If I’m being totally honest, I’ve been writing this post for about 4 months. I have started and stopped and then started again, only to end up putting it neatly away. I have spilled my guts on the page and then backspaced and deleted until it felt safe. Comfortable. Gotta keep this one close the chest. Because, what if people think I’m a wacko? What if they misinterpret my meaning? What if they think I’m actually a harlot?
I mean, I do wear a lot of slightly low-cut V-neck shirts, which my mom always insists is a bit hussy-ish, but I am by no means a lady of the night. At least not in the literal way.
Now, metaphorically speaking?
I have played the harlot.
Which I guess is the best segway into this very uncomfortable post that I am finally writing.
You see, I am a huge fan of my comfort zone.
But sometimes God meets you in a way that is viscerally uncomfortable.
For me, this happened in the wilderness on a women’s retreat back in December. I know, it sounds weird, but I promise it wasn’t. Just a bunch of ladies hanging out and being real and getting time alone in a beautiful place- time to get alone with God. Lord knows normal life makes that hard enough. There may or may not have been a little bit of drinking wine and playing cards in the cabin also. I don’t really know.
I mean, look at that. Who wouldn’t want to hang out there for a weekend? Sometimes when my head gets cloudy or my heart gets heavy the best place for me to go is outside.
So I went.
Prior to going, I’d been busy and distracted and I was too guilty and scared to admit it, but I was becoming quite dissatisfied in general. I had everything to be thankful for and happy about: a brand new beautiful home, a little piece of land in the country, a husband who loves me and is good to me, two healthy kids, good friends.
Check, check, check.
And while I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, it was still there, like a pebble in my shoe.
They gnawed at me like evil little gremlins.
I felt excited, but anxious when I showed up to the retreat, because I felt an urgency to encounter God equaled by a fear that I wouldn’t. I feared I had forgotten the sound of His voice. It felt muffled by the noise of daily life. I worried that I had forgotten how to just be in love with Him. (Incidentally, I had.)
I felt a deep-seated fear coming a little closer to the surface- the fear that I would never really know my God in that deep, close, intimate way that I longed to.
I worried He wouldn’t speak to me in the way that I really needed Him to- in that quiet, hushed whisper of someone close. I feared that even if He did, I wouldn’t hear it because the gremlins had simply become too loud.
Sometimes the “gremlins” I wrestle wear nametags and walk in broad daylight. I still struggle against them, but at least I know who they are. I can recognize their ugly snarl as they whisper their lies in my ear.
“You are not truly known.”
“You are not fully seen.”
“You are unlovely to your very core and everyone will figure it out soon.”
“Love will never pursue you. Never fight for you.”
It’s a simpler task to brace yourself against a familiar foe. It is easier to take shelter when you see them coming. But sometimes my gremlins are shape shifters. Sometimes they are faceless shadows that catch me unprepared and fully exposed.
This is when it’s most difficult. When I am wrestling in the dark, unaware of what I’m struggling against. I wear myself out with the striving. I listen to the hisses that snatch away my hopes and replace them with fear and doubt.
I believe the whispers because they are saying something new.
I let them take from me, until they leave me weak and exhausted. Often it isn’t until that moment that I reach the end of my own strength. Not until that moment do I realize I have willingly exchanged the truth for a lie and I see my gremlins for what they are.
I was having one of those particular moments back in December. I was coming face to face with the fear and the discontentment. But I still didn’t understand why.
I felt prompted to read through the book of Hosea, which I thought was pretty random, but I happily obliged. For frame of reference this book is about Hosea the prophet, whom God instructs to marry a prostitute. He does, and she repeatedly leaves him and betrays him, running after other lovers and yet he keeps chasing after her and loving her anyway until she finally returns to him.
As I read, these words lept off the page and into my heart:
Hosea 2:14-19 “Therefore I will allure her, I will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfort to her…And it shall be in that day, says the Lord, “That you will call me My Husband and not My Master. For I will take from her mouth the names of the other gods, and they shall be remembered by their names no more…I will betroth you to me forever; yes I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in loving kindness and mercy; I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and you shall know the Lord.”
And I wept because He had addressed so many of my fears in one fell swoop. I felt as if He’d flipped on the light, scooped me up and said “Just rest. I’ll fight this one for you”. I love that this is so often God’s way.
That when I am finally at the end of myself, he is there.
He is always there, reaching for me, chasing away the gremlins, and waiting for me to listen so He can whisper the truth:
That I am known.
That I am seen.
That He will never stop pursuing me, never stop fighting for me.
That He loves me fiercely, tenderly, unconditionally.
That I should rest and not worry because the bad news is that I AM unlovely at my core but the good news is that He IS lovely. Any real beauty I possess comes from knowing God’s love and loving Him back.
I felt myself crumble and collapse under the weight of His tenderness. It’s too much. The closer I get, the more I know that with assurance. I don’t and can’t deserve it, which is what makes it so special.
How do I keep forgetting? How do I keep getting away from this truth?
Suddenly there it was, clear as damn day.
Oh my God.
I have played the harlot.
I am just like the woman in Hosea. My heart has feared and not trusted and not known, and worst of all, it has abandoned it’s first love. Not in the sense that I have turned my back on God, but in the sense that I have chased after every other “lover”.
I’ve been discontent because I’ve sought for my joy, my peace, my happiness, and even my validation from every wrong thing. Good things maybe, but wrong things. And in His unending goodness, He has not allowed any of them to satisfy me.
Hosea 2:2 “Therefore behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers but not overtake them. Yes, she will seek them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go and return to my first love.”
He gently reminded me that just like Hosea, He will always chase after me. He will always fight for me. His love will always redeem me and be the only thing that can truly satisfy my soul.
But He is a jealous God. He wants me to love Him just as fiercely in return. He wants me to see His beauty and find Him captivating just as much as He does so with me. He covets my attention and my affection. He asks, “Do you see me? Do you know me? Do you love me?” He created my feminine heart to echo that side of HIS heart.
How I have wounded Him.
How I have sold us both short.
I came home from that weekend full of hope and joy and great expectations. I felt a nearness to God that I’d craved and missed for so long. I decided that this:
ROMANCE would be my word for the year. I knew it was time to focus on the one love that truly satisfies. I even wrote about it a little bit. But I tried to neatly package it all up into pretty paragraphs that talked mostly about the fear gremlins. Because that doesn’t really make me look too bad.
It’s an easy and flippant thing to say “Oh, I just struggle with fear.”
And I do.
But who doesn’t?
It was an excuse, and a symptom of a larger sickness.
The real problem is that I’ve been playing the harlot with God.
I came home and immediately became distracted by our hectic schedules. I focused on doing things like writing, like hospitality, like reaching out to new friends. Again, all good things. All things worth doing. But not at the expense of tending to and investing in my relationship with God.
I guess that’s why I’m finally getting down to writing this post. Because God has kind of brought me full circle.
He has pursued me in the strangest, best ways lately.
I haven’t made time for Him so he has used things I love; things I tend to keep separate from Him to grab a hold of my heart. He’s used books I’m reading (The Fearless Experiment by Lindsay McPhail- more on that later because it’s just too good and it needs it’s own post).
He’s even used the most random group of people over at Clumsy Bloggers whom I barely know, to speak into my life- all because I posted a random picture of Kristin Wiig with a funny comment and somehow the conversation turned deep and wound up impacting me in a big way.
He knows me so well. It makes me laugh.
Since I can’t stay serious for too long, and since I can never see a reason why a Kristin Wiig face can’t perfectly sum a situation up, this is me, saying goodbye to harlotry.
I mean, really. With all those new emoji’s they came out with and none of this chick? I’d use that crap DAILY.