It’s happened to me twice now. The first time was a disaster, the second was a celebration. Both times, God showed me something amazing.
Growing up, like every human alive, I wanted to know if I was loved. I think we all find some way to try to get this question answered. Proving our competence through performance, proving our attractiveness through relationships, or proving our cleverness through study and knowledge, along with many other methods, offer themselves up as ways that we can somehow feel loved. It is such a strong drive, we often throw our whole being into the pursuit that most seems likely to scratch that itch.
Or, worse, we decide we may not ever be loved, so we retreat from the world, preferring to take no chance that rejection might destroy us. We find little areas of the planet to inhabit, safety zones where we might minimize risk, and remain untouched. We are alone, and still unloved, but we have an illusion of safety. This would have been my strategy of choice. I was already well down the path of fearful retreat when God reached out and captured me. Amazingly, He used the acceptance of people as bait to spring the trap. His family began to love me.
Fast forward on the journey, and I gradually began to shift from seeking love, to discovering who I am and what I was made for. On my journey, step by step I discovered gold, and jewels. Funny, I often dream of finding money…ironically I was stumbling on riches as a part of my path. I discovered that I needed one more shift. I needed to shift from seeking first self-discovery, to seeking first the Source of my self. More riches!! It seemed the less I sought the things I needed, the more I seemed to find them. The more I gave up on trying to satisfy my need for “self-discovery” or even love and acceptance, the more of those very things seemed to come my way.
On my path, the things I discovered seemed to help other people. My own transformation seemed to open the door for people around me to be transformed. I worked as a counselor and a volunteer in my church, simply trying to follow that path. As I let God change me, people around me seemed to be changed as well. Then the disaster happened.
Our house flooded, and the destruction was overwhelming. It was far more than I, or even my family could handle. I looked up from the mud and saw people coming in the door. By the end of the day, a hundred people came and did for us what would have been impossible for us to do alone. The most striking thing for me on that day was that the people who showed up that day were connected. They were connected to the journey. A family I had prayed with as their child went through crisis, a man I had shared the journey with, a mother who had been abandoned by her husband, and had found family again in the family of God. Every face was someone who had joined me somewhere on my own journey. They might have said I had helped them. I saw them as people who had taught me that I was not alone, and that seeking God’s nearness first really could transform the human condition.
Fast forward again. We moved and started again. The sweet and the bitter of starting over, both colored the next several years. Old relationships shifted, and our relational network grew wider. New relationships began, and my journey brought new people onto the path. Many of these people now partnered with me as we explored this journey of freedom together. Years passed, and the moments collected into years. Then it happened again. THis time, it was not a disaster, it was a celebration. I had finished the book I had been dreaming about for years, and we threw a party. I looked around, and I was amazingly struck by how similar these two events felt. It was not the nature of the events that was similar. They could not have been more different. What was similar was the feeling. The feeling of looking around at a sea of faces who had joined me on the journey. A father who had been abandoned by his wife, who found family again, in the family of God. A young man I had prayed with in the middle of his parents crisis. They might have said I had helped them. I saw a room full of people who believe for more and are pursuing with me a truth bigger than us.
But here is what I felt. I felt two things, in overwhelming measure.
I felt that I have found the thing I was created for. That I am walking out my destiny as well as I currently understand it. Like a child returning to his family, I felt that I was exactly where I belong. Without trying to get anyone to accept me, I felt belonging in a deep and substantive way.
And I felt loved. I felt loved not because I performed, or convinced others to meet my need, but I felt loved because as I stepped into my place of destiny, it is the natural atmosphere surrounding people who are discovering the present activity of God. People were not fawning, or giving undue flattery, they simply wanted to tell a story of how the intersection of our lives helped them to find more of who they were created to be. I did not feel loved simply because a crowd of people expressed very kind and gracious things about me. I felt loved because in the very real-ness of my journey, a number of other people also found their value and their place in the Kingdom, and they simply expressed what was happening in them. I felt loved because they had received love.
It’s happened twice now…but the sense of how we all need each other on this journey, and what it is like when we respond to each other on purpose, seems to me to be a bit like what heaven will be like.
I like it.