It was October of 2002, I’d graduated from two different schools at YWAM Colorado Springs, I was working in a restaurant/music venue, dating my future husband, living with roommates, paying my own bills and living my own life. I was writing music and dreaming of starting a band. Everything in my life was going better than I could have hoped for, except one thing: I’d never felt farther from the Lord in my entire life.
I actually remember shutting my bible one evening and saying to myself, “This isn’t doing anything for me.” I didn’t open my bible again for a very long time. The only place I felt like I could connect with the Lord back then as a 21 year old was when I turned on my keyboard and started singing. Inevitably within seconds I would be crying, and I would be heaping piles of shame onto my shoulders for my lack of interest or affection for the Lord outside of those melodies.
Those feelings lasted longer than I care to admit. Even on my wedding day I felt like I was forcing myself to acknowledge the Lord’s presence there. This one episode of “Touched By An Angel” where Monica was helping with a wedding has always stuck with me (listen, I was like 10 when it was on, it’s perfectly acceptable for ten year old’s to watch cheesy television.). At one point in the episode, she stops and says, “I forgot something. I forgot to invite you.” Of course she is talking to God as no one else is around. I made sure to invite God to our wedding, and it was truly a beautiful day. The only regrets I have about that day are the feelings that I believed dictated my relationship with the Father.
Many a time as I would be crying in a worship service during my ‘desert season’ as I’ve come to call it, someone would put their arm around me and say, “The Lord wants you to know that you’re okay. That the two of you are okay.” I would cry harder and wish for those words to be true.
I honestly don’t know that there was a moment when things changed. I can’t pinpoint a day or a sermon or anything in particular that stopped me in my tracks, brought me to my knees in surrender and turned my life around. It’s not because my amazing memory has failed me, it’s because it was a gradual ‘re-entry’ if you will, into my true self and into my true relationship with the Lord. There are some things that definitely made their mark in the timeline of my life, my 30th birthday being one of them, starting and finishing “The Healing Path” (which took about a year), and finally having some mommy-time as the kids became older and more independent.
In all of my dreary years though, I always knew I loved the Lord. I always knew I wanted to be closer to him, I just felt like I couldn’t get beyond where I was, and I was ashamed of it. I felt almost indifferent towards him, very regularly. He was just there, in the background, like a great uncle or something.
Then I would cry in a service and hear those words, “He says you’re okay.”
I remember one trip to Colorado where we were gathering for a retreat of sorts, I think we had both kids at this point in time, and someone said something about the guilt and shame that we put on ourselves for not being where we want to be in our walk with the Lord and I resonated with it deeply. The person speaking, who has pastoral permission in my life, pulled me aside and said, “Julie, it’s okay if you don’t read the Bible.”
Blasphemy! That was my internal reaction. I couldn’t fathom his words being true, and in fact, for weeks and months I wrestled with them. But then one day when we were on a family walk in Dallas, the Holy Spirit spoke to me very softly and told me that the condemnation I felt about our relationship was not from Him. That the guilt I felt about not spending quality time with Him was pushing me even further away. He told me that when I come to Him, He wants me to be excited and in anticipation of what we’re going to accomplish together, where we’re going to go. But when I come to Him hanging my head, reeking of shame and saying, “I screwed it up again,” it hinders our progress together.
It took time, but I got to the point where I recognized that there are so many levels to the freedom we have in Christ. While it is beneficial, beautiful, indescribable and necessary to spend time with the Lord in order to have a deeper connection, understanding and more fulfilled life, if you just can’t bring yourself to do it right now, guess what? You’re okay. You’re still loved. You’re still worthy of love.
The Bible is an invaluable gift from the Father, and I have definitely come back into the land of the living as far as it’s concerned — it has been my lifeline this past year, and it is the only How-To book that we can truly depend on when it comes to living life more abundantly. But if you look at it and feel nothing, if you shove it under your bed for a week or a month because you feel guilty about not opening it, guess what? You’re okay. You’re still loved and worthy of love.
The Holy Spirit is our guide, through the Bible and through life, and I would not be where I am today without His gentle leading and prodding, without His sometimes in-my-face truths spoken in love and without His strong conviction. But if you hear His voice and you roll in the other direction on your bed and let your tears soak your pillow because you just can’t get there, guess what? You’re okay. You are still loved and worthy of love.
What I’m trying to tell you is that nothing can separate you from the love of the Father. When I started my desert season, I was horrified at myself. I felt like the worst failure in all of the world. How could I not be passionately in love with the Lord? How could I put my Bible down like it was just any other book? Shame and guilt went forth and mulitplied all over my life, and I couldn’t believe that God would still give a crap about me. But He did and He always told me someway or another.
If you’re in your desert season, I want to remind you that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. I want to remind you that the Bible has stories about people just like you and me, facing these kinds of things and coming out on top. Look at David, for Pete’s sake! Dude needs some mood stabilizers! But he always came back to humility before the Father, and the Father never left his side.
So just in case you missed it, and someone hasn’t whispered this in your ear yet, let me tell you again: You are okay. You are still loved and worthy of love. The Father is working in you and right now it just doesn’t look like you always thought it would. Don’t give up hope. Don’t stop believing (sing it if you have to), it’s okay to feel how you are feeling. Tell Him about it, He’s not scared of your truths, He’s not waiting to punish you for the things you need to confess. You are okay. You and Him? You’re okay. You will be okay, and then you will be better, and you’ll get to tell someone else what I’m telling you now.
Take a deep breath tonight as the clock starts counting down to 2015, and start the new year believing the truth of what the Father says about you:
You are okay.