastor encouraged us to pray and ask God what He wanted to tell us about Jesus. I prayed and waited, and the response came:
“I am the One who delights in you.”
In Tattoos on the Heart, Gregory Boyle writes, “We breathe in the spirit that delights in our being—the fragrance of it. And it works on us. Then we exhale (for that breath has to go somewhere)—to breathe into the world this same spirit of delight, confident that this is God’s only agenda.” I am learning to inhabit His delight in me. If we could learn to inhabit the Lord’s delight in us, I am confident the world would change radically.
After five years of teaching elementary school, Lindsay is now living her dream of being a stay-at-home mom to two lovely daughters, which is harder, less glamorous, and much better than she had imagined it would be. She is embarking on a new journey with the writing of her first book, which draws from her experiences with motherhood, pregnancy loss, and postpartum anxiety/depression. Her book-in-progress explores how shame plays into these struggles and offers Scripture-based insights into how to move beyond shame and into the abundant life Jesus desires His children to experience. She has a passion for creating safe spaces for women to share their stories and struggles and would love to hear from you! You can find her over at http://blog.lindsayoconnor.com.