With permission, I have posted the email below.
I’ve had a pretty rough semester, and it’s finally coming to a close in just a few weeks. I’m getting ready to graduate and move back to the West Coast, and I don’t have a job. I don’t even have all of the money that I need to get back yet. I’ve been going through physical health issues this semester, not to mention a pretty serious depression. All I want is to trust someone. And I feel like God has been asking me to let Him love me, and to trust him with what comes next, but I’m struggling with that. I’ve struggled with that for years – I find it so hard to trust in general, and especially when I can’t see Him standing in front of me; can’t have a conversation with him at a coffee shop. I guess I just wanted to ask: how do you do it? How do you trust in God and let him love you? What am I missing?
Thanks for your help,
Sometimes I like to imagine the kind of conversation that would go down if God and I were actually able to meet up in that coffee shop you wrote about. I wonder about the things we’d say just after I wonder about what kind of foamy beverage God would order from the barista at the counter. It’s rainy over here in Atlanta today so maybe he’d go for something cozy— like an au lait.
I imagine that maybe we’d be the sort of two who never find a breath of silence between the both of us, like two people who meet up and suddenly become one another in an instant. And I can picture him twirling his cup around the table and being all like, “Girl, I feel so awkward every time I have to watch you go out on a date or open a present someone got for you. What is the deal?”
And then I’d be forced to awkwardly fumble through all the things he already knows about me: that I am not the best at receiving. Anything. At all. It’s a real struggle. Whether it’s a compliment or a gift, I’m the girl who often doubles back and is like… sorry that you think I am beautiful or sorry that you bought me something for my birthday… you didn’t have to say that. You didn’t have to get me anything.
So I guess that’s where it all starts— There is an evident difference between saying thank you for a gift and feeling like you don’t deserve the time someone took to think of you. There is an evident difference between someone loving you and letting yourself actually accept that love in a way where you stop asking so many questions.
There are a lot of questions. I know because I have asked most of them. And I’ve been the one to quickly bottle my relationship up with God into something transactional. He gives, I take. I give, he likes me better and calls me a good worker. For a long time, people telling me that God loved me— that he actually gushed over me— was unfathomable and weird to me. For a long time, I honestly just wanted to say, “Can you just focus on hurricanes and wars and stuff? Can you really not pay any attention to me?”
At the start of 2013 I decided I would go on this grand quest to figure out how God loved me. Not “why” he loved me, but “how.” I think that is the root in a lot of our struggles— we just don’t understand how someone could love us. Or how they could leave. Or how they could stay. It’s not even a matter of “how much,” it is just a matter of “how.”
So I looked to figure out how. And I wish I could tell you it was some meaningful sort of Eat, Pray, Love journey but it wasn’t. Mainly I just remember sitting in my bed with my journal one morning writing this one line over and over again: How do you love a little thing like me? How to do you love a little thing like me?
Not “how do you love a little one like me?”
Not “how do you love someone like me?”
Just “how do you love a little thing like me?”
A few hours later, I was sitting in the dark of a movie theater with a box of tissues tucked between my best friend and I as we saw Les Miserables for the 3rd time. And I think you can only see that movie in theaters maybe three times before you inflict some internal earlobe damage from hearing Russell Crowe sing that much.
Anyway, there is this one scene where Jean Valjean, the protagonist, rescues Cosette, Fantine’s daugher, and takes her home with him in his carriage. And he sings this really weepy song. In the moment, you’re positive you are more in love with Hugh Jackman more than you’ve ever been before and there’s this swift instance where you hope he’ll just come through the screen and sing you lullabies for the rest of your life.
I’d seen the scene a couple times before. But this time was different. It was like I could feel God’s fingertips pressing into that moment. There’s no better way to describe it than that. It was like I could audibly hear God saying, “That is how I love you,” motioning towards Jean Valjean stroking the little head of Cosette in his lap. “That is how I love you.” As if he we were whispering that he loved me enough to protect me, and keep me safe, and want no harm for me. That he actually wanted to be around me. And, if you are anything like me, then you already struggle enough to think you’re worthy of that.
The weirder part was when I left the movie theatre. Getting back to my desk, I did a “Google” search on Cosette. And then I searched for the symbolism behind that name. It’s of french origin. The root of the word is “cose” meaning “thing.” The name Cosette means “little thing.”
Not “little one.”
Not “ little someone.”
But “little thing.”
Just as I had asked Him to show me hours earlier, “How do you love a little thing like me?”
I should have prefaced all that by saying that it isn’t often that I hear God audibly. There are a lot of times where I don’t feel God anywhere and I am tempted to just say, “He’s not here. He left. He slipped out the screen door.” But then there are moments— outside of churches and prayers— where I feel God pulsing all around me. Like he constructed the atmosphere. And I have to remind myself not to run away from Him.
Sometimes that is the best prayer you can offer up to the ceilings: Show me. Show up and show me how you love me.
Loving someone is a process. Whether that’s God, or that’s another sticky human, it’s a process. The movies will say it’s something different but— no matter how instant that first draw to someone is— love is a building process. It’s doors unlocking. It’s windows breaking. It’s the discovery of new rooms inside of yourself. It’s the dark. And it’s the light. And it’s dark and light all scrambled into one. At the root of it, it’s a slow, trusting, building process that starts with letting someone in.
And that’s what it was, M— It was a matter of letting him in. And isn’t that the biggest obstacle that hides behind most relationships? One person wants to be let in. The other person struggles to just unlock the door. But there is a sprawling beauty that exists inside the relationships that resist the path of transactional. There is something you can’t see or touch that happens when you find the courage to mouth, “I’m all in.”
I think God is one of those relationships— especially if you feel like you’ve been trying to hitchhike away from him because you’re afraid of the things you don’t understand. Here’s the thing: We all are. We all are afraid of things we don’t understand— love. Letting go. Fighting harder. Forgiving. And maybe you’ll get hurt, but you should love anyway. Let go anyway. Fight harder anyway. Forgive anyway. For years, they’ve written countless books that have all said the same thing: these things are the only things that are worth it.
It all comes down to truth. And— if you’ve ever loved someone in a way where it seems as though the oxygen is falling out of the room when they walk in— then you know certain truths. Certain unchangeable truths about love: you want to give them everything in your world. And you want to give them everything outside of your orbit. And if they need the morning to come, you want to be that morning for them. And if they need the stars, you want be those fragments of light too. And you just want to sit by them. And you just want to know they’re doing well. And you just want to witness their greatness, the moment they’re finally shining out. You want to be right there next to them for that. And you want that honor to be in their life.
It’s crazy because you feel this way about other people who’ve left you or broken you down but you think it’s just too wild to believe in a God who might feel that same way, that very same way, about a little thing like you.