One of the things I have learned is that your gut always tells the truth. It’s not always right, but it always tells you the truth about what you really, deep down believe. Which can be a useful thing to know. Often we know something, we intellectually assent to it, we try to live out of it and we fail continually. Because you can think your way to right belief, but knowing it deep in your gut is another thing. It’s really only when you know it deep in your gut that it becomes real and you can live out of it successfully.
The problem most people have is that their gut level reaction is often in conflict with what they think or know is right and so they push it away. (Think of the person who says she isn’t racist, but has either never been honest with herself or made excuses about the fact that her stomach clenches up when she finds herself near a group of minorities.) I’ve found that once I allow myself to be aware of my gut level reactions, I can deal with whatever underlying issues they are pointing me to. And in time, what my gut says will start to line up with what my brains says. It’s a good thing.
Now, I bring all of this up because I have a confession to make and I’m going to ask y’all for some help with it. You see, about a month ago, I was at a meeting where the leader mentioned in passing the wholeness that comes from knowing down to your bones that God is madly in love with you. And my gut went all woo-woo-gah-fargle-pthhhh on me. I almost started to cry. Because my gut was telling me that I at a deep level, I don’t believe God loves me. It’s true. And I can write here talking about God’s love. And I can pray over a person – an enemy even – and be amazed to discover the deep love God has for them. But it’s a truth that I just haven’t been able to accept for myself.
It makes no sense. I know that I love God, so God must love me – “we love because God first loved us”. On a few occasions, I’ve felt God’s love. Sometimes God has even expressed his love to me in prayer. I once had a woman tell me as she was in prayer, “Rebecca, God is so pleased with you” and I’ve never forgotten the tone of voice she used – like someone who’d just taken a bite of delicious food and was ooo’ing over it. I am able to receive love from others – my children love me, my mother and father love me, my husband is even able to conjure up vaguely affectionate feelings about me from time to time. And I can receive that. But God? I know as a matter of belief that God loves me. But it’s not in me. It’s like that old saying that the distance between heaven and hell is about 12 inches – that is the distance between your brain and your heart.
A few years ago, I was upset (shocking) and complaining to God (even more shocking) and accusing him of not caring about me. And he brought to mind the words of a song I often sang to my then-baby Olivia as I put her to sleep: “I’m in love with you, for you have called me child. You reached out and touched me, you heard my lonely cry. I will praise your name forever and love you all my life.” How can I not love someone who sings words like that to me?, God said. All I could do was cry because even then, it was just words to me. In one ear and out the other.
Now, I know that in a world where people are suffering in unimaginable ways, me and my emotional God issues aren’t the center of the universe. But it’s not either or. And if I say and believe that manifesting the love of God in this world is what will save us, knowing – really knowing – God’s love matters a lot. So I’ve prayed over it. I’ve tried to figure out the reasons I don’t believe God loves me. (I have a long list – it wasn’t a helpful activity, really!) I’ve meditated on it. None of it helped much.
The book of James says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another”. The Greek word used for sin is hamartía. It means to miss the mark. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it’s first meaning is “an error of the understanding”. So I’m confessing my “error of the understanding” to y’all. I don’t really believe that God loves me. It’s not that I think he condemns or reject me. I even think that he’ll be happy to welcome me back with love at the end of my life. But right now, in the here and now, I just don’t believe he cares. I don’t believe that I matter to him.
That verse from James continues on: “and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” So now that I’ve gotten nice and naked with about 3000 of my nearest and dearest brothers and sisters in Christ and confessed my need for healing, would you pray for me? Maybe some of you know how to pray more effectively than I do.
Also, I know that I’m far from the only person to have this struggle. If you’d like to pipe up and ask to be included in this prayer for healing, the comments are open for you confessions. And if this is something you’ve overcome, would you mind sharing what helped you? Revelation 12:11 says that the enemy is defeated by the blood of Christ and the power of our testimony. So consider this an invitation to testify. There’s healing work to be done here, folks!