I sat in the tiny chapel for the second night in a row. I was hoping for a special Word for my heart alone but feared that it had already come and, unbeknownst to me, had slipped past unnoticed. Retreats are always like that for me. I come with hopes and expectations of what may come, but in the back of my mind I always fear that in my self-absorbed nature I’ll miss it.
And there were plenty of reasons I would have missed it that night. I was in a room with so many writers and speakers I admire so very much, after all, and my mind had been wracked for days with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. My writing does not command the audience that theirs does, and in their presence I became somewhat blubbery, awkward, and starstruck.
On top of that, my aching body wanted little more than to recline and sleep. Shin bruised and sore from a jaunt up a challenge course rope ladder. Head throbbing from mental stimulation and physical exhaustion. Eyes dry and scratchy from springtime allergies (though the weather had seemed nothing like spring and my chapped lips and hands could attest to it). On top of all of that, my foot was asleep. Yes, it would have been easy to miss it.
So when the speaker – my anticipated favorite of the weekend – stepped to the podium, I whispered a prayer: “Please help me to focus. I don’t want to miss what you have for me.”
As the talk began, I was soon swept away by the Spirit of God moving in and around me, faithfully carrying me away from all of that. I was in the moment, captivated by words of life and truth to the point that I – an avid note-taker – completely forgot to write anything down for chunks of time.
I nodded in agreement with the speaker’s words of God’s love for me and of His belief in me and of my calling to serve Him and only Him through my dream of writing and speaking. When the talk was over, the music began, and I undertook to write down all that has held me back from my dreams. The tears overflowed from my tired eyes and my heart pounded in my chest. Revelation was coming.
I anticipated a Word from the Lord about my dream specifically. It was a retreat for dreamers, after all, and the emphasis all weekend was on pursuing and living out our God-sized dreams. I thought God might give me specific direction about the next move I should make for my blog, or that maybe He would show me the main point of my message to the world. I don’t know — maybe I even thought He would reveal something about video blogging or new business cards or a more eye-catching way to share my posts on Facebook. I’m not sure what I thought He would say, but I was altogether unprepared for what I heard Him whisper to my heart.
“I don’t love her any more than I love you.”
And I knew who He was talking about. I knew it as plainly as if He had said her name, because since the moment I arrived at the retreat my thoughts had been of her and those like her. They were the speakers – the writers who seemed entirely more suited to that title than I. They were the bloggers with followings beyond their own circles of loving and supportive friends. They were the beautiful and gifted and truly anointed women who had put the conference together, and I had been consumed for weeks with thoughts of how I could possibly make myself even seem to fit in with such extraordinary women.
So yes, when God told me of His equal love for us, I knew who He was talking about. What I hadn’t realized was that somewhere in my heart I actually did think that she, with her hundreds of faithful readers and incredible influence phenomenal gifting, commanded more of my God’s affection just because of who she is. It’s not that I didn’t think God loved me, or that I didn’t think He loved me as much as possible. What I thought – I think – was that He loved me as much as He could…given that I am, well, me.
Apparently I thought I could somehow be promoted to the next level – the next pay scale, so to speak – and that I would then finally be eligible for more of my Father’s love. I would then be able to receive more of what He has for me. It wasn’t a works-based theology so much as it was a hierarchical one. For my rank, I thought, God loves me as much as He can. Once I am promoted, He’ll love me more.
I don’t quite know what I thought would get me to that coveted next level, but I do think that my subconscious belief in my inferiority in God’s eyes caused much of my stress about my next steps. My dream wasn’t about loving and serving my God the best way I could. Rather, it was about earning something I already had.
Yes…it’s reasonable to say that God caught me off guard in the best possible way. It shouldn’t have surprised me that what He had to reveal to me wasn’t about my place in the world but about my place in His heart. God loves me as his daughter first – before He loves my dream or my work or my words or my aspirations or my ministry. He loves me. Me, because I am me. Me, because He made me and sings over me and says I am good. He loves me as much as anyone, and He loves you exactly the same.