It didn’t happen overnight, how God was working an undoing, but I do remember it dawning on me. Maybe it began after I sat with a quote from Tillmon Moser. “’We should fear and love God….’ was dinned into my ears, as if the first didn’t make the second almost impossible.” When I read that, it stunned me, as if a long captivity and chaos was silenced with the sudden ringing of a liberty bell. Someone had formed words to describe the backward order of things in my psyche.
Following that, without specific intention, I read the words of scripture with a different posture. Each time, it seemed the narrative spoke to me in a clearer voice, one I recognized, but the filters had been stripped off. The voice now raw and gentle, stark and alluring.
Another time, I sat at the kitchen table, a Saturday in September. I listened to the story of the wise man building his house upon the rock. The Gospel writer Luke places the wise and foolish builders after a small bit about the overflow of the heart spilling out of the mouth. The reader began at verse 43 of chapter 6, and I sighed, preparing my pen to answer questions about what gross stuff I had in my heart.
Once the scripture had been read, some music played. Next, a woman’s voice on Pray-As-You-Go began asking the questions for prayer and meditation on the passage.
“What do I treasure in my life? What do I try to hide? Where can I take this struggle?” More music, more quiet. “What do you find yourself wanting to say about what is in your heart? Is there hidden treasure there that God is inviting you to uncover so that you can flourish?” The last question, like someone took a hammer and struck the bell again. My brows unfurrowed, my hand moved to scribble an ah-ha.
Most of my life, I focused on the garbage piled up in my heart, all stacked and rotting like refuse. I placed myself alongside the dumb fool who built with haste upon the wretched sand. I feared the storms and the smashing house, because I’m also a dumb fool with a lame brain working with my mold-infested heart. A bleak view of God, of myself.
It never occurred to me, the kindness of God, the radical love of one who would not revile or mock me for building a shelter in a hurry on less-than but available foundations. The generous mercy of Jesus, who saw me construct the best I could with what I had, and instead of leaving me to my own destruction without proper shelter would invite me in. He would receive the layers covering the treasure of my heart, would place salves on my exposed wounds, would teach me who I am.
Another occasion, I was in my office, sitting in the purple chair, a Saturday in December. I read a short chapter hoping to finish the book before I left the house that morning.
“Where are you? Why are you hiding?” the tender and persistent questions God asks me. I saw it on the page, and someone clanged the bell once again.
I had never heard God, imagined hearing God ask me those questions with tenderness, with ache and want of me. Only suspicion and impending doom, because I was in trouble, because I had been found out, because I didn’t keep all the rules and behaviors and orders. A deeper, nagging truth is that I’ve taken in the voices of many people, most sounding just like that. Accusing, angry, disappointed. If I came out of hiding, I carried my shame with me like some kind of badge. I took my punishment and found another way to make myself disappear. And who wouldn't, with a god and company like that?
As I sat in the corner of my office, a revelation made its way throughout my being. God’s pursuit of me is motivated by love and not demand, by ardent desire and not anxious control. And could I be transformed to love like that? Could I invite someone to come out of hiding with that manner of sensitivity and lovingkindness?
Maybe undoing is like that, like the slow illumination of morning, gradual light pinking and purpling the leftover darkness. In the fullness of daylight, my eyes are adjusting and taking in views I’ve not seen before. The bell keeps pealing, and when the dome of it reverberates, something else old and cracking loosens its grip and falls off of me. As the chaos clears, I am hearing things like I’ve not heard them before.
Dear God, I love the undoing.