Dear sister, I see you.
I see you respond with, "I'm fine. It's going okay. Good." I see the signs that betray your words. I see the way it pains you to look me in the eye. I see your performed responses to avoid closeness and your incessant phone checking to avoid silence.
I see you striving to keep up, striving to be better, striving to do the things other Christians do. I see your heaviness, your frustration, and underneath it all, your sadness.
And I might even know you, like really know you, but I know you won't think so.
I know you keep people at a distance, banking on your personality or cute clothes or rehearsed smile to cause distraction from the vulnerability you feel.
But I also know you want to get close to others, to feel safe, to have the space to acknowledge the ways you fall short.
I know that while you piece together the image you want others to see, you desperately want to be known.
I know you hate going there, hate seeing the insecurities that plague your mind, so you tend to put them in the corner while you indulge and numb on technology.
But I know that when you really go there, you hate the chains you're living in, the ones that mock you with your inability to change. The ones that make you miserable, make you question why you can't seem to get it together, to be better, to overcome. The ones that tell you you're different, because everyone else seems to know the secret and you don't.
And I also know that sometimes, when you open the Word of God, you leave feeling more hopeless and discouraged than you did before you came.
I need to tell you something; it's at the root of it all. I know you've heard it before. Maybe too many times. Maybe it even makes you a little mad when you hear it.
God is good.
And? I already know that.
It really matters a lot more than you think. I promise.
Because when you get past the preferences for self-medicating, avoiding, and hiding, you need to know change won't happen overnight. Lasting change is immune to our self-made efforts to start fresh, keep promises, or do better next time. Change doesn't even appear out of our hardest determination to believe rightly or think rightly or act rightly. And change refuses to listen to our self-willed commitment to preach to ourselves because chains only respond to the sound of One voice.
No, change happens somewhere deep within us. Change sprouts up through the crevices of our hearts, in that buried place where what we believe about God and how we treat His Word determine everything. Where what we fear, treasure, and desire most ripples through our every movement, our every thought, our every word, our every action.
But I need to tell you, too, that change doesn't come from my telling you. I'm commanded to by Scripture, to proclaim His excellencies, but if you're anything like me, you know that hearing it from another person usually does nothing to penetrate the high walls of protection you've got around that area of pain.
I know your defense is too prepared to let the words of an outsider sneak in and get close to that tender spot. So instead, I grieve with you.
You heard me, grieve.
You may not be up for grieving, but I know I've got to feel your pain before you let me up close. I've got to know why a single comment can shut you down or set you off. I need to ache next to you when a certain smell or sight sends you back to a place you never wanted to be. I need to crawl into the place too scary for words and sit with you for a little, allowing my silence gently uncover your hidden story.
I've got to get really vulnerable, really low, and begin rinsing the dirt from your feet. I know you'll resist. You'll hate how uncomfortable it will make you feel, having someone get so close to the unresolved mess and the untouched places. But slowly, I pray, as the soaking cleanses away the covering of dirt, you'll find yourself pulling back the layers of protection covering your heart. And as you feel the tingling of newness surrounding the places you've tread, maybe, just maybe, you'll feel the humility that comes from being served by someone who deeply cares for you wash over your soul.
Why? Why are you doing this?
I have to. I have to communicate something vital to you. I need you to experience the love of our Savior through my lowliness so that the words I say find their way down into those deep crevices of your heart.
Are you ready? Here it goes.
What you need to know is not simply that you are loved, that you belong, that you don't have to hide. This is only the beginning. These are baby steps for the maturing Christian; necessary for walking yes, but wobbly and insecure, they only get you so far before you fall down again. Because unless you know the God who makes these claims in ever-increasing measure, they will become like mantras to quiet the inner turmoil of your soul. And religion never quieted anyone.
Your focus needs to shift from self and hastily grasp the invitation to gaze on the Holy One. You need to know Him who chose to serve rather than be served. You need to know the heights from which He came and made Himself low, how He limited Himself with the skin of His own creation. You need to see with your own spiritual eyes how He, the center of unbroken praise, the origin of all beauty, offered His marred face to be spat on. How He, the One who holds everything together, allowed His flesh to be ripped apart.
You need a glimpse at the Ancient of Days who cares about this day. You need the kind of overwhelming sight that leaves you breathless: God, despite your running ever further from Him to your destruction, grabbed you from the grips of everlasting anxiety, depression, law-keeping, restlessness, bitterness, sorrow, loneliness, and joyless existence.
And you'll only know Him, like really know Him, if you take seriously the Word of God. If you dust it off your shelf and wear it thin from turning page after page, drinking in every line, every glimpse of God and life as it's meant to be lived.
You need to be inundated by the Scriptures, submerged in the deep waters that satisfy your soul. You need to get under it, and you need to let it get big inside of you. You can't depend on spot treatment, on the one-verse-a-day-keeps-the-pain-away mentality. Nor can you hope in the flip-it-open-and-see-what-speaks-to-me methodology. Neither of these will do for the war that rages under your skin.
The Scriptures have to become your counselors, your light, your food, your songs, your heart's delight, your most trusted source of authority. They have to flood your mind and understanding so they can begin to direct your thoughts, your decisions, your path. They have to get hidden deep into the treasure of your heart, so that sin against God becomes your greatest sorrow, so that hope begins to lace your every experience, and words that come from your mouth speak life and healing.
If this exhortation has the privilege of settling low into the secret places of your heart, I invite you, come to the table. Come commune over daily bread and let your soul no longer starve on hiding and performing and measuring against everyone else.
Come face to face with the way this world and your scars and your heart leave you desperate for something bigger than technology and insecure relationships to relieve you, to save you.
Confess your critical need of deliverance, of freedom, of healing and believe with your reading eyes and ears and heart that no healing, no rest, no peace will ever come apart from the Word of God.
The Word that whispers, that sings and shouts of the God who is good beyond all comprehension, of the God who delights to be in relationship with you.