How in the world was I supposed to love God from the mess that I was that lay hidden behind the facade? I’m so glad that you asked that, but before I try answering, let me talk a bit more about the mess. I’ve been having a lot of fun here telling my story. That is a good thing, but I think I would be remiss if somehow through all my fun, I glossed or minimized over what a mess inside I really was.

I hurt – a lot. I was very angry. I was afraid. I was confused and desperately uncertain. I was mostly blind to how I felt or what motivated me, and I literally could not tell you, “I hurt.” I did not cry. I did not feel or express pain or anything that might betray a weakness if I could possibly help it, and I’d gotten very good at helping it. As far as I could tell, my dad enjoyed seeing other people’s pain and fear, and at a very young age, I’d sworn to deny him access to mine. He could beat me, and I would not cry. He could frighten me, and I learned to sneer. He could bully and bluster, and I would stand firm, defiance of his will intact. “You can’t touch me” is what my whole life told him. It wasn’t exactly true. He could. He hurt me a lot, but what my vow did do for me was pull me from the “easy prey” category.

What it also did was make me like this everywhere I went. I didn’t have a soft side that showed up in other places. Just because I wasn’t home or Dad wasn’t around didn’t mean that I gained the ability to say, “I hurt.” It didn’t mean that I was suddenly someone who could be touched, not in my heart or physically. For whatever reason, how my dad treated me and what I learned to expect from him helped define every relationship and relational concept that I had. Even after he left home for good, I was still who had been. I expected everybody to use me, to hurt me and then lie about it and/or enjoy my writhing. I did not trust, and I was highly suspicious. I was always, always scanning for potential threats. I was not okay, and I really had no idea that I was a mess.

Some part of me, deep down, knew I was in trouble. Come to think of it, my heart was probably part of that. But for the most part, I only had a faint notion that what I knew – and I mean, knew, as in this was normal, as in confidently expected life to be like this in the same way that I assume the sun will rise, as in what I knew was real and everything else was a fairy tale bedtime story worthy of my scorn knew – was extremely limited. My dad’s attack on my grandfather helped jolt my confidence in what I “knew.” I began to see the tiniest glimmerings of light, so faint that I was not all sure they were real. I wasn’t sure for a long time, like years, that I was not just making that light up like a bedtime story, and because of that, I did treat myself with a great deal of scorn.

So here I was, a mess, and there God was, demanding that I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Knowing what I do now, God was not demanding, but back then, I had no other experience by which to measure. I expected Him to demand, and I resented Him for it. The ironic thing is that those demands were all in my head. My attitude wasn’t exactly, um, fair to God. Anyway, I had no idea how to love Him. What came to mind was more of I Corinthians 13:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Hello the fairy tale! Can you tell I did not greet this with great rejoicing? I’ll chat about it more in my next post.