Do you remember when you were a kid, and boxed mac & cheese with the fluorescent orange powdered cheese substitute was delicious and satisfying? Then one day someone, (maybe even you yourself) made macaroni and cheese from scratch– you know the kind, with two kinds of cheese melted into a wonderful creamy sauce, and toasted, buttered breadcrumbs baked on the top? And from that moment on, the boxed, artificial, cheap counterfeit kind of this family favorite, never satisfied again…
This for me, is also why ever since I tasted it, I have hungered for more and more of what God calls, the abundant life. See, even though I’m a broken person in a messy world with other broken people, I have experienced, and will continue to experience true peace, exquisite joy, and unconditional love no matter the circumstances. I know this all might sound a bit off- especially to those who’ve known me for years and way before I became a Christ follower. But before you dismiss this as foolishness, or just for the weak-minded, I hope you’ll at least consider what I’m sharing. For me, it has been LIFE-CHANGING. And I wish no less for you! (One of the most surprising things about this whole journey is how sentimental I seem to get these days– welling up with tears as I write this…But that’s another story for another day :-))
A few years back I was struggling with severe depression; though my faith told me God was with me and He would get me through this, months went by where I could barely drag myself off the couch- believing (falsely) that there was no hope the unhappy circumstances which were present in my life at that time, would ever change. Little did I know God would use my desperation to teach me about the shame I carried with me, and how it had crippled me for (too) many years. When guilt tells us we did something wrong, those of us who believe in the power of forgiveness can truly be free of it. But shame tells us we ARE something wrong, and eventually it becomes so emeshed in our soul that we continue behaviors to make those lies about ourselves true.
I had a lot of fear around rejection and abandonment issues (and no, I’m not going to pour all that out now), but what I learned is that they were tied to a huge burden of shame I bore about being weird or odd. (Again, not bothering to explain the why’s and wherefore’s today– I mean who really cares about that anyway?) The important thing is that to the core of my being I believed this lie, and that I was, therefore, too weird, too different to be truly loved by God, or anyone! Enter my counselor and a visualization exercise: It started as I stood facing Jesus, and I looked down, and there was this large ugly rock called “Odd” at my feet. I gave it to Him and together, we tossed it over the edge of a cliff where it smashed against a boulder named “Truth” and shattered into a million pieces! Then, still visualizing, Jesus held me and told me I was “unique and special and beautiful, & exactly the way He made me”. And then he gave me a a small green stone that “wasn’t perfect”, but it too was “unique and special”, and He told me to hold it in my hand whenever I needed to remember. My counselor could tell there had been a breakthrough, and after she heard about what happened in the visualization exercise, she suggested I find such a rock as a keepsake.
The story gets better!! As I was driving home I thought of a small collection of polished rocks my son had, and I asked him if he would mind lending me one. Well he raced to his room to bring me his little leather pouch… (so grateful his mommy was finally off the couch and actually present). And the first rock to tumble out of the pouch? You guessed it– it’s small and green and “not perfect”– it has unique and special markings, and it is truly beautiful 🙂
So yes, my faith may still seem like hooey to you, but I’ve tasted the real life, the one God desires for each one of us. He loves us SO much!! No matter what stone we carry or what lie we’ve believed about our identity… It can be hard– to get down to the real pain, but I gotta tell you, once you experience real peace, and joy, and love, you’ll NEVER want to settle for the powdered cheese again!! 🙂