i remember many years ago my mom telling me that she felt like she was "carrying around a bag of gold" all the time... by which she meant (i think) that all the experiences, wisdom, collected reading and thinking that she had done became a part of who she was that she was able to then share with others.
i think i might be carrying around a (small) bag of gold. admittedly, my life has drastically changed - some would say fallen apart - in the last 8 months, and so much of who i am is being discovered or redefined in new ways. but slowly the integration of who i was and i who i am seems possible. and for that i'm *so* relieved.
one of the things that i've begun to see is that my life has always been full of spiritual formation - reading, fasting, studying, teaching, praying, mediating - all for the sole purpose of believing (experiencing) that God actually loved me. but no matter how devoted i was, i never believed it. the more i tried to prove my worth, the less worthy i felt....the more God's love seemed mandatory instead of chosen...and mandatory love, like mandatory fun, is neither love, nor fun.
i couldn't live with the disparity anymore. i spent a year consciously telling God that he was mean, and i wasn't going to believe in him anymore, and how could he? i turned my back at every spiritual impulse. funnily, it didn't take me long to realize that i totally believed in God. his absence proved how real his presence had been. my life without him was so scary. i became willing to admit that God was real, but not that he loved me voluntarily.
then separation. fighting. trying. losing the battle. being ostracized from my church community. losing friends, losing dinner with my daughter every night... so much loss. no one chooses that much loss for fun, in case you were wondering. this was never in my plan.
but i was talking to my friend kim the other night, and i pulled some gold for her out of the bag i didn't know i was carrying around. i realized all my formation wasn't lost. it's still there, but it's being redefined and restructured. after we talked for a bit, i was struck by the realization that i am more sure now, in my inarguable brokenness, that God loves me than i've been. i even believe that God *likes* me. which is contrary to everything i was taught for the first 40 years of my life. but i actually think it might be true. in the suddenness of the moment, i blurted out to kim, "i'm like the velveteen rabbit!"
the velveteen rabbit. worn. covered in disease. no longer good enough. it wasn't until that was the reality of the rabbit that he was able to become real. and it was because in that broken, worn and dirty state he was still *so* loved. the state he was in didn't matter... in fact he had been loved through all the things that had made him faded and torn and "worthless". and it was because of the immense love that had been poured into him for all those years that he became real.
*please* do not misunderstand me. i'm not saying that losing my marriage has made me real, or whole. it has not. it's been awful, if i'm honest. but i am saying that somehow, all of this hurt and dirt has allowed to begin to experience a love i have spent years longing for. now that i know i'm no longer able to prove myself worthy of anything, i have nothing left to prove. but i feel the flutter of life inside of me. God is making me real - not because of what and who and how i am, but regardless of what and who and how i am. because (weirdly) he likes me. how shocking is that? God *likes* me. that's much more shocking than if he just loved me. "God is love" means he loves everyone, but liking someone is a preference... a choice. i think i might be God's velveteen rabbit.