Is It Real?

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I was but a tiny girl.
I peered around the corner at my mother, sitting in the kitchen.
The ashtray overflowed with ashes as a pillar of smoke rose from the center.
Beer cans were scattered across the surface of the table.
Her eyes met mine for five seconds – long enough to pierce my soul with fear.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

She sat in the rocking chair, tears trickling down her cheeks.
“Mommy?”
I placed my hand on her hand and turned my empathetic face up to hers.
She shoved me, knocking me to the floor.
I knew I must have done something wrong.
It was my job to keep her happy, and she was not happy.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Nineteen. An adult.
No job. No college. Just obedient toe kissing.
Baking. Cooking. Cleaning. Teaching. Parenting the young siblings.
Twenty-three.
No job. No college. No dating. No parties. No hanging out with friends.
Just more obedient toe kissing.
Wearing homemade dresses. Dedicating my young years to domestic “ministry”.
“It’s for your protection,” she said. “It’s God’s design for girls.”
And she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

“Giving the world a new approach to life!”
Follow these ten steps.
Drink these seven basic principles and drown in them.
They look like Biblical righteousness from where you sit in the stadium, but really they are chains of slavery.
Beat yourself over the head with these 49 character qualities.
And remember that grace is you doing what you’re supposed to be doing… perfectly.
Dating is fornication. Once attracted, you must marry.
Hook, line, and sinker… I swallowed it all.
But God said “I love you” in John 3:16.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Long eyelashes. Hazel eyes. Best friend turned something deeper.
Engaged just 2 weeks after realizing it’s more than friends.
Married 4 months later.
We did it right. We were righteous.
Courtship trumped worldliness.
We waited to say “I love you” until we were promised to each other.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Eleven and a half years of total dedication.
I made myself everything I thought he wanted.
Always quick to forgive. Very slow to judge.
Everyday I strove to trust and give the benefit of the doubt.
Shove the paranoia to the back burner.
Smile.
Hug.
Kiss.
Believe the best.
Ignore the warnings.
Say “I love you” every day and every night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Go to work.
Leave work.
Walk in the door.
Hang up the jacket.
Kiss the wife.
Whisper, “I like us.”
Chat over dinner.
Sit in the living room with the computer, ipad, or phone.
Tuck kids into bed.
Watch TV.
Get intimate in bed.
Fall asleep.
Repeat.
He said “I love you” tonight.

Is this love?
Is it real?

I thought it was all love.
I thought it was all real.

“You mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.”
Reality shattered. There is no fixing it. There is no healthy, loving relationship.

“Your over sheltered life has your thinking and belief system in complete turmoil and bondage.”
Reality shattered. Protection from life is psychologically harmful.

“There is no new approach to life. The greatest approach was given 2,000 years ago through the life and death of Christ.”
Reality shattered. There is no man who has “new revelations” from God.

“All your striving to be perfect has made you resistant to His amazing grace.”
Reality shattered. There is no doing what’s right, because it’s right… perfectly.

“I’ve spent our entire marriage trying to escape you. I don’t think we should have ever married.”
Reality shattered. There was no best friend. There was no “us”.

“Working late again.” Coming home smelling like perfume. Texting pictures back and forth. The list goes on.
Reality shattered. The words “I love you,” “I like your body,” “You’re beautiful”… they mean nothing. Just empty words to hide a lie.

There is no love.
Nothing is real.

But then He whispers.
He shows me that grace is not a list of rules to keep. Grace is Him looking down, loving me just where I am, and wrapping me in Christ’s righteousness.
He shows me that He is a good, good Father. Always providing. Giving good things. Holding. Hugging. Listening. Always patiently listening.
He shows me that His heart knows brokenness. Betrayal, deceit, abuse, devaluation… He’s felt it all.
He shows me that being human means always questioning. It means blood and tears. And He’s ok with that.
He shows me that He is the God who sees me… ME… in the midst of crap I never asked for.

This is love.
This is real. This is the only reality. It will never shatter.

The Day I Left My Rock for the Beach

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My house is a humble home, but it is set up on a large precipice. The view is phenomenal. When I stand at my front door, I can see for across the treetops and the glistening ocean in the distance. Sometimes the wind is fierce and rain pounds the roof and windows, but I am snug and warm inside my house on the rock. There’s not another place in the world that I would rather be, but there was once a time when I thought differently.

It was a warm and dark summer night. I stood, resting my head on the doorframe, looking out across the tops of the trees. It had been a very long and hard day, and I was feeling restless and agitated. A flicker of light down by the beach caught my eye, and the humid nighttime breezes brought with it sounds of laughter. A party was in full swing down on the beach. The longer I stood watching the flickering lights and listening to the gaiety, the more I longed to be down there.

I stepped out onto my porch, closed the door behind me, and started toward the porch stairs. As I lowered my foot to the first step, I hesitated. I’d never left my rock before, but the pull of the sand and the waves and the party was strong… so very strong. I bounded down the stairs and took off down the long path to the beach.

Approaching that sudden place where the trees toe the sand, I paused to observe the crowd. They were cool. They were hip. And they were having fun. Music blared and beach fires flickered. A group of three women raised their bottles and roared with laughter. A young couple sat right where the waves kiss the sand, wrapped in a passionate embrace. My eyes moved to edge of the flickering light to a small group of guys. One of them met my gaze and winked, beckoning me to join him.

I’m not going to lie. I had the time of my life that night… lifting my bottle high… joining in the uproar of the party life. I relaxed in the arms of the winker, letting him cover me in kisses.

I thought I had finally found the life, but as the east edge of sky began to ever so slightly glow with the coming of the sunrise, things began to change. The strong, muscular arms wrapped around me suddenly turned old, brittle, and death like. I looked up into his face and his eyes appeared as the eyes of the devil, dark and empty. I screamed and leaped to me feet.

All around me the happy partiers were turning into miserable creatures. The sand beneath my feet no longer felt warm and firm. Instead it felt cold and shifty. As I backed slowly away from the horror story unfolding before me, the ground turned to quicksand, pulling me into itself.

I gasped, bolted toward the trees, ran all the way up to the top of the rock, bounded up the steps, tore through my front door, slammed it, and slick my back down the inside. I tried to calm my breathing, slow my pounding heart, and stop the terrifying shivers vibrating over my body, but I could not.

I think my house on the rock understood somehow, because I felt it envelope me in some sort of safe and comforting embrace. This was home. This would always be home. This house on the rock was my safe place.

And now when I long for human connection, I just wait for someone to visit my rock and together we rest in its safety.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
(Mat. 7:24-27)

When you hear the beckoning of a beach vacation, resist it, my friends. It is a lie. Sin is but a miserable nightmare disguised as pleasure. Its foundation is shifty and you will fall hard. Cling to your Rock. Abide in Him. And when the storms of life come, you will be safe and secure.