I cried this morning. In a room full of people. I never even cry by myself anymore. But I cried for the last fifteen minutes of church today because I figured out why my post-World Race life has been a living hell and it was beautiful and I let my Lifegroup see me and hug me instead of hiding and telling them I was fine.
First we need to rewind to last May. One more time. I’ve already written a lot about it, but I promise this is a new angle. Hang in with me. This is finally a story that ends in a resolution, not a question mark, and it’s a Christmas morning happy ending too.
I was in a state of utter panic when F Squad left South Africa and started our multi-day journey home. At the time I couldn’t name it, what I was feeling, but now I know I was terrified of who I’d become over the past eleven months. I loved “New Linda” as I called her, I loved the freedom I’d learned to walk in…but more than anything I loved the friends who’d walked beside me as all of that happened, who’d loved me back to life when I was still Confused and Angry Linda Who Won’t Let Anyone Love Her.
I was afraid that I’d come home and disappoint people, that I wouldn’t be able to find another community like the one I was leaving…I was afraid I’d forget who I was, or just not be able to hold onto her, when I was no longer living life beside the people who watched me grow into her.
It’s been almost nine months since then, and coming back to America hasn’t exactly been Disney World. Almost every other post I’ve written since May 24th, whether here or on my Racer blog, will tell you all about that if you need a refresher.
Fast forward to today.
We’ve been talking about God’s design for sex and gender at Midtown, and today’s sermon was on biblical femininity. The entire thing was a gold mine and you should go listen to it as soon as the recording goes up Monday morning(edit: here it is), but this is the part where God took a baseball bat to the glass house I’d built around my heart to keep him out.
Brandon was talking, much more eloquently than I’m about to explain it, about how women want to know that they’re beautiful and worthy…and how God is the only one who can ever erase the question marks in our eyes and tell us who we are.
A question…that only God can answer…
THAT’S IT!!!!!!!(said like Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas)
I’ve been begging everyone but God to tell me who I am.
I came home and set out to find anyone I could to tell me that God really had changed me. That I could be that free, joyful, grace-filled person wherever I was in life. That even though I wasn’t a missionary anymore, I was important. That I was everything my squadmates had said I was.
And even when I finally found those people at the end of October…I didn’t believe them. Rather, I didn’t believe they’d always think those good things about me. Making sure they kept loving me basically entailed taking up as little space as possible, speaking only when spoken to, and never telling the truth when they asked how I was. I wasn’t even really letting them love me, now that I think about it, because I was so afraid to let them see me.
I didn’t trust their answer to my question because I wasn’t resting in God’s answer.
I was living exactly what the Oh Hellos are singing about.
But when you wage your wars against the one who adores you, then you’ll never know the treasure that you’re worth…and yet you’re far too beautiful to leave me.
I was too mad at God to listen to what he had to say, but too afraid of people to believe what they were telling me. And he was there, the whole time, patiently waiting for me to turn around and ask him what I’d been desperately asking everyone else.
So today, when Brandon dropped that truth bomb and my heart exploded, I said, “Okay Jesus. Who am I?” And I meant it. I was really ready to hear it now. But I wasn’t ready for the avalanche of answers God had for me. The list of words went on and on and the more he said the more I was crying, and by now we were singing and we got to my favorite line in almost any worship song ever that says
Why should I gain from his reward, I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom
and now I was laughing while I was still sobbing because THAT’S THE POINT OF THE GOSPEL and I went around the world telling people that and apparently totally forgot that it counted for my own life, and I thought I had to pay God back for all the good things he’d done in those eleven months, prove to him that I deserved all of it, but I don’t because the World Race wasn’t college and grace isn’t like a student loan.
And now that it doesn’t matter what people think of me because I remember what Jesus KNOWS about me, I can actually love them.
Although my impossibly wonderful Lifegroup already loved me from day one, even in the midst of my desperate ex-missionary need to be validated. Because they get the Gospel. And so do I, again.