As usual, I am off topic for the date. Happy Father's Day!
I had such an intense anxiety attack about going to church today that I almost didn't go. In fact, I wouldn't have, if Keith hadn't said that we should give it one more try. I asked him twice if we could just stay home.
I was standing in the closet, trying to decide what to wear, when I literally heard myself whispering "I hate me."
I said it out loud. Talk about creepy. So then, I forced myself to say out loud that I didn't hate myself, I just hated how I was feeling. Which is true: sometimes it's important to reinforce the fact that our emotions are not the same as our identities.
I wrote a blog about my experience at church last Sunday, but I didn't post it here because it was too... unedited. It was too real. Still, I felt as if I should share it in some way, so I sent it to my dad for him to post on his facebook page.
Today, as soon as we got in the church building, we were greeted by the pastor's wife, who caused me to feel as though I was a younger sister of hers or something. It's as though I am long lost family.
When she asked me how I was doing, I told her that I was extremely anxious, that going to church to in general made me feel nervous and that the meet and greet part of the service was particularly terrifying. I didn't plan on telling her this, it just came rushing out, breathlessly.
She was, naturally, marvelous about the whole thing and must have told her husband because he made it a point, before opening prayer, to say graciously and warmly, that church is a refuge from the cares and worries and anxieties of the rest of the world.
I thought that was kind of him to say, but I wanted to tell him that going to church on Sundays was absolutely and without question the hardest thing I have to do every week. I don't see that changing anytime soon, to be honest.
Fortunately, it was our own pastor who gave the sermon this Sunday. His sermons make sense to me. He delivers them with such a great combination of humility and authority. They are presented in a logical and orderly way. Even if I don't agree with him, I can still grasp the point he is making.
When he prayed for people in the church, he also prayed for himself and his family and said that he didn't know what to do, or what the best decision would be. I found that to be a very impressive thing to hear from a pastor.
His text was the prodigal son, from Luke. In talking about it, he touched on the fact that God disciplines His children. As usual, when hearing that, I cringed, wondering when I would feel the disciplining hand of God.
Then I realized that I'm thirty three years old and still waiting for God to come along and hit me over the head with a big stick and it hasn't happened. If it was going to happen, wouldn't it have happened already?
Like, there were many times when I was living in some red letter sin. That would have been a good time for God to have hit me over the head with something, I'm thinking. However, I don't remember that happening.
So, I'm sitting there, fearful and thinking: at any time, I will feel the rod of God's discipline on my back.
Then, I am conscious of Christ being close to me. I feel His loving presence. It is as though He has put His arms around me and He whispers something in my ear, something I recognize as a verse: He says, I am the one that makes intercession to the Father for you. You don't have to make your case to Him, I do that for you.
So, I had to look it up when I got home. It is Romans 8:34:
"Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."
I don't know how it all works out; I don't know what is the balance or relationship between God's discipline and His loving kindness and mercy.
But I tell you what, I do know one thing. Jesus has a deep seated love for me and one that He demonstrates frequently, with loving attention to detail. Like, He is not just a figure of speach, or some vague force out there in the cosmos. He is a Divine Person, with personality and emotions and thoughts and scars.
He is not just viewing the world from a distance, as the song says. He is up close and personal.