Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Release Them" -- Love, Fear, and Letting Go of the Past

Summer. The beginning of Wedding Season, and I wasn't exactly in the best place to enjoy it.

"This weekend is a celebration of love," I wrote in my journal the night before a friend's wedding. "I'm in a particularly vulnerable place right now, since I've been reminded of my wounds and my agreements about love. Things look poised to press all those vulnerable places tomorrow. Protect me, God, from making agreements with lies; heal my heart."

I had been re-reading a new favourite book, Walking with God by John Eldredge, and in one chapter the author had talked about his agreements with love. His words resonated with me, dragging up memories from my past and hitting me in the chest with my own beliefs about love:

"Have I made an agreement that I will never be loved?...Agreements are really nasty and subtle things. They pin our hearts down, or shut them down by handing over to the enemy a sort of key to a certain room in our hearts...Think back over your story of love. In those moments when you were wounded, you were really vulnerable for agreements to come in. They come swiftly, imperceptibly, often as some message delivered with a wound...I came back to this issue with a question for myself: What do I believe about love? That it never stays." (pp. 93-96)

This chapter brought a startling wave of pain as I faced my own beliefs about love, and was an unexpected jolt to realizing my need of healing afresh.

God had been bringing up my issues with love and fear in various ways since the beginning of the year (as I also discuss here), but I was a professional at pushing them to the back of my mind. I was always so busy.

Now, once more, I ignored my insecurities and anxieties and wounds, getting busy with finishing my Master's dissertation and having various mini existential crises. But God would not be put off so easily. He kept bringing up the issue in little ways. Again and again and again.

I kept being confronted with my fearfulness about love and life in general, and particularly at the end of the summer, some things began happening in my life and in my head that made me not want to be a slave to those fears any more.

Two or three weeks ago I bought an old book about one woman's experience in her Christian life and her growing intimacy with God. (The pile of books I'm currently reading ever increases--one of the delights of finally having time to read for pleasure!)

Last week I had been reading a chapter on forgiveness and letting go, and now as I sat on my bedroom floor, cup of tea in hand, I started reading the next chapter, which just so happened to talk about fear.

And suddenly God said to me, not so much in a voice as in a strong impression, "Release them. Release them to me."

The thought was so clear and startling that I wrote it down in my journal.

I knew what God wanted me to release, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to go there.

I didn't really want to go through the memories and pain and issues that I habitually relegated to my subconscious, yet which I knew had such a hold over me and how I interacted with others.

The things I told myself on my darkest nights, while my head knew they were twisted and false, had the strange comfort of familiarity.

Hiding from love, hiding from risk, hiding from the possibility of rejection and censure, was a way to protect the vulnerable, unhealed places in my heart. I had been coping, hadn't I? Perhaps. But not living the way I was meant to live.

I knew that whatever else God was up to, He was after my transformation. As John Eldredge puts it: "Remember--He is after both our transformation and our joy. The one hangs upon the other...Whole and holy. The two go hand in hand... Healed. As in fixed. Restored." (Walking with God, pp. 33-35)

"Long before God laid down earth's foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love." Ephesians 1:3-4, The Message

To be made whole and holy by His love. And so God was asking me to look at my fear and my beliefs about love again.

Two days later, I sat down in the conservatory and shut myself away from the world. Armed with a large cup of tea, two pens, my journal, and copious amounts of blank paper, I set about following God's instructions to "release them to Me."

I wrote down my memories, things that I thought I had forgiven or shrugged off, but which perhaps I hadn't forgiven after all, and which had obviously continued to have an impact on my way of thinking.

I wrote down my agreements about love.

I wrote down my fears.

I wrote down my agreements about myself. One thing that kept surfacing was the belief that I am not ____ enough. Fill in the blank any way you like, I've probably thought that about myself.

"Alright God," I said aloud. "You asked me to release these things. I give them up to You. Break the hold they have over my thoughts, my actions, and my reactions. Replace the false, hurtful agreements I have made about love, life, and myself with truth instead." I ripped up the sheets of paper, praying over each one.

As I sat in silence, God spoke to my heart again. I wrote the impressions down in my journal:

"Now that you have released these things, you must replace your fear with praise, and lies with truth.

You think love doesn't stay. My love never leaves. I love you with an everlasting love. I will never leave you. I rejoice over you --yes, you-- with singing.

I want you to look at Me, not at yourself and your inadequacies. Realign your focus. Love is freeing; it frees you to be your best self."

And then suddenly, He said something that touched at the recurring theme in my memories, the persistent belief that has kept me fearful -- the feeling of not being good enough.

"My love is not conditional. It is not based on your performance. I look at you and I see the perfection of my Son."

"What, God? What?" I gasped.

"When I look at you, I see the perfection of my Son. Quit thinking you are not enough."

I was crying now. God goes to the heart of the matter. He is so kind.

"When I look at you, I see the perfection of my Son."

He doesn't see me as not ____ enough. He doesn't look at me and think, "She's not good enough, not pretty enough, not talented enough for Me."

Because I am His, because I ask Jesus to cover my shortcomings with his Robe of Righteousness, because it is "no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20) -- God looks at me and sees perfection.

His love for me, His delight in me, is unchanging.

"God's Daisy Game"
And ultimately, it is God's opinion of me that matters most.

Finally, as I wiped away my tears and prepared to get back to the responsibilities of the day, God said to me, "Let my love replace fear at the core of your being. And my love will release you to love well, too."

It's been almost a week since that morning with God. Sometimes I still struggle with insidious insecurities and fears that raise up their heads and try to burrow back into my heart. It's a gradual journey. There is no magical overnight change, but there is progress, and I have at least made the conscious decision to let go of the things which have hurt me and kept me in fear. I have given God permission to rebuild my personality based on love instead of fear.

Whatever happens next, I want to keep hold of these truths God has been patiently showing me.

I want to be "rooted and grounded in love" -- I want to be able to understand "what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that [I] may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3: 17-19)

I want that for you, too.

"You love me like I'm one in a million."
From the song "One in a Million" by Elevation Church Kids

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