Being a youth minister’s wife has taught me a lot about Jesus.
Loving teenagers has taught me a lot about God’s heartache for His children.
One Ridiculous Girl in particular taught me just how wrecked God’s heart is for the ones He loves.
She was consistent at youth group, soaked up attention, always found me for a hug, she was loud, she was awkward and she wanted to know more about this Jesus guy.
And then one day – she stopped.
Suddenly I had to find her for a hug, I had to make eye contact and say hello first. I found myself chasing after this girl when she was intent on slipping out of church as soon as the service was over. Our conversations didn’t change, I told her we loved her, I told her we were glad to see her, I asked about her life. She just stopped giving real answers.
I knew why.
That’s the thing I wish I could tattoo on my forehead:
I already know what you’re trying to hide.
It was something she didn’t want us to know about, she didn’t want to talk about it, she didn’t want to hear what she assumed we would say. So she pulled back from me, for six very long months.
I felt as though I had failed her. Obviously I hadn’t told her enough about the love of Jesus, if she was still so afraid of punishment and condemnation that she would rather hide the truth of her struggle than come to me for help. It broke my heart to see her put herself in such a lonely spot. She didn’t want to come forward and confess her guilt for fear that what she imagined we might say would become reality. That she would be shunned and tossed out and rejected. So instead she stayed quiet, in the back row, on the fringe of the group, and the back of the crowd, confused and alone.
Then one night, Garrett spoke on a scripture that perfectly identified and dissected the reason she’d been hiding. I watched from the back of the room as her sister nudged her over and over again, wondering if she would finally hear us. Praying she was listening.
Afterwards she came to find me for a hug. Her face was lit up, her worried expression was gone. It was like a physical weight had been lifted off of her. She smiled, she was silly and she began telling me a story about her cat.
I wanted to shake her and hug her and scream at her –
“I loved you all along, you Ridiculous Girl.”
How I felt about her had never changed. I had chased after her when she would’ve avoided me altogether. Watching her torture herself with shame and condemnation had broken my heart.
Immediately I felt God whisper to my heart,
“This is how I have always felt about you, Ridiculous Girl.”
It’s easy to champion the ones we love, it’s hard to believe that same grace and forgiveness can extend to ourselves. I’ve hidden from God, I’ve avoided His eye and hung back from the joy of His presence – all because I thought that what I had done was too ugly to be loved.
I felt like Jesus tolerated me, but never this heart wrenching kind of love that made Him want to chase after me, shake me, hold me and bring me all the way back to Him.
All the way back.
Not someone who’s been pardoned, but the memory of her failure never fades.
Not someone who carries the title of their transgression even though they’ve been allowed back to the table.
Not a prodigal daughter who is brought back as a servant.
I wanted that Ridiculous Girl to come back to the love we had for her, so desperately I would’ve given anything to make her see it. And the sweetest thing to keep in mind when you feel passionately about something is that you are just a human. Anything you could ever want or love or chase after – God feels to the millionth degree for you.
He just wants you to come back.
Whatever it is that’s got you so messed up inside, don’t try to fix it before you return, don’t try to hold it in and wait for it to go away, stop trying to ignore it just because no one else knows about it.
Just come as you are. Just come back.
He loves you – darling, ridiculous girl.