It's my nephew's eighteenth birthday today and as I began to journal this morning, I noticed the date. I was taken back to the day he was born, and I remember clearly holding him for the first time, in awe. Never an aunty before it was a big deal to be holding my very first nephew. I still have the photograph, me standing there as a twenty one year old, newborn babe in my arms - the love of my life standing next to me...both of us clearly a bit stoned as we show up to the hospital to mark this special occasion. Behind the seemingly glossy Kodak moment I recall being broken inside. Even though back then I thought I was happy despite coming from a dysfunctional family, because hey dysfunction was just part of life right, and so being young, being in love, being free (apparently) was more than enough for me. Such apparent blessings were a sufficient bandaid to cover over the wounds, tragedies and sorrows of my life.
In hindsight I can see so clearly that I was broken and my life was a mess. Yet back then I would have thought it was totally normal to have dysfunction because I had never known any other way - and so I thought family feuds were normal and part and parcel of life. Living in sin and fornicating was totally normal. Being drunk every day was normal. Smoking weed and taking class A drugs regularly was normal. Scraping through a degree, off your trolley, never giving your all was normal. Broken relationships were normal. Low self esteem was normal. Debt and corruption was normal. Flirting, crookedness and manipulation was normal. Slander, gossip, backbiting, cursing and critisism was standard and always seeing the speck in others before ever clocking the log in our own eye was just how we rolled.
I simply never knew there was another way. I had no idea that I could live a life of utmost undiluted peace, or purity and power...where I walked in complete love, honour and integrity...where I knew what my worth was and refused to settle for any relationship that belittled my value. I didn't realise that I could experience complete healing from every wound, every hidden place of brokenness, every encounter of abuse or misuse...where I could be free from unforgiveness, bitterness and anger...where I could be restored from the spirit of rejection, isolation and confusion. I had no idea that I could receive unconditional love, be rooted in it, driven by it, live from it and learn to give it and I certainly didn't realise I could be adopted and adored by God where everything else paled in comparison. Who would have thought fast forward almost two decades, on my nephews eighteenth birthday that I could be so free, so transformed...be living a life so beautiful...not in make shift Kodak moments that our selfie happy society is so prone to, but truly beautiful off camera...a life eternally free, filled with joy so deep...purpose so rich...love so pure.
I will never stop thanking God for being free...It's a posture I cannot help but live and love from...often I find myself face down, totally undone...weeping in gratitude that He saved me from a life of extreme darkness into His glorious, beautiful, forever dazzling, soul exploding, light and love. Other times I see what's around me, I'll smell a scent or I'll hear a conversation and I'm suddenly reminded of my past...reminded of what He set me free from...and there I am once again, in awe...completely blown away that I don't have to live like that anymore. Wowed afresh that His love has set me free and I'm part of the family of the happiest people on earth. But still, my heart hurts, pangs, for those around me...who just like I once did, have accepted dysfunction, brokenness and abuse as part and parcel of life.
I felt this so strongly as I stood on a Central line train yesterday. Morning rush hour time. People crushed like sardines, Most conversations within earshot. A girl clambered on the train with a guy and they both seemed thankful that they'd managed to get aboard. As soon as the doors closed the train driver made an announcement that the train would be remaining on the platform for a while. They began to panic slightly and their conversation went something like this:
Girl: "F***! We are going to be late..."
Boy: "We could maybe still make it."
Girl: "I'm so sorry we didn't leave earlier". Awkward silence.
Boy: "That's okay". Another announcement heard over the tanoy. "Yep. We are going to be late".
Girl: "I could try and text her and tell her we are running late."
Boy: "Or I could text her, but then I'd need to use your phone...she would know we were together...and she can't know that..."
They then spent the next few minutes conjuring up excuses that they could volunteer separately once they made it into to work. There clearly lay a hint of awkward heaviness hanging over their seemingly exciting but obviously taboo affair. It visibly prevented them from enjoying their time together. Both seemed to have had a good time but were evidently worried about getting into trouble at work. I couldn't help but read the precious girl's mail. Because she gave off a false sense of confidence that I have long been familiar with...one that says "surely he must like me because we've just slept together right...but deep deep deep down I just don't know if I'm worth anything to him".
Having been in that scenario before I knew the story well. Both of them were obviously colleagues. They clearly didn't know each other that well. They had spent the night together and now we're both running late for work having to hide the fact that they had been together...having to lie...having to make up all kinds of stories...to try and cover up what was seemingly a legitimate set up - two work colleagues who find themselves in the sack, end up being late for work because of it and don't want anyone to find out for whatever reason.
The reasons that they don't want anyone at work to find out might include already having partners, or its a casual fling and not seriously enough for anyone to know...they may be work colleagues aren't meant to date...not really sure to be honest...but whatever the reasons I was aware from my own experience that this set up would give them both a false sense of intimacy...that here they both were sharing a special secret...this would be a bit of excitement they could engage in...flirting would continue at work...no one would know...their work banter would include some sexual innuendo and who knows it would maybe even lead to something special - who cares that it may have started in deception, or perhaps with the aid of a few drinks, maybe even something stronger...finding relationships this way was pretty standard right?
Nooooooo!!! Not at all!! I wanted to scream at them both on the train. I wanted to take hold of them, shake them and look them straight in the eye and tell them "there's another way beautiful people!" You don't have to settle for deception. You don't have to be anyone's dirty little secret, or bit on the side. You don't have to look for love in all the wrong places. You don't have to give your body away to truly feel like you belong. You don't have to compromise your worth in order to feel valued. You don't have to lie, or hide or lead a double life. You don't have to rely on substances to give you a false sense of confidence...you don't have to engage in promiscuity to find love...you don't have to have low self esteem or feel bad about who you are...or feel lonely.
I stood on that train...so deeply thankful that I don't have to do any of these things anymore. So thankful that I have been shown another way. I have been shown a far superior way to live, than the one I had ignorantly settled for, back in the day, under the deceptive guise of so called normality. I stood completely wrecked afresh on that overcrowded, Sardine packed, train overwhelmingly in awe of a life transformed. Yet so desperately aware that there is an entire generation, in fact it's not even one generation - this issue is trigenerational because this need for love, intimacy and acceptance spans across the young and the old...the rich and the poor...the educated and the uneducated...there literally is not an ounce of separation in this worldwide hunger for true, authentic love...a global thirst for true worth...for a better way...a higher way...a higher love...and we as Christians...as followers of Christ have been bestowed with it...without deserving it...with nothing of our own doing to boast in...mere recipients of a glorious, scandalous, eternal gift...a love so unmerited...a love so all encompassing and pure...so unconditional and holistic...and so we must share it...we simply cannot keep it to ourselves.
We have what the world is looking for. It's never going to be found in the casual work flings...or the pretend Kodak family moments...or the drug fuelled, pleasure seeking pursuits in life. It can't be found in the deceptive security of mass culture. It can only be found in the love and grace of God...and as I continue to look back on the wonder that is His Story in my life...I am forever in awe of once being blind but now being able to see...once being lost but now being completely found...once being so enslaved but now being made free Indeed...yet there is a world of enslaved hearts who too must know heaven's freedom...and I for one am determined to tell as many people as I can about this higher love...available for each and everyone of us.