I grew up believing that God loved me dearly.
I also grew up believing God was very angry with me.
I was taught that God personally created me and was immediately displeased by my sinfulness.
So my very earliest identity was forged in the crucible of this unsettling duplicity: I was both adored and resented by my Creator.
As a child I lived in the tension of being the potential object of both the wrath and the love of God simultaneously.
As I grew, I was told I needed to find and do and believe what would tip the scales from punishment to reward, from damnation to salvation, from abandonment to blessing.
I had to remove the massive barrier between me and God, to bridge the wide expanse between the two of us—which somehow was me. For simply being, the problem was me.
Apologize for my inborn transgressions and I earned the right to be God’s child. One wrong move, one doctrinal deviation, one errant belief though, and I would be toast.
Living always in paradox, I learned that I had a tender, caring Maker who knit me together in my mother’s womb, numbered every hair on my head—and was never far from squashing me for the birth defect I’d inherited somewhere in the process.
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” they told me. “You’re just dirty.”
“God adores you”, they said. “Just say you’re sorry.”
Through adolescence and adulthood I stumbled and strained, trying to win the affections and approval of a Creator who’d given me life without my consent, and then required me to spend that life figuring out how to earn forgiveness from something I’d never done—other than take my first breath.
And I was to be grateful. I was taught to have joy in my rescue, to find good news in being pardoned, to celebrate dodging a bullet.
I was told to sing songs of praise to God for rescuing me from what this same God had wanted to do to me in the first place. I was to celebrate that Jesus was the gift and sign that God didn’t really want to punish me; that his blood was a substitute for my own.
I was first pronounced guilty before God, and then made to feel guilty for the Cross: responsible for Christ’s death because of my filthy mess.
And into this terrifying journey came the endless parade of gatekeepers and finger-pointers; the ones so willing to assess my performance from a distance; to point out my failures, to correct my conclusions, to critique my behavior, to determine my destination.
They gladly placed themselves between me and God; magnifying the distance, adding to the obstacles, amplifying the guilt, compounding the difficulty.
For most of my life, this has been my God story.
For much of my life it had left me fairly exhausted.
But I am slowly but surely walking into a new story, gradually but most definitely jettisoning those things that don’t ring true anymore and traveling much lighter.
My reverence for God has never been greater, my wonder never more full, my desire to know my Maker never stronger.
The difference is, I now see God through the lens of one who is beloved, not one who is beloved with conditions. Life now is not a test to try and reach God, but an opportunity to notice God.
I am seeking Jesus more deeply than ever; not to escape punishment, but to discover life as it is to best be lived.
My faith is not about fleeing something horrible, but running toward something beautiful.
I am daily responding in gratitude for the beauty of the gift of this world, not in the hope I can eventually escape it.
I come to the Scriptures now, not as Divine dictation but as the journal entries of those who came before me and who have walked this road of asking, seeking, and knocking. They are not a road map, but a traveling companion.
And in all that I do not know, I am walking in the safety and security of trusting that I never was the enemy of God; that I am made of whatever God is made of, part of whatever God is.
The gatekeepers and the finger-pointers will keep doing what they do and I will keep moving, steadfast and resting in the love that I know firsthand, casts out all fear.
They will snicker and condemn and dismiss.
They will name this heresy.
They will call this a rebellion.
To me, it is a progression.
It is the move toward Truth.
Keep going and be encouraged, dear friend.
God is not out to squash you.