Things I’d Tell My Younger Self | Day 21

Dear Chris,
You are loved.

I grew up in the Christian tradition and my whole life I was told that God loved me. But I didn’t really feel the truth of it. What I really believed was that God would love me if I was good. I didn’t really grasp the unconditional love that I was being taught. I would get angry when people who had done “bad” things in the past got “good” gifts that I wanted. (I still have to check myself on this sometimes.)

There’s a saying I heard growing up in the evangelical world: “There’s 18 inches from head to heart.” Meaning, you can know something in your head but you don’t really know it until it sinks in to the place where it can’t be dislodged anymore. But there’s not a lot of freedom within that same world to say out loud and honestly…I don’t believe it. Not really. There’s not a lot of room to express doubt…even though we all doubt.

I’ve written enough posts by now that it might be easy to tell that the idea of being truly connected into the love energy of the divine wasn’t a concept that I grasped easily. I understood love conditionally, like so many people do. I often blamed God for the bad things that happened in my life (or at minimum demanded to know why he had allowed things) and also blamed myself for not getting the “good” things because maybe I wasn’t good enough. A lot of people walk away from faith traditions because of this…because they get sick of feeling like they aren’t good enough. I tried to walk away but I couldn’t ever quite do it.

I “accepted Jesus into my heart” when I was 5 or 6, alone in my bedroom at night. And then again later. And again. And probably again… Just wanting to make sure it stuck. I attended youth group through junior high and high school, memorized Bible verses, went to Christian universities, did my best to be good and righteous and never mess up. I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke weed, I didn’t fool around with boys. But I still had problems. (See previous posts.) It turns out that you don’t get what you want just because you’re “good”. In fact, the scriptures are pretty clear on the idea that we’re promised trouble in this life and that good things are given to everyone regardless of their “goodness” or “badness” points. (It also says something about how there are no goodness and badness points.)

I think my journey towards really understanding the truth of love began the night I threw my Bible on the floor and told God to fuck off. I told him that I was sick of being good, and that I didn’t know what He wanted from me, and that maybe I didn’t even care. I told him that if He was God and He wanted to change me, He could do the work his damn self. I think it’s possible that in that moment God was like…”Ok, now we can get somewhere.” Because, in hindsight, what I was really saying f off to was my idea of who and what God was.

And then a whole lot of years happened where many of my ideas about God and love and church and religion and faith were challenged and altered. Where I got a lot of life lessons and found a lot of healing.

The moment I finally knew God loved me happened in my Fiat in January of 2014. All my life I have been told that God loved me. All my life I had been trying to believe it with my brain. But the moment the truth got through to my heart, I was driving down my street, two blocks from my apartment. I wasn’t being good, I wasn’t doing anything to try to be loved. My heart was simply bursting to the point of breaking with love for a friend who was hurting and clearly did not realize how much he was loved. I was crying so hard for his pain that I almost pulled my car over. See…he didn’t know he was loved either because he was gay and had grown up in the evangelical world too and gay kids that grow up in the evangelical world (at least the one of the 80s and 90s) are pretty clear on what God thinks about them. But I knew how much I loved him. And I knew…the deep heart knowing…that the amount of love I was feeling was beyond my own human capacity to love someone. It was just too big.

I said, out loud, “What is this? Why am I feeling this way? It’s so overwhelming.” And immediately, my insides responded. “Oh my gosh. I finally get it. I finally understand.” And the “18 inch gap” disappeared.

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3 thoughts on “Things I’d Tell My Younger Self | Day 21

  1. The whole concept of “good” and “bad” and who gets what they deserve from G-d is such a perplexing question… just ask someone of the Jewish faith. After all, we are supposedly the “chosen” people. So explain being slaves in Egypt. And the Holocaust. Quite frankly, I have often wanted to ask G-d to STOP CHOOSING US. Personally, I do not believe in the whole “chosen” people thing. I do not believe in asking G-d for anything, because I don’t think it matters. Obviously, many good people – millions of them – died for no good reason in the Holocaust. And even as I write this, some kid is dying right now of gun violence for also no good reason. G-d is very confusing and I don’t think we should bother him/her with our workaday requests for anything. I have a rather mixed-up view of G-d (I’m sure my Rabbi would say I have healthy doubts) but suffice to say, I am completely at ease with whatever you believe. For the record, I do believe in G-d; I’m not sure I believe in a lot of the ancillary stuff… In any case, in Judaism, it is interesting that even at the bleakest times – when someone dies, for example – our prayers are still hopeful and thankful. Imagine saying a thankful prayer 6 million times. G-d is perplexing, indeed.

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    • Truth! My own ideas about all of this are shifting right now. It is all confusing and frustrating. Except in the moments when it’s not. 🙂 If I had a rabbi, he’d probably say I was a healthy doubter too. I love that the Jewish tradition (from what I understand) has the concept of questioning at the heart of it. Forgetting the word for it right now. I’m wary of anyone who believes anything 100%.

      I was listening to a philosopher the other day. He’s a Christian but his whole position is the life is shit and there’s nothing we can do about that (he’s also Irish) 😉 But that we don’t really have the ability to embrace life and happiness til we stop expecting we’re going to be given everything.

      Anyhoo…thanks for the comment. I would love to talk about it more and hear more over coffee…or matzo ball soup. 😉 love you and your thoughts

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