This morning when I meditated, God came down and talked with me on the veranda.
I was repeating after Hillary McBride of the Liturgists, softly, words that felt ridiculous to me:
You are a unique being. There is no one exactly like you. All the courtesies, love, and energy extended to any other human, you can also give to yourself because you are a unique being worthy of appreciation and high self-esteem.
First it was in third person, which wasn’t too terribly difficult. But then she shifted into first person and things got increasingly uncomfortable. Several interesting things seemed to be happening in my body as I reluctantly whispered the words over and over again, after Hillary:
I am a unique being. There is no one exactly like me. All the courtesies, love, and energy extended to any other human, I also give to myself because I am a unique being worthy of appreciation and high self-esteem.
I tend to swing from end to end of the self-esteem spectrum–sometimes feeling almost suicidal self-loathing and other times feeling like I might have narcissistic personality disorder like my biological father or maybe some clinical form of grandiosity. Both of these ends of the spectrum make me feel like a total CRAZYPANTS, which sucks. It really would be nice to have some revelation (or brain surgery?) which would set my self-esteem straight for good. But for me it’s just never been that simple so far. Saying the affirmation over and over again set off a civil war inside my soul, I swear, right there on my veranda. Often when I am praying like this, I am aware that I must look and sound like an actual crazy person, the way that I talk out loud to God as if He were really there. I have been told more than once that I appear schizophrenic while in this vulnerable state. It’s one of the reasons I prefer to pray in complete solitude. But God sure seems to love it when I pray this way because more often than not, He breaks in and it sure does seem like He is actually, physically there and talking with me. Sometimes His invisible presence is so overwhelming that I buckle to the floor in a heap.
I began to cry out loud for a deeper, richer understanding of agape love and of my own belovedness in Him. Of course I don’t want to be arrogant and grandiose but neither do I want to wallow in self-pity. Neither are admirable or efficient ways of being for a saint. I’m so exhausted from this constant back and forth, never settling into who I am in Him…what is it that holds me back so, Lord? I need for Him to make me understand my belovedness, to cause me to take Him at His Word and to live that out in my life every day, in spite of all my weaknesses.
I imagined holding each of my babies, these children that came from my body, and I felt the transcendent, all-encompassing agape love of God as I marveled at each of their tiny faces and their hands and feet. For several weeks after each of them was born, I wandered around in a euphoric state, overcome by agape. There’s absolutely nothing that any of them could do to make me love them even one iota more or less than I just do because I am their mother, because they are mine. That’s just how agape works, I know. It’s unconditional.
So for the entire third time I repeated after Hillary, I tried to suspend my regularly-scheduled disbelief and imagine that the Creator of the Universe really did knit me together lovingly while I was in my mother’s womb; that He gave me exactly this voice and exactly this temperament, even this fiery temper and too-sharp tongue; that I really am fearfully and wonderfully made; and that there’s nothing I could ever do to make Him look at me with any less agape. For just a few moments, I even imagined that I might actually be absolutely one-of-a-kind, created just as I am and for just such a time as this in history, with stories and songs and gifts that only I can write and sing and cultivate and give away. At the very end of the third time I said the affirmation, I heard Him clear as today’s October sky sing joyfully over me:
“They ain’t seen nothin’ like you yet, kid.”
Sang the God of all creation, just grinning so huge over me that I could feel the heat of His smile. I instantly erupted into joyous tears of relief, rapturous that He would bother to break in like that to help me understand. I am so beloved. Oh my God, I am beloved. A revelation I have had many times before, but that I keep forgetting over and over again, like a woman who has just seen her reflection in the mirror and then walks away and immediately forgets her own appearance.
But this time I basked in it a little longer than usual and let out a full-bodied exultation in the form of a laugh so large and loud and musical and beautiful, it somehow sounded and felt just like embodied Love, Love, Love coming out of my mouth. It is these such precious golden moments with God that assure that I could never, ever convert to atheism. The future of Christianity belongs to the mystics, I believe it.
I suddenly realized that, once again, I probably look like a crazy person here. But either He is real and actually bothers to talk with me or I am insane, a possibility I have seriously considered over the past few years, I confess. The minute I let myself go there, wondering if maybe it’s just that I’m crazy as a fox, the shame broke in:
Who the hell do you think you are, kid? Remember what you felt? Remember what you did? Remember what you said? Remember who thinks you’re too far-gone of a mess to even stick around? Remember all the people you’ve told to fuck off over the years? Remember where you came from and who you are, little girl.
That right there is what a classic shame storm looks like for Lisa Cash. The Devil on my left shoulder, the Spirit of God everywhere else around me. But I’m so easily distracted, especially by all this shame still trapped in my bones. I usually crumble pretty easily too. It’s embarrassing that I still haven’t figured this shit out after all these years walking with Jesus. But there is a lot of trauma and shame trapped inside me still. I need so much healing, so much agape.
He’s the only one who could ever reach me, even for a second, and even possibly persuade me that I’m not too much of a far-gone mess that some of this might be able to be redeemed and used for good somehow. I started to despair right there on the veranda, already forgetting what it felt like just a few seconds ago–when I laughed Love, Love, Love with God singing over me, but today something entirely new happened in the next moment.
Today I saw her face: one of my dearest, oldest friends, whom I have loved since girlhood. I saw her sweet, ruddy face just covered with the exact same brand of soul-crushing, dream-damning, life-interrupting shame that has been my bane these last seven years. I saw her clothed in same goddamned garments of shame that are in my closet, just heaping ashes and dust upon herself, hopelessly paralyzed by it. And then I heard Him say words that felt cruel for their piercing truth:
“What about her? Does she deserve this?”
My thoughts swirled as to what He meant.
If I won’t believe Him and be loved (because clearly I feel that I don’t deserve it [because obviously I don’t!]), then the conversation is over, right? That is that.
But He just keeps looking at me this way when I steal away with Him and He just keeps calling me beloved anyway and I don’t understand it and I feel like I can’t even take it!
But if I will not take Him at His Word and somehow miraculously receive and embody it, this impossible blessed belovedness, then what about her over there with the same shame-stained face???? Is there no hope for her either?
And then I let out one of my famous guttural wails, another barbaric yawp at the Rock of Ages, my God who meets me on the veranda. I felt His righteous anger rise at the shameful lies we have built these notions of ourselves upon.
No, we don’t deserve it. But He gives it anyway–forgiveness like a crown; beauty upon beauty instead of ashes; healing oil right on top of our heads and flowing down our backs. He keeps telling us over and over and over again but we keep forgetting.
So gently, He says:
When, my daughters, when will you believe?
Lord, I believe! Sure as heaven, I believe it for her, that she is wholly, irrevocably beloved! I swear I do! Every time I let myself go to shame, let me see her face from now on. It is unacceptable to me that either of us should stay in these nasty stinking garments of shame any longer! Lord, help us to see ourselves as you see us.
Lord, help me to believe! Cause me to believe! I am so stupid and stubborn, Lord. Break through until we finally comprehend, until we embody this belovedness, Father God. God help us, my precious friend and I.