To continue my story, there I was, seriously unhappy over this little revelation that without love, my life is worthless. I know that sounds extreme. “Oh, no! My life is worthless without love.” It might even be a little bit extreme, if you can be a “little bit” extreme. Seems like that would be oxymoronic. But, oh, the angst! The drama! The angry mutterings and sarcastic rantings spewed by my grubby, little soul were vitriolic, rebellious, and yet… still hopeful. I didn’t like what I was hearing, and I didn’t like what I was seeing, and I really wanted to be mad at God for pronouncing me a failure, but I was convicted. This mess I was in was not His fault. It was mine, and I wasn’t getting anywhere that I wanted to be by blaming others. Having that suspicion about who was to blame sneaking about my soul didn’t make me feel less angry or otherwise less upset, by the way.

I couldn’t even justify being mad at Him for setting me up to fail or anything like that. God wasn’t saying, “Forget you, idiot. You’ll never make it. Enjoy the hellfire and brimstone, MWAHAHAAHA!” The Bible abounds with stories of creation, redemption, and transformation. I could and did pull it open just about anywhere and read about God’s life-giving prowess. Look at Genesis 1 – the earth is reported to be “without form” and covered in darkness. Three or four chapters later, it’s bristling with light and life. There’s a nobody named Abram who does pretty well following God, and God blesses that obedience. Abram became Abraham, he has a kid, the kid has kids, and next thing you know, there’s this whole nation of Abraham’s children’s children’s children running around who are probably making God pull His hair out. Children are good at that. The thing is that even though those children messed things up bad – following other gods, killing and exploiting each other, bad deeds, more bad deeds, naughtiness, mischief, sin, sin, more sin, blah, blah, blah – God still showed up for the nation and redeemed them. Even when they’d been overran by their enemies, He sent judges, prophets, kings, people who preached and led the nation in conviction and repentance. The nation of Israel has had more lives than the proverbial cat! Blind folk were given sight, illnesses were healed, dead people were made alive, the hungry were fed, the imprisoned were freed, the treacherous were rebuked, and the guilty were forgiven. God dealt justly, with mercy, and in love toward a fallen humanity. If He would do that for Abraham, for Israel, for all those people Jesus or the disciples encountered, maybe, I thought, just maybe the same would be true for me.

In the midst of those ruminations, another unpleasant conviction intruded. I was trying to figure out a place to start. A girl can’t do everything all at once, right? Gotta have a place to start. I was doing my standard thing of reading and meditating and asking God for enlightenment when I ran across a verse that made my priorities pretty clear, good ol’ Matthew 22:37. That’s the one that tells us all that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. It’s repeated (for emphasis, I suppose) several times, starting in Deuteronomy and continuing into the New Testament. The terrific thing was that this certainly gave me a place to start. Jesus called it the greatest commandment, and it simply doesn’t get more explicit than that. You might was as well have a big, flashing, neon sign (burning bushes are so O.T. and B.C.) saying, “START HERE.”

The rotten bit, though, was that not only did it emphasize my troubles with love in general, it showed me yet another area where I was miserably failing. I was still looking at life as a performance. That “outward appearance” that man looks at was my yardstick, what I used to evaluate life, my life, other people’s lives, and God Himself. I didn’t have another metric to use, and I didn’t understand how limited my perspective was. This verse about the importance of loving God helped provide illumination for me. God looks at the heart, right? Oh, yeah, God looks at the heart. Crap.

I thought I might be able to put up a decent display of loving God with what I did and what I thought, but my heart? Uh, er… um… I was uncomfortably aware, horridly so, that my heart was an unplumbed, untrustworthy depth. I mean, hey, I was well informed about the state of human hearts. Jeremiah wrote that those hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). I only had to recite that verse a dozen times or so throughout my school years. Not only had I recited it, I knew I’d seen some evidence of that in my own life, with maleficent motivations popping up to reach out and smash someone. That seemed like wickedness to me. Besides all that, I’d grown up with a definite need to protect myself. I’d learned to bury myself deep and wear a thick armor, to protect myself and to protect others from the angry, frightened, hurting mess that lived at my core. I’d buried it so deep I but rarely felt it or much of anything. I lived within armor that was both protection and prison. How in the world was I supposed to love God from there? I wasn’t even sure anything still existed where my heart supposedly dwelt.

I really wasn’t liking myself much those days. I was in a heck of a mess, and I couldn’t even blame God. Lame!