“What do I know of You, Who spoke the world in motion?
Where have I even stood, but soil along Your ocean?
Are You fire, are You fury? Are You sacred, are You beautiful?
What do I know – what do I know of holy?” ~ Addison Road
Once upon a time I thought that I knew of holiness.
I memorized entire books of the the Bible. The book of James? “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are scattered abroad. Greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience…” I had it covered.
The Sermon on the Mount? “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” Yes, that too.
I was in church every time the doors were open – splitting my time attending both Catholic and Protestant churches with each of my parents. I knew the Hail Mary and The Four Spiritual Laws by heart.
When I was 12, I had so many questions about the Catholic faith that my dad had a priest from his parish come to his house to try and answer them for me.
I once beat my mom’s pastor at Bible Trivia. I was 13.
I dressed in skirts down to my ankles so as not to defraud anyone around me.
I made a vow to God that I would never dance. I vowed to never enter a movie theatre. I vowed that I would never date.
My heart aches when I think of the girl that I once was, the young girl who tried so hard to be “on fire for the Lord.” With tears in my eyes, and a yearning deep in my soul, I can only wish that there were some way to go back, take that little girl’s hand, and let her in on what I know now – I was simply trying too hard. For years I had been trying to earn His love and acceptance.
As hard as I had strived to be on fire for God, it wasn’t long before I burned out.
At the age of 18, I was tired of pretending. I was so weary of the hypocrisy and legalism that had engulfed my life, and that I had witnessed being lived out in churches and religious groups around me. If this was Christianity, being a Christ-follower, I was finished. While never losing grip on my core beliefs, I went on a spiritual sabbatical of sorts. For the first time in my life, I stopped attending church. My Bible became hidden under books of poetry, self-esteem, and fluffy chick lit.
Struggling and hurting, I waded through this religious void for over a year, as if blindly navigating myself through the ocean’s rolling tide. What had started as a time of rest, revealed the burden upon burden that I had been carrying this whole time – for nearly as long as I could remember. I realized that instead of soaring on the wings of the holiness that I had tried to attain, I was actually stumbling under the weight of the perfectionism that I had placed on my own shoulders. I was spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted.
What did I know of holy? Absolutely nothing.
I had so much knowledge, and yet I knew so little.
I can’t recall the exact moment when the tiny ember inside my heart began to glow once more, but something gently whispered it back to life. I became introduced to the work of Brennan Manning. As I read his books, the wall that had formed around my heart began to crumble away, piece by piece. “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” ~ The Ragamuffin Gospel
Wow. Such an awakening. This bedraggled little ragamuffin is loved. Deeply loved. And nothing that I had ever done or could ever do would help me to earn it. Ever so cautiously, I approached my Heavenly Father in a few timid prayers. I started visiting churches once more. I began to gently turn the pages of my Bible, studying the once familiar passages with a guarded curiosity, and then a growing hunger. For the first time in my life, I realized that grace wasn’t something that I had to earn. I could lay down my burdens, and finally be at rest. Grace was a gift. Such a beautiful and undeserved gift.
It didn’t matter how many verses that I memorized. It wasn’t about holding myself to rules and standards. It didn’t matter if I could go toe-to-toe with a priest. None of that mattered because I had missed the whole point – that He loves me, the sinful, wounded, dirty, questioning little ragamuffin that I am.
Once upon a time, my fire burned out, but a tiny ember came back to life. Over the 13 years that have passed since then, the flame in my heart may no longer resemble the roaring fire of my youth, but now a soft and steady glow has taken its place.
So, after all this time – all these years – what do I now know of holy? Of His grace? I believe that I have only the tiniest glimpse. While I continue to grow, and desire to learn more, here is what I do know…
I don’t have to earn anything.
I am loved. Deeply loved.
And that is more than enough for me.
Tuesday, October 15th, is the day that Addie Zierman’s book that addresses this topic, When We Were On Fire, is released! I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon, so I am excitedly awaiting its arrival on my doorstep that afternoon. I am linking up with her in today’s post. In preparation for the release of her book, Addie has organized a synchroblog where others can link up with stories of when they were on fire. Please go check out the other posts on Tuesday – and her new book!
Beach photos are courtesy of my Beloved – taken near Monterey, California.
"I want to know you moved and breathed in the same world with me.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald I recently ran...