In the past two years or so, God has seemed hidden from me. Every now and then I would get a glimpse. Some reassurance of His love, manifested in ways perhaps no one else would have noticed. But to me, they were those little messages, those little love notes that said, “hey, don’t worry, I’m still here, I still love you, I’m still watching you, just wait my love.”
Like that cold August afternoon I spent sitting on a rock under an apple tree on the hill overlooking the Maine fields and forest, and it just felt like He was looking at my soul. Like he was just staring at me in my barefeet and army pants and my brothers old thermal shirt, covered in paint and mud…and like he thought I was pretty. Like he enjoyed my soul, and rejoiced over my heart.
Like last fall when I went to Nashville, and Andy Davis wasn’t suppose to be there, but then ended up having this last minute show. And I wandered into the bar only to hear “laugh so you don’t cry…” and my heart just lifted. Because the beauty of that music got me through one of the hardest seasons of my life, and it felt like God was romancing me in that moment. And as I walked the streets alone later that night, and stood on the bridge, watching the water flow beneath me, I felt like I was really walking into restoration. Like rescue was in fact, near.
Like the night I spent on the beach with a childhood friend, sitting in the lifeguard shack, watching the waves roll in the moonlight, sharing secrets, and feeling like finally my soul was understood. Walking back across the sand and looking at him, and thinking God you love him with such reckless abandon, you never give up on him, and yet he keeps looking away – how can that be?? And understanding in that second – that’s how you love me too. Faithful, consistent, patient lover.
God’s hiding is not his absence. I never felt like he was gone from my life. I was very aware of his presence. I knew he was right there. I just could not get to him. I couldn’t see him like I used to be able to. He didn’t look the same.
The things that used to work didn’t anymore. Laying on my face late at night, walking under the stars, reading His word, going to church…all those things I used to be able to do to come into communion with him, just didn’t work anymore.
And I’ve realized, it’s because of things that I did. I felt like if I did more of something and less of something else, well God would start to like me better, and he’d start coming around more. But he still stayed at a distance. And so then I thought – well if you don’t like me, I won’t like you either. At this point, God’s kids weren’t helping any. I was at a Christian college – those people can easily be categorized as crazy. So I stayed away. I quit going to church. Church was so mundane and weird to me. It certainly did not feel like the sort of place I would go to meet with God. It was definitely not the community of Christ I had been studying in the New Testament.
So upon graduating, I ran away.
To a very remote, unpopulated island.
I thought that if I could just get away from all those Christians in the Bible belt, I may be able to finally find God again. I expected to come here and walk alone with Him. I was hoping I wouldn’t find a lot of Christians here. I was so tired of them.
But when I arrived at this little island in the Pacific, I was overcome. I felt so lonely. I was homesick for the first time since my freshman year.
My roommate was a 38 year old Brazilian man, who drank a lot beer and painted nudes at night. He was also an agnostic. And while I had some very good talks with him about life in Christ, I just felt very battered around him, and there was spiritual warfare I am sure.
I felt like I needed to go to church. Something I hadn’t done in over a year. I didn’t have a car, so I hitch-hiked [I thought it was safe, since I was going to church and all]. The person who gave me a ride was concerned that I would have to walk back after the service – but I assured him that if there were real believers there, I would be fine.
So I walked into this open air “building” and sat in a lawn chair. Immediately, I was aware of God. I saw Him again. And I wept. Standing among a small group of strangers, singing praises, my heart overflowed and I simply cried before him, rejoicing that we were together again.
I hate to be vulnerable before others. And here I was, so incredibly weak, before an entire body of strangers, and I could not hide. They came up to me and hugged me, and offered genuine love. They invited me into their own lives.
Summarized, here on this little island, I have rediscovered God.
And I have rediscovered Him through the very people who drove me from Him – His children. I have found here, a community of genuine love for one another. People who really treat you like family. People who really will offer anything they have in the name of Jesus. People who don’t worry about money or possessions, but take each day as it comes and simply give whatever they have.
I’m rediscovering God through His people. Not moments alone on the beach – though those are precious and intimate times with Him – but, among His body, taking part as a member of His church.
I am part of the body that is His bride. And as I rediscover Him, He rejoices over me. Rejoices over me. I still don’t understand that. I still don’t see how he could look at me and find me lovely, or look at me an even like me. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that he does. And he is using these beautiful, broken people called Christians, to show me that.
I turned 23 today. Those years ago, he breathed that first breath of life into me. And he still does. I still stand at the waters edge and feel him breathing life into me. I feel alive. I feel restored. I feel rescued. Because he has allowed me to rediscover him. And he does love me.