Today, I bring you another installment of Conversations with Ourselves, a series of posts in which every Thursday the author addresses the Past Self through the Present or vice versa (or sometimes totally not this, but something equally cool) concerning matters of Faith, specifically.
Kristin is a wonderful talent that I am joyed to have over in this space again. (She contributed a beautiful essay to ATLT some months ago.) Here, Kristin brings the wisdom of a mother eye to a conversation about the fullness and wideness of the Creator. I have long been a fan of how Kristin works her prosody: delicate, yet pointed; full, yet gentle. Contradictions, it would seem, but you will see in her words the grace of the ordinary.
You were 18, an age that feels so grown and fully formed when you’re living in it, but looks so impossibly young and tender to someone looking in from two decades down the road.
More than once in these years since I’ve sorted out a bit more of what God’s love is and isn’t, I’ve wished I could slip into that college dorm lobby, where the late-night Bible study met. If I had been there that particular night, maybe I could have lured you away from the heavy theological talk for a light-hearted adventure elsewhere on campus.
You probably would have shushed me, though. After all, serious conversations were the true emblem of adulthood at that point in your life (the later at night, the better). And this particular conversation was interesting, focused on a concept that was completely new to you: predestination.
If I couldn’t succeed at luring you away, maybe I would resort to clamping my hands over your ears, a silly act of denial and desperation coming from someone who can see the vulnerable child’s heart packaged in that adult exterior, entangled in all that adult conversation. Your heart and mind weren’t in sync enough to process the careless words spoken by some 20-year-old who thought he had God figured out.
As your mind struggled to wrap itself around this Calvinist concept of “The Chosen” (which frankly didn’t make a bit of sense), you asked that so-sure boy a few pointed questions: How do you know? How do you know some are chosen and some aren’t? How do you know you are one of the chosen ones?
“I know I’m chosen because I’ve spent my whole life running away from God, and no matter what I do, he pursues me, again and again, reminding me I belong to him,” he brashly responded, without hesitation or doubt.
He was just answering the question, the way so-sure boys do. He was drawing from his own upbringing and experience, which is what we all do—he couldn’t have known what the inverse of his answer would suggest about you.
But your adult mind and child’s heart put it all together at once, which is why I wish I had been there to clamp my hands over your ears. Your experience with God, after all, had been just the opposite: You had spent your whole life chasing after God, only to be left wondering if he was there at all.
And you began to think this new idea about predestination might explain a lot: All those times when, as a child, you had asked Jesus into your heart, expecting to feel something new and glowing and alive in your core. The adults always said you only had to ask once—Jesus was there waiting and ready—but you had asked again and again, in secret and shame, wondering why your invitations weren’t accepted.
It might also explain how you felt about all of those wild, exhilarating, momentous testimonies you heard at youth events as a teen, shared by people who knew exactly when God came into their lives. Not only did they know the day, the moment, the place where they were standing or kneeling, but in the days after that, they also saw sure evidence of God, always with them. They had stories to tell, signs to point to. You, at 18, only longed for all of that. You had no testimony. Did that mean you had no relationship, no love, no God?
This is why, if I could be with you back in your dorm room later that night, as you lay sobbing in your bunk, I would tell you what I know now about God, and about his love for you. It might not be much—it certainly isn’t everything—but it would have protected you from so much of the hurt and suspicion you harbored toward God those next 15 years.
Here’s what I’d tell you.
I’d tell you that God’s people can be careless and full of pride, but that God is bigger than even the biggest ideas people can conjure up. No complicated theology ever articulated by man can begin to envelop the pure, foundational simplicity of God’s love.
I’d tell you to stop trying to earn or deserve God’s love. There is no magic formula, no series of hoops to jump through, no ducks to put in a row. You don’t have to get things “right” first—God isn’t on the sidelines of your life, waiting for you to change. God doesn’t work the way the world works. He doesn’t love the way the world loves.
I’d say that God chose you on the day he created you, and that he created you out of his love for you. In other words, you cannot escape that love. To be created by God is to be chosen, and to be chosen is to have his love always in and around you. You don’t have to ask, invite or beg. You just have to see who God created you to be and try to live out your life as that creation.
So trust how lovable you are, as his creation. Once you believe you are worthy of that love, you will begin to see it at every turn, in every crevice, and it will be the key to wholeness in every area of your life.
Kristin Tennant (@kt_writes on Twitter) has been a freelance writer for ten years. In 2007 she began blogging about family, faith, struggle and redemption at Halfway to Normal (www.halfwaytonormal.com), and she now also writes a column for RELEVANT and blogs for The Huffington Post. Her essays have been included in two anthologies: Not Alone: Stories of Living With Depression, and Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On. Kristin, her husband Jason, and their three daughters live in Urbana, Illinois, where they love cooking and sharing meals and conversation with friends.