“When you are fully known and loved you have a home.”
“…known and loved.” The words make my stomach twist and knot. I cringe and my insides curdle at the thought of being known. I shrink back in fear of being seen as I truly am. I’ve been scared of God for years. And yet, somehow, I feel drawn to the concept of being loved by this same God.
Fear tells me I could never be known and also loved. Guilt says they are mutually exclusive for someone like me. Someone with a past. Someone with dirt under his fingernails and cracks in his armor. Shame says there is no way Love could ever know me.
After a few deep breaths, choking back tears that I fear might drown me, I hear the words of my friend, Ed Bacon. On today’s episode of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, Ed says, “I’m an atheist to that kind of God”. The “kind of God” who sits upon a throne of power, controlling His minions with fear, shame, and guilt. My friend said he is an atheist to the God of such toxic theology.
But the truth is, “that kind of God” isn’t God at all. An idol, maybe. It looks a lot like a golden calf. A man-made power structure. The Christian Machine, for sure.
Anne Lamott says it like this, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
It’s “that kind of God” I shrink from. And that kind of toxic theology wounded me deeply. I was judged by the followers of “that kind of God” for growing tired of performance-based Christianity. The Church of “that kind of God” excommunicated me for my questions and lack of faith. It’s “that kind of God” who told me that to be known wasn’t possible, because a perfect God couldn’t get near my dirty secrets or dare fellowship with the kind of company I keep these days. “That kind of God” couldn’t allow me into even the outside of the circle, much less love me as I am.
If Jen Hatmaker is right, and the Christian Machine isn’t the body of Christ, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. And if that’s true, then who is the body (or family) of Christ? The Bible says we’ll be known by “…compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline.” It goes on to say that we’ll be “quick to forgive” and “clothed in love”.
If so, I have found the body of Christ in unexpected places and in the faces of people who have been hiding in the shadows for a lifetime. I have broken bread and sipped wine with those who wouldn’t dare darken the doorways of traditional churches. I have found God in the middle of a gay bar. I have formed beautiful friendships with people who felt they had to move away from America in order to live their best life.
And in every story and situation, I have tasted and seen that God is actually good.
To be known and loved used to frighten me to tears. I was constantly scared of God, but these days, I am experiencing the Light and Love, the Peace and the Presence of God on a deeply personal level. It happens in ordinary conversations with people who are anything but ordinary. I am learning that to be loved is to be known – one doesn’t happen without the other. Each day, I am allowing myself to be more fully known by people who find my faults to be flawless and love me without condition.
Do you want to be known and loved? If so, join me. Consider this your invitation to pull up a chair and sit for a while. The table is larger than we ever imagined and there is room for everyone. Please, I beg you, come out of silence and secrecy. Being known and loved is possible and wonderful. It’s a place that feels like home.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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