The first thing I do when something new begins in my life is slap a big fat expiration date on it. I guess it’s not always big and fat. Sometimes I scribble it on the back out of sheer habit, but other times I pull out the label maker and use the large print. I’m not quite sure why I do this. I suppose it might have to do with the lack of commitment I have observed or been taught to practice. It’s all been temporary– the step father will leave, the basketball season will end, the show (after it goes on NO MATTER WHAT) will come to a close, the boy will realize that I’m __________ (choose one: a) selfish b)crazy c)selfish d) indifferent e) selfish). This, too, shall pass. And that. And that.
I have a hard time committing to things. What most people typically see as well-roundedness, I acknowledge is flakiness. Why yes, I did give every single sport offered in my county a go. If ever something was out of my comfort level or interest, it was likely that I would just quit. And if I couldn’t just quit, there was the assurance that this semester, this school year, this season would end soon.
Looking back, many of my fondest memories, experiences, and relationships occurred within a month or less. Maybe two. In high school, I would decide within one week of dating someone when exactly I would break up with them. There was never a question of if. Ifs break your heart. Whens make your heart harder, and at 16, hard is often mistaken for strong. I would sometimes laugh out loud when my mother would suggest promotion possibilities at summer jobs. That’s the point, Mom. It’s a summer job. Three months tops. I knew the first week of arriving at college that I did not want to be at that school. Unlike boys, colleges are much more difficult to break up with. I moved the next semester.
I make decisions pretty quickly. I don’t typically sleep on things. My history with college and my history with romantic interests are shockingly similar. It’s embarrassing how often I change/add/drop a major. If I realize later that I made the wrong choice, I can always rectify the situation. I’ve essentially built my life around the idea that I can get out of almost anything, and if I can’t for some reason, it will eventually end and I can start over fresh. This idea didn’t seem that problematic until I realized that my college, romantic, athletic, extracurricular, occupational, and friendship history all mirror my spiritual history and the way that I walk (or run away from) God.
I’m currently in a season of running away. I wouldn’t exactly call it running away. But I guess you could say it’s like when my mom is trying to tell me something as she is walking out of the room. Or maybe it’s more like when my mom is trying to tell me something and I gradually start walking out of the room (as if I’m going to begin doing what she asked me to do, but instead I just go lay on the couch). A little bit of both, maybe? But on the rare occasions that I’ve managed to turn around, one word has been planted in my heart and it just won’t leave me: stay.
I don’t know how to stay. I keep thinking that if I run far enough– if I make it all the way to the edge, it will scare me enough to come running back. I keep thinking that if I make it all the way to rock bottom, when all I have is God, maybe then I’ll come back and stay with him. Maybe if I ignore him he will ignore me, and then I’ll realize that I need him. But it’s not working that way. He’s calling like a lovesick teenager and leaving voicemail after voicemail of blessings upon blessings. It almost makes me mad. If my favor is not contingent upon my performance, why the hell does my behavior even matter? Why torture my shameful heart with undeserved blessings? If this continues, I’ll think I can get away with all of this without ever committing to a life WITH you, God. Why haven’t you just forsaken me?
I’m reminded of Jesus on the cross asking the opposite question. “Why have you forsaken me?” And I imagine at that moment Jesus’s heart was invaded by the image of my face and yours and every face that had ever and would ever grace the Earth as he heard God say “So that I can stay with them.”
Why haven’t you forsaken me?
Because I’m gonna stay with you. Because I have loved you with an everlasting love. Because my mercy and grace don’t have an expiration date. Because what you’ve seen and been taught isn’t how it has to be. I’m staying. Stay.
I don’t even know what staying means. But maybe it means not hiding in the darkness behind a Netflix laden screen. Maybe it means not running directly away from God and directly to the first quick fix. Maybe it means just acknowledging his presence even in the places I don’t particularly want him.
He’s the only one that’s never left. He’s the only one I’ve never truly been able to leave. And boy, have I tried. I’ve walked away and into such darkness so many times, searching for a door that I’ve never been able to find. All I’ve found is pain and shame and loneliness and doubt…until I somehow wander back into the light and start over. It seems like I’m always starting over.
Stay. Just stay in the light where you can see me. I can always see you. Stay where you can see me. You don’t have to run away after one step back. You don’t have to keep trying to start over. Just stay. Be still. Literally. And know that I am God.