We sat in a circle as we listened to them. Three boys from Alabama. Three boys, three men really, brought to California on a mission from the Lord. What that mission was, they still didn’t know. God said “Go.” And so they went. We sat, and we listened. We listened to three boys from Alabama and the one from California as well. We all responded. Inwardly, outwardly. “Amen’s!” and “mmmmmm’s” whispered up from the circle. Some cried tears, others sat still. All were affected. Myself included. Myself more so than most perhaps. For me, tears fell uncontrolled. I sat and listened to these men of God. These Alabama boys, with an accent familiar of home, and an unfamiliar thirst for another home. I remember asking, “How do I get desire like that?!” I remember being jealous, for the thing they found that I had yet to find in these 28 years. I remember wanting to listen and for their words to never stop. Until, that is, the extra one, the one from California began to talk. His words fell from his lips to my soul. He spoke his story and yet, somehow he was speaking mine. A story of push and pull. A story of love. A story of worth. A story about a guy from California, who found the gospel in the town of Occidental. It wasn’t accidental, his Occidental encounter with the One who loves the California boy most. And even though it was the story I needed most, it was the hardest to hear. I wanted to run from His story. Because it hurt too much. It hurt too much to confront old demons and steady lies. Lies that I wasn’t loved as much as that one, the one from California. I wanted to believe it. I desperately wanted to believe. But as much as I listened the more I heard.
I heard the lies. “You’re different from him. God will never give you a story like that. God will never love you like He loves this one from California. You are different. You are unlovable. You are unwanted. You are the outcast. You don’t work hard enough. You aren’t enough.” These lies that pierced and provoked so much pain. These lies were all I could hear. Paul’s story was over, and now it was time for the enemy to tell me a story. And his story was loud. It was painful. And it was lonely.
So I sat there and I cried. I cried in defeat. I cried in rebellion. I cried in grief. I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe it wasn’t true. I wanted to believe I was more. To someone, to Him. And every time I closed my eyes, I saw Him, The One I longed for, my Father God, covering me with His Mantle. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t believe. These lies had become my companion. These lies had become my comfort. These lies had become the only unconditional thing I could cling to. Because when love can’t be unconditional, why not let the lies be?
Only in that moment, being confronted by every desire I’ve ever wanted, it was too much. And the idea that love like that was attainable for some but not for me. It was too painful. And in that moment all I wanted to do was run. Run far. Run away from the dream that never could be. Run away from the vision of this mantle covering me. Away from the grief that told me I would never receive the one thing I was made for. I would never receive love like that. Love from a Father who knew me better than any other. So I sat, and I cried, and I waited for the house church to be over. I waited for chatty clusters to group together. I waited for any chance to get away. I just wanted to be skipped by, to be ignored.
Only you can’t be ignored or skipped over by The One who loves you most. You can’t. He is love. And Love is kind. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. Love endures all things. Even those days when all you can feel is pain. He endures it with us, because He loves us. Our God, The God, Creator God, He is love. And Love, Love rejoices in the truth. So He sent one of those Alabama boys, the one that was a California turned Alabama boy. Love sent Brad, to share His message.
And this is the part I don’t know how to write. This is the part that seems impossible to make tangible. Because we were just talking. Me and Brad, and my friend Shirlee. We were talking hard questions but we were just talking. And then, somehow in that conversation, Jesus came in. He came in and He healed me. He showed me that vision again, the vision of Him covering me with His mantle, and I knew. It was a blanket. He covered me with His Mantle. He enveloped me in that blanket, and He loved me. He had always loved me. And something inside of me broke. And I cried. Harder, so much harder.
He covered me in His mantle. He swooped me up in His blanket like a father does His child. He loved me. He delighted in me. He wanted me. That was the day the lies lost their power. That was the day death came to life. A requiem for a redhead, turned romance. That was the day He gave me a new song. The day He showed me that He was not bound by time. He loved me with an everlasting love. He loved me with a timeless love. For love never fails. Love never ends. His love never ends. He showed me that as I had walked through this life, so had He. That He was always there with me. He was always there with me. Every day. Every moment. Every time I had been pushed aside. Every time I had felt rejected. Every time I had been rejected. He was there. In those moments, in those days. He was always there with me. He was with me now. And He will be with me then, in days to come. I am His delight. And I was made to let Him be mine.
Love has always been broken to me. Love has always been conditional. And then that night, with chatty clusters in the background, I found truth. It was in an instant. In a moment. Grief poured out of me, with wailings beside. And love healed me. Love found a way. When nothing else could help, when nothing else could fix me. When I was lost in the state of my own depravity, love found me. This girl with red hair and freckles. This girl with a passion that often turns to awkwardness. This girl who gets it wrong more than she gets right. This girl homesick for something she didn’t know. This girl. This redheaded girl. He loves me. And oh that love. How great it is. How healing it is. How right it is. It is what I was made for. I was made for His love. I was made to be loved, by Him. Always by Him.
We love Him because He first loved us.
I Corinthians 13: 4-8| I John 4:19