Here’s the next blog in the Known, Loved, Wanted, Precious & Free Series!
The first half of 2015 was a little rough. I was in the most intense spiritual darkness I’d been in — maybe ever.
And then I went to Togo.
While I was there, when the Internet was working (which was a rare occurrence), I messaged back and forth with a friend in California who’s a trained spiritual director.
I asked him what I should do about the darkness — or if I should just conclude that I was a nocturnal saint, meant to live in decades of darkness like Mother Teresa or Julian of Norwich.
“Maybe,” my friend wrote me back.
“But,” he continued.
My ears perked up. Because if there was any way to live in light instead of night, I wanted to know more about it.
He said that sometimes the Dark Night of the Soul lasts for a long time because it takes that long for God to prepare us for a new level of relationship with him. Sometimes it takes the caterpillar a long time to come undone in the cocoon before it’s resurrected as a butterfly.
But, he said. In his experience, the other reason why people live in extended darkness is that there are places they haven’t let Love go.
As soon as I read those words, I knew they were for me. And I knew that the reason I was in darkness is because there were places in my soul where I hadn’t let Love go. Secrets of my heart I hadn’t shared. Places where I guarded, protected and hid myself, afraid to be fully known and seen. Afraid to be vulnerable. Afraid to trust.
I realized I hadn’t let Love all the way in because — while I have known some very kind, generous, noble men — I have also known men who took advantage of me, men who ended up catastrophically wounding me.
In Christianity, there was so much masculine vocabulary used about God — he, him, Abba, father, son — that in my mind, I imagined God as a man. A literal man with testosterone and a beard. A man who was trying to pursue a relationship with me. A man who said he loved me. A man who, I had decided based on my past experience with other men, was just as likely to use his strong arms to pin me down as he was to pick me up.
No wonder I’d erected boundaries between me and God. No wonder I’d taken the same self-protective stance and eyed him with the same wary suspicion I’d learn to use with men.
Were there places I hadn’t let Love go?
Because what if Love turned out to be just another man with a fragile ego and ulterior motives and unjust muscles? What if Love took what it wanted and left?
But then again…
What if Love was different? What if Love wasn’t a man, but a Spirit who was generous and loving, who was either equally male and female or neither, who was incapable of being selfish or hurtful? And what if I let that Love all the way in?
And I did. Sitting on a cliff overlooking the Oti River in Togo one afternoon, I let Love in.
I let it fully sink in that I was loved by the Love that loves to love me.
And in response, I gave myself to that Love.
“You can have me,” I said. “You can have all of me. There’s nothing You can’t do in my life, no place in my heart where You can’t go, no question You can’t ask, no secret You can’t know, no experience You can’t share, no request of me You can’t make.”
I went all in for Love because 2,000 years ago, on a hill called Calvary, Love had gone all in for me. And Love was all in for me still.
Until that day, I had always thought that the opposite of love was hate. But it isn’t. The opposite of love is fear.
I John 4:18 says just that: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Today, my beautiful friend, let this truth sink deep in your soul: You are loved by the Love that loves to love you! You were born from Love, you will die into Love, and you are held in Love all the days of your life.
Will you search your heart and name the fears that are lurking there?
And will you let Love go into those hidden places and make you whole?