To be quite honest with you, I am in a rough season of my life. It happens to all of us, and there's not a universe in which I believe I ought to be immune from it. I accept the valleys along with the mountains and all the flat terrain in between.
One of the particular challenges of this season for me is that I'm not able to attend church like I want to. For the majority of the past twenty-three years, I have been at church every week. I even used to drive back from college to go to my home church on Sundays. Church has been a fundamental part of my life. Yet...in this season, I've managed only three Sunday services in the past 9 weeks.
Not a great batting average.
It's frustrating, to say the least. The circumstances around it frustrate me, and they grieve me. I'm tired, and I'm sad, and I'm angry, and I'm...a mess. Every Sunday, I wake up, and I want to be with my brothers and sisters, but...I can't. Not in this season. Not right now. (And let me be clear - this is absolutely, 100% NOT about them; this is an obstacle that is in front of me; it's something I have to deal with and figure out. Rather, it's something that God is going to have to remove and heal for me.)
I say that to say this, because this is the strange part: I haven't been to church much lately, but in the quiet of my own soul, I have never felt more loved than I have in this season of my life.
The love of God has just wrapped me up. It's wrapped itself around me so much that I could just sink into it like a big, soft blanket. The more frustrated I get, the more loved I feel. The more scared I get, the more loved I feel. When I start having big questions about how and when this season is finally going to end, the only answer I get is the deep, abiding love of God. And, well, for someone trapped in a hard season, that is a tremendous gift.
The more I recognize the truth of God's love in this season, the more I think that seasons like this are so valuable, so necessary.
I am someone who would have told you, any time in the past twenty-three years, that God loves me. I would have said it confidently; it was something that I knew. But I knew it kind of with my mind, and the truth is that often, when I would tell you that God loves me, I would think about all the times I've met Him in those holy places. In that church. I would think about all of the things I'm doing, all the times I'm showing up so that He can love me.
He can't love me if I'm not there, right? The more I put myself in front of Him, the more I come to His house and worship, the more I remind Him that I'm here - look at me! - the easier it is for Him to love me, right?
Yet...I have never felt loved like I have in the past few months. Never. Not when I was attending four church services a week. Not when I was leading a Bible class. Not when I was writing my books (although I feel pretty loved then, too). There is something about His love in this barren season, stripped of all the things that I would think make it easier, that is...indescribable.
So I think this season is important for me. I think it's helping me to understand real belovedness, separate from all of the things that I (as a human being) want to attach to it. I'm just...loved. God just...loves me.
And though I don't relish this season, though I don't love it, though I long and pray for it to end, I'm thankful for its gift, too. I need this.