I came home from that night and I wrote on a half-used mini legal pad I found in my dad’s desk drawer: “my new relationship with God.” This and the date below it, in red ink. Though my file system back then was not as necessarily-sophisticated as it is now, I can still see those words in my mind’s eye.
My new documentary began. Life with Jesus.
I can close my eyes and step back into that skin as if it were yesterday: much of high school, a series of faded memories, but even the smell of that Michigan weekend still alive in my senses.
Somehow, my adolescent mind understood something that was too big for its britches. Grace. I knew Him in an instant, without having the slightest clue of what knowing Him would mean.
The summer following was thick with encounter. Late nights on my parents’ backyard swing, bible in hand and heart open, He was alive in me. Moon-kissed face, I was ready to behold because looking at this Man was central to my christianity.
But my baby steps in God were also filled with benefits. Sure, the costs worked erosion against my high school popularity, but the perks outweighed them.
I had a purpose. In one little night, my life gained the momentum that every teenager longs for: mission. I found gold and I was surrounded by a thousand-plus others who were digging. Hungry adolescents and I had found food.
In a Man, and in His offering.
Fast forward 15+ years and a what feels like a life-time of story unfolding, I’ve noticed an interesting competition whose roots shot-out early in my walk with God.
A little while ago, and for what felt like a solid year, I left my phone on vibrate in hopes of talking to no one. Life had battered me and I hid behind thick sunglasses, walls I’d erected to avoid more hurt and more pain. (Only a few friends got through my firewalls.) One thing after another after another and I was not in a mess, I became the mess.
A stranger to the outside world made me a friend of God.
I found that He likes the broken-hearted. The weak ones are His ones. I was His, and every day I felt too shy to face the world with my pain, I grew in confidence before Him. Misunderstood by some, and fully known by the One that mattered.
This was where my capacity grew. I used to twitch after twenty, thirty minutes in His presence, but in this time, I came to know much longer stretches where the clock surprised me instead of dictating me. I met hunger again (and after so much purpose) and He was sweet.
It was all about Him. Life felt poor, but I was rich in this Man.
And I thought, coming out of that time, that it was only in struggle where I would find Him again. Like any child, because I am mother but still child, my principles were formed from my limited experience.
So, when the tides turned, and I moved from winter to spring, my heart got scared. I’d learned Him in sorrow, but doubted He could be found in laughter. Would the smiles of my brown-footed blessings override what I once knew of in Him in the secret?
Because blessing came thick. Forget not all His benefits, the banner over my life. I knew new love, wrapped around my wedding band — my promise of things to come — and just down the hall in their room. My paradigm for what life needed to look like in order to find God was threatened. Is threatened. It still looms.
And He speaks.
The benefits of God are so great: beautiful, spring rain watering my earth which was once desert-dry. We are living beings, receiving from His hand is a part of His input. He made us to not only live up, but live out. And His benefits enhance that living out.
But these, still, are accessories. Even the best of God’s benefits in my life do not overshadow the still, small beholding-this-man moments (then through pain, now through blessing) where I stare into His word, into His face, and He comes near.
There is still only One thing we were made to crave, to search out.
Both the dark nights and the spring days allure me to fix my gaze on what I get from Him instead of getting lost in Him. But I want to end my life as one who fell in love with this Man and not His benefits.
‘Cause the former is good, but the latter is so … so much better.
When the earth moves, as it just did on another continent, or in my daily stride, every moment I’ve spent beholding will bear fruit.
And when it rests …. peaceful, every moment I’ve spent beholding will bear fruit.
Photograph courtesy of Lucy O’ Photography. She does beautiful work.
The epilogue to beholding is adoring. In the corner of this blog, you’ll find a place for just that. Looking up and breathing back what we inhale in Him. If you’ve been stirred to behold, come join me and others as we exhale adoration.