I’ve never been spiritually motivated by the idea of being good, doing the right thing, or proving how holy I am. I can’t recall a single time when I made a decision, spiritually speaking, based on these things. Right or wrong, I am driven simply by God’s love.
Over a delightful decaffeinated version of my favorite drink, I had an in-depth conversation with a good friend a few days ago regarding this matter. She admitted that if anything, she had always been too intimidated to screw up and had probably missed out on what God could have done in her life as a result. I could not relate–I have lived my life, until recently, on the other extreme. I’ve never been concerned with what others thought about my choices, and for a long time, I wasn’t even that concerned with what God thought about my choices. I lived my own life, making choices for myself–in essence, playing God.
Thankfully, God circled Himself around me and pulled me in to Himself over and over again, despite my despondence.
Me at 17
After battling inner demons for years, mostly related to spiritual dissonance that had settled itself in my soul after being raped when I was 16 years old, I finally came to terms with the truth that God does love me. He never stopped. He never will.
I recognized this fully for the first time when I was 17. On July 4th, while watching fireworks by myself in the middle of a pasture in Oklahoma, I asked God to give me what I had been unable to find anywhere else–peace. Don’t get me wrong–smoking pot provided some temporary self-medicating relief. So did unhealthy relationships. And so did wallowing in self-pity and drowning myself in depressing grungy 90s music. But nothing afforded me real peace. Nothing lasted.
God did. And then some. From that day on, my heart was His. He developed specific, secret ways of showing me His love. I still don’t share these secrets with others; our love is too intimate to spill it out completely. He sent signs to me that I did not deserve. He granted me opportunities I never earned. He used the world around me–and still does–to whisper Words into my heart. I remember bathing myself in sunlight on the bed in my dorm room in college, which I conveniently parked right in front of the window facing the eastern sky. As the sunlight warmed me, and I relaxed and napped, I imagined God covering me with His light.
Sadly, the inner demons I’d attempted to silence and bury never died. They lay dormant for periods of time; at other times, they reared their ugly heads. Without consciously realizing I was forsaking my Love, I chose paths that seemed easier, less painful, and more satisfying. I broke His heart. In the process, I broke my own.
All the while, He never stopped loving me and reminding me of His love. His pursuit of me has been ridiculous.
I remember when I started dating my husband, after a decade or more of wounded living and hurtful relationships, I was beyond jaded. A father who abandoned me and battled addiction. Being raped the first time I had sex. Losing who I thought to be the love of my life in college. Marrying and subsequently divorcing two men whose addictions proved much more powerful than I’d expected. Needless to say, I was not Pollyanna, even though I had certainly been trying to see the brighter side and rekindle my romance with My Love. I was scarred, and I was scared.
My fear took the form of clinging to control. I could not believe that my husband–then boyfriend–could be as good as he seemed to be. I kept looking for rotten flesh and rattling bones in his closets. I turned the simplest of statements into complicated scenarios in my mind, expecting the worst and fearing to hope for the best. But my husband refused to let my scars and the demons I battled with win.
“Why don’t you just let me love you, Bethany?”
His hands held my face. I couldn’t even look at him.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
Our wedding, 2012
Thank God I found the answers, after the most harrowing search through my soul, countless hours of prayer and meditation on Scripture, and the helpful insight of a professional counselor. What started out as a quest to discover how to have a healthier relationship with my boyfriend resulted in total spiritual restoration to the One who had been holding my face in His hands for 16 years, begging me to let Him love me.
I am My Beloved’s, and He is mine.
That’s all the motivation I need.
That is what matters.