I've been talking to a few people about God's love and God's love for me. I'm just going to throw this all out there so...that's the best introduction I can muster. :)
Growing up, my father had a strict religious upbringing, my mother's told me. To the point where, if my father came home and he was the only person there, he feared the Rapture had happened and that he had missed it. That he was, somehow, left behind. I think that fear has followed me my whole life.
It started, really, with going to my grandmother's church. She refused to come to ours because she said our faith was 'dead' and that she couldn't stand it. I remember a member of my extended family, someone I recognized, flailing on the ground and yelling. It scared me. Look, us Lutherans don't really put on a show. When we get hand-clapping, I always laugh because we appear awkward in our movement during service. You just don't DO that.
My friend in 4th grade would let me come to her house and we would watch videos on the Rapture. I remember these two girls who had missed it and I watched as they arrested one of them for believing in Christ and I remember her head being chopped off by a guillotine. The other girl received the Mark of the Beast. I would wake up in cold sweats after that. I would cry to my mother that I was afraid of the concept of 'forever' and what if God decided that He didn't love me? That I wasn't good enough for him?
When I was in middle school, I LOVED horror books. Loved to read Stephen King, even though my parents insisted on blacking out the curse words (this is how big of a dork I was, if I ran across any they missed, I blacked them out myself). I remember a friend of mine looking me straight in the eye and telling me I was going to hell for reading those books. We would go to her church lock-ins and I remember specifically being told that teenagers couldn't accept God and that we were all going to hell if we died at that very moment. Another friend of mine who came was so scared that she cried and re-committed herself to God that night. But she was terrified. What if God hated her?
I hear people say things and I stiffen. I know that they are about God and the love of God, but I can hear the voices of the people who influenced me when I'm younger and I rebel against them. Then I get guilty. Those words are about God, what if He thinks I don't love Him? Then what? I have never been able to look at myself at say that I will go to heaven. I can't say those things about myself. I feel that God will change His mind. I know that I am saved by grace. Just don't ask me where I'm going once I die.
I know that people will ask if I have forgiven these people. I assume that I have. I don't hold that bitterness anymore. Is that forgiveness? I can tell you that I didn't talk to my grandmother for two years, but I put it aside.
But I still feel like what Father Boyle describes in Tattoos On The Heart in the section 'God, I Guess': You concede "God loves us," and yet there is this lurking sense that perhaps you aren't fully part of the "us." The arms of God reach to embrace, and somehow you feel yourself just outside God's fingertips."
I'm trying to rip the clods of dirt off my heart. Trying to rip away all the things that I go back to (*cough* *cough* FEAR). I'm trying to look in the mirror and love myself. Because I feel like if I could love myself, that would help too. I could go into all the stories in high school...the 8th grade baseball team who called me a beached whale, but this is already getting long.
I'm hopeful that, if I could see what God sees, that I could love myself and accept that God would love me with all my cellulite, with my obsessions, with my want to help EVERYONE, whether or not I actually can. That I don't have to please EVERYONE and that God loves me even if I hate my haircut or think my arm fat flap in the wind. And that He doesn't want me to have the fear I have...the fear I have is not the good kind...it is the kind that will eventually kill me.