“As far as the east is from the west
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Psalm 103:12 (NASB)
Ok this blog is going to get real honest….
I remember always being a good little girl. I don’t mean to say I wasn’t stubborn or moody or didn’t fight with my siblings. I did. What I mean to say is when I look back on my childhood, I remember always trying to be good. It was a conscious way of growing up for me. I hated being in trouble. If I did something wrong, I tried to fix it. I was a good “fixer”. I wasn’t a discipline problem in school. I tried to do my best. I studied and was friendly. I don’t remember fighting with my parents. I tried to help at home. Keep everyone happy with me. Keep the peace. Be the responsible one. Growing up, we went to church. Growing up Catholic and going to a parochial school was a perfect fit for me. I liked the rules and I liked knowing I was keeping the rules. It was a place of great peace and comfort for me.
I wish I could say all this was because I was motivated by a deep moral center. No, if I am very honest, I think it was because I was afraid. I was afraid of being in trouble. I was afraid of angering my parents, teachers, my friends… and yes, God. I was afraid of what would happen if I was “bad”. I’m 51 years old now and soberly I am realizing that much of my motivation growing up has been fear-based. I was a little girl, teenager living that if I did well or was pleasing or...good, then I would be OK. People would be OK with me. GOD would be OK with me.
Religion as a kid fit me like a glove. My faith was simply trying not to anger a god of judgement. The sacraments of my faith kept me in line. Safe. Out of hell. But never loved or free or full of peace.
When I was just 12, my mom brought us to a new kind of church. A church that spoke of a God who loved us and created us for relationship with Him. I had no idea how much I wanted that. I drank it in and gave my life to Christ as a young teen. I had a phenomenal student ministry where my faith grew deep and I found lifelong friends. It was my world. It began my love for ministry and steered the direction of my life. I’m forever grateful for that foundation.
I poured myself into following Jesus with everything, but as I got older and faced the realities of this world and of this life, I learned quickly that even following Jesus wasn’t going to stop hurt or pain coming in. It didn’t matter how “good” I was, some situations or people were still painful to me. I didn’t understand why God let that pain in when I was working so hard to please Him. Each time I read His word I couldn’t see it as His love letter for me. It became an example of how I wasn’t good enough. My faith was shaken. I didn’t know what to do. I was in a full time difficult ministry situation and felt so terribly alone.
During those years, I stumbled across some old notes from my home church and discovered the title to a book and its author. His name was Brennan Manning. The name of his book, “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus” was hastily scribbled on the old piece of paper I found. I don’t know why I wrote it down but something I heard at church must have prompted me to do so. I bought the book and through his writings, God smashed into my heart with the reality of His love I don’t think I’d ever known before. I call that season my second conversion. What I discovered was this God I was trying so hard to please, was already so pleased with me. I was still trying to make myself someone He would be proud of, yet He was already loving me in deeper ways than I would ever know. All the disappointment I felt in my life from not measuring up, began to slowly heal as Manning’s words, “He loves you as you are and not as you should be”, sunk in. God wasn’t MAD at me. He was mad ABOUT me! The penalty for sin, my sin, my inadequacies, and in all the ways I would never measure up was already placed on the shoulders of Jesus when He died. THAT’S where God’s punishment of sin was placed. On Jesus. For us. For me. His holiness terrified me until I understood that Jesus’ sacrifice removed any reason for fear because He paid it all. Done. Complete. When Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished”, He wasn’t just speaking of His death. He was saying the price has been paid! The bridge between God’s holiness and man’s sin was crossed because of Jesus. I could stop living in fear and hiding. I could stand boldly in the grace given to me. Years after my first acceptance of Jesus, God was calling me to new freedom.
I still battle with fear at times. I’ve had people walk away from me because I didn’t do what they wanted or I wasn’t what they wanted me to be. But God is not man. God is God. I learned in that precious season that His holiness is not something to be afraid of if we know Jesus. It’s His holiness that made the way for us. It’s His holiness that makes His love perfect. Remember what His word says?
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
1 John 4:18 (NASB)
I want to be perfected in love. I do not want fear. I must keep my mind in the truth of His Word. I must keep my heart in prayer to stay close to the Father’s heart. And I must always remember His heart is one of perfect love.
Mary Quillin is a city-girl-turned-country-girl in her new life in North Dakota. She has been married to her hubby for 16 years and has 3 wonderfully, different kids who have begun their teen years (and she would appreciate all the prayers as possible on that note). After many years in full time ministry, Mary is learning how to show up and daily discover the journey of being available for whatever Jesus leads her to. She spends her days trying to build a welcoming shabby chic home in the heartland of North Dakota while learning to write and run.