On Tuesday, March 24th, I will share with a local church group my journey into the Father heart of God, into acceptance and belonging and love beyond my comprehension. Here’s a bit of that story.
As a child, I enjoyed and danced around in all that roomy space that let me be free, that let me be the real Robin God had created. That season, like your best summer, never seems to last long enough and I grew up. I became more aware of how others saw me. I became more focused on myself as I found that others didn’t always accept me or care for the real me. There were times I believed that I needed to model something else to be accepted.
Throw in a few unhealthy family dynamics, choosy friends, critical teachers, and first-born small ones like myself figure our quickly that if we are not good enough, we must make ourselves acceptable. We learn to deny our real selves and create an imposter that pleases. That is a smaller place to walk around in – something more like a locked room with a small window. It becomes risky business being your authentic self so it becomes hidden. It’s even harder to remember who that self is without props, posers, or polish.
I tried to be the best Christian I could be. I focused on others with empathy, understanding, and pound cake, while attempting to avoid looking at myself. When you’ve worn this wardrobe so long, you forget you actually dressed yourself in it. It becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference between the mask you wear and your own face.
My imposter had become highly skilled at helping others with what I knew. Having been to ministry schools, served on church staffs, and lived in poverty to spread God’s Word, I had learned a lot – just not how to be happy. The harder I tried to make sure I was loved and accepted, and the harder I tried to make sure others saw my gifts and skills, the more the real Robin disappeared under all that makeup.
Then there was the day I heard the voice in my car. It was Jesus. I think sometimes He likes to come in and talk in places you can’t escape from like the bathroom or a moving vehicle. “You’ve always tried so hard,” he said. In a flash I saw it. My life of constant striving, trying so hard to live up to the expectations I’d created – faith-filled, walk on water, head-held-high-no-matter-what kind of girl – who was terribly afraid inside.
I felt it pierce my heart like it must have pierced His. Pain at realizing all I’d given up and the waves of love that rolled with His words came and I pulled off the road. I cried for a long while right in the middle of town. I was 44 at the time.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the focus of the story seems to be on the prodigal, but there are other family members. Meet the land owner’s oldest son who stayed and worked the farm with the hired help, always giving, never taking, never enjoying what was already his. He came face-to-face with his own approval-seeking imposter when younger brother returns to be lavished with forgiveness. He blames everyone else but himself. He had never felt like a “legitimate” son and had no idea of his own significance, striving to earn what was freely available all the time.
Why is it so hard to let ourselves be loved? To let our true selves show? So much fear that we aren’t enough, that we should be more or have done more. Jesus comes and pays our debts to get us out of that little room with the one window we have constructed. He knocks but we won’t open the door. We can’t take the mask off now. We’re not enough the way we are. And we try to fix ourselves.
Jesus. The only one unbroken, raised from the dead, comes to raise the dead in me with a proposal to accept His hand. It will always be the poor in spirit who get Heaven.
I’m tender in heart these days as I feel God helping me become the more authentic me. I’ve been the older brother who had it all right there, all the time, but kept trying to earn my way. I feel poor in spirit, realizing that sometimes there are still hindrances to knowing the fullness of His heart, and letting that life-joy be mine.
Feet walk crooked and shaky until they become strong in His love.
The Father in His faithfulness will knock away the props we are leaning on so that we come to lean on Him instead, feeling the reconciliation and total acceptance we’ve always wanted, and being strengthened by that love. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message Bible has a passage dear to my heart for it reminds me of this very thing – that I can come to the Father just as I am.
5 “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matthew 6:5-6
God doesn’t want me to role-play before Him. He designed and knows the real me and how even that little girl in the picture can be healed of all that tried to disguise her.
Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me….
Jesus didn’t come to reconcile me to Jesus. Jesus came to reconcile me to the Father. It’s the Father I need – for from that relationship with Him comes my sense of belonging and security and unconditional love.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
So how does one go about getting it, coming to know the love in which we were made to flourish? By pressing in. By leaning into Him. By seeking Him with our whole heart. It’s a journey that promises healing and all our heart’s desire. No one can make the journey for you, and there’s no formula. Ask Him to help you and lean into Him, seeking Him with all your heart.
(c) Robin Lawrimore, March 2013