I was at a friend’s house watching American Idol when I got a text message from a cute guy who was interested in me. We were old friends and had reconnected at church the previous Sunday. (I later found out he was too chicken to ask for my number, so he got it from a mutual friend.) He asked if we could go to the park and take a walk to catch up. It sounded like a great idea.
Until I looked down at my outfit: an old high school t-shirt with multicolored paint stains, cotton gym shorts, flip-flops and a ponytail. A ponytail does not say “memorable first date.” Internally, I freaked out.
He arrived thirty minutes later and offered to drive. I politely declined. “No thanks,” I said, “I’ll follow you in my car.” Having my own car gave me a sense of security. If this casual date didn’t go so well, I would have an escape plan. I think my boldness must have been a shock to the Southern gentleman.
We ended up walking nine miles that night. We hadn’t seen each other in two years and had a lot of catching up to do. We talked about our families and how we had each found deeper faith since leaving Bible college. He told me about his photography and I told him I was loving ballet classes. We talked about what we wanted from life and my ponytail didn’t seem to matter.
Sparks were flying all over the Alabama sky.
We were inseparable for that first couple of months. I remember the constant anticipation, waiting for that perfect moment to say “I love you” for the first time.
But he beat me to it.
I imagined saying it first, leaving those words dangling in thin air, wondering if he would be willing to love me back. Wondering if I would be enough. I imagined us, lying on our backs on a quilt in a field, some starry summer night. Because that’s the gospel according to Nicholas Sparks. The scene didn’t play out like the movie I’d been playing over and over in my head.
It happened in an ordinary moment in his parent’s basement. I was probably dressed in something much like the outfit from our first date. Yet he said it anyway. And I gladly embraced the security of the words, that sense of belonging, as I exhaled, me too.
It made sense to put conditions on God’s love early on in my faith. I believed the people who were pleasing God the most were the ones with the most perfectly polished crowns on Sunday morning. If you never said a cuss word, had never tasted alcohol, never listened to secular music, and never questioned difficult times, God would clearly love you more.
Stop waiting for someone else to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you are called. Didn’t you know, darling? The One who knit you together in your mother’s womb is the one singing these words over you, you are chosen.” — Sarah Bessey
I thought God desired a spotless outer life; because who really wants to deal with a girl’s honesty and raw emotions?
My aim was off. There is a thin line between pleasing God and trusting God. Now, instead of trying to do everything right, I’m accepting His love in the middle of my brokenness. I stopped apologizing to God when I just can’t hold it together.
God loves the mom who’s having a breakdown in the breakroom. God knows just how difficult parenting can be. God loves the woman longing for the security of love. He understands our yearning for security. We don’t have to wash our faces and clean ourselves up to experience His love.
Just like I didn’t hear “I love you” for the first time under a starry sky, I don’t have to wait for the orchestra to soar during Sunday morning worship, when my children are behaving and my hair is all in place to allow God to love me back.
I’m learning, God has always loved the girl with the ponytail.I’m learning, God has always loved the girl with the ponytail...the hot mess. Click To Tweet
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