Leaving the sanctuary, instead of floating out with a renewed sense of faith and passion, I was dragging under the heavy weight of difficult emotions; outrage, confusion and even shame, simmering within me. I wondered, “Does God share this respected man’s perspective? If so, why would God spend any time with us humans? With me, especially? I mean, if the average person is a ‘dirty dishrag…’” I pondered as I cycled through the sins of my life, “how could a God that supposedly loved me—supposedly, unconditionally loved me— possibly share this perspective?
“NO!,” yelled the Outraged part of myself in deep protest. “He is WRONG!
“But,” whispered the Shame toting part of me. “What if you are just hanging onto wishful thinking? What if in the eyes of God, we are only fit for...dirty dishes?”
READ WHAT BY WHEN?!?!
“The entire Bible, in six months…let’s do it!” I found myself typing these words to my Facebook friends. For years prior, I felt a deep conviction to “Big K-Know” the Bible. However; for years, my reaction to this task had been one of dread. From my perspective the Bible had all the trappings of a book that I was least likely to finish: it is reeeally thick; has small words, and thin, I mean, tissue paper thin, pages. Also, one college degree and two graduate degrees taught me well how to read for the gist vs the depth. I feared pooping out within the first week and having to drag myself across the finish line… if I finished at all!
Finally, like Jonah in the whale, I gave up and decided to extend the “Bible Challenge” invitation to my Facebook friends. One actually took the bait. In the end, we developed a group and attracted over 100 people.
DISHRAG BE DAMNED!
Despite my anxiety, once I set the intention and had “friends” backing me, something happened; I began to feel an enduring joy related to the task. Every night, I retreated to my bedroom and read the scheduled lesson. And each night I felt a renewed sense of wonder and excitement. Stories and Bible verses seemed to leap off the page, deep insights seemed to glow before me and mental images seemed to further deepen and enliven my experience.
For the first time, I understood what people meant when they called the Bible the "living word." Indeed, this book was now bursting at the seams with life! I couldn't write my insights and questions down fast enough; insights about wisdom, humility, stillness and meditation, compassion, "fear" of God, God within us…wait, what?
God within us?
There it was plain as day, Luke 17:20-21, “The kingdom of God is within you.”
My Shame based part was up for the debate: “But dirty, unworthy, dark dishrags!”
“You are a little less than the angels” (Psalm 8:5).
“But dirty, unworthy, dark. . .”
“You are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
“But dirty, unworthy--”
“You are Treasures” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
“You are the image of God” (Genesis 1:27)
“You are of God!” (1 John 4:4).
IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW.
I did not know it at the time, but these words, these sources of balm for my soul, were only the beginning…only the initial seeds of grace that would ultimately lead to my shedding of shame and the “dirty dishrag” theory; seeds that once planted, would gift me with the recognition and reclaiming of My Forgotten Self.
READ Book Journey Part 2: When God Smiles
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