A few years ago, I was at my friends Peter and Catherine’s wedding. I had driven up with my next door neighbor Jana and her incredibly special four year old son, Luke. Luke and I bonded a lot on the drive and were inseparable most of the weekend.
The morning of the wedding, we gathered in a field, huddled together for warmth. (It was unseasonably cold for San Diego).We walked as a community up a hill with music and lanterns to an outdoor chapel where the wedding took place. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And I felt mostly happy for the first few hours.
But the part of the night that I always dread at weddings came during the reception; the slow dance. The hand of ambivalence knocked it’s ugly little hand on the door of my heart. And I was reminded of what I am often reminded of at most weddings: I was happy for them, but sad for me.
Everyone had coupled up. I was one of the few single people on the sidelines of the dance floor. The negative narratives I have believed my whole life were raging in my mind. The Orphan inside of me came in and whispered “No one will ever love you.”
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I caught little Luke looking at me. The bouquets of breathy white flowers the women in the wedding party had carried were strewn around the room on tables. I watched him as he went from table to table gathering them, a pile of flowers in his arms almost as big as him.
Then, to my total surprise, he came up to me, handed me his huge bundle of flowers, gave me a kiss, and whispered “I love you, Kate.”
And with that kiss the sad parts of me were understood, and quieted. I was able to hug Luke back, take the gift of the flowers that he offered to me, and say “Thank you, dear boy. You helped me remember that I am loved.”
“Am I loved?” Is often the question my inner voice asks. I was reminded that day that the answer is now and always will be, “yes, yes, a thousand times yes.”
A room that had been gloomy and dark became beautiful when someone allowed me to see the flowers that I hadn’t even noticed before.
I thought about that scene this week as I have a big decision to make right now. Like, pretty much the biggest decision of my life. My track record when I have to make a decision is that I panic. I am a whole lot of terrified that I will hate myself in the future because I made what I believe to be the “wrong” decision.
Perhaps my mind is like the scene of that wedding reception. The loud music is playing and that not so dependable dance partner called fear of the future is making me feel scared and frozen. But the One who loves me comes into that place, and amongst all that calamity, he gathers all the beautiful things he can find in that room and hands them to me. He kisses my forehead and gently whispers to me.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is I Kings 19: 11-13. Elijah was beseeching God, as he was deeply troubled. “The Lord said ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
There, Elijah and God met, and God told him very specifically what to do next.
This story captures what often happens in the interior landscape of my mind. The wind of fear rips through that place. An earthquake of not knowing what to do shakes me. The fire of anxiety threatens to burn the place down.
But one truth I have learned while writing my new book on overcoming negative self talk is that the theater where all of that chaos happens, the stage of my mind; that is not where my true self dwells.
There is a deeper place. A place where that true self and the God who loves her commune together. A place where the gentle whisper is. A whisper of love like Luke gave to me on that noisy dance floor. Perhaps you can call it your intuition. Your spirit. The you that is you that is you. That is the place where you are leaning on God’s chest, listening to his heartbeat. To his gentle words for you.
Wisdom whispers words to you there. Words of comfort. Words of direction. That whisper will tell you what to do next. Often times, “I don’t know what to do” is code for “I know exactly what the whisper is telling me, but I am scared to do it.”
Perhaps God’s perfect love can cast out that fear and I can take the next step and the next step. As the literal paraphrase version of the Bible says in Proverbs 4:12 , “As you go, step by step, the way will open up before you.” Perhaps the very thing I am scared to do is the thing that will propel me into the new chapter of my destiny.
To have a new life, there has to be change. For there to be change, I have to take a risk. For a risk to be taken, there has be a first step towards something that is different and sometimes scary.
If that whisper will further God’s mandate of love, even if it hurts, I will trust it. If that whisper lines up with God and his word and character, even if I am scared, I will listen to it. When I know in my knower that it is God speaking, I won’t pretend it isn’t there. I no longer want to act like I can’t trust my true self. I can trust myself if I am walking with God in that place. That whisper tells the truth. When I hear it, I am going to pull my cloak over my face and stand at the mouth of the cave of my life. Because when that whisper is near, God is near.
My job to find out if my knowing lines up with God, and if it does, to bravely follow that knowing into a beautiful new telling of my life.
I might still be scared as I take that step, but I will have those flowers in my hands that God gave me, and they will remind me that the answer to the question “am I loved” will always be “yes, yes, a thousand times yes.” No matter what decision I make.
He ends every sentence that he whispers with the same words Luke gave me that day.
I love you.