Today, I bring you another installment of Conversations with Ourselves, a series of posts in which every Thursday the author addresses the Past Self through the Present or vice versa (or sometimes totally not this, but something equally cool) concerning matters of Faith, specifically.
Kim is a new face to share in this space, which makes me quite glad. She drops in a line here about separating from some self, a line which is the reason I chose this piece to be featured in this series. When I read it, I knew it, and I knew Kim had a style and observation that needed sharing. I commend her words to you here.
Dear sweet, insecure, brave and tender girl,
What are you now — 15? I know, you already feel too old for your skin; you’re sometimes told you have wisdom past your years. (Slow down. Nothing wrong with being stupid and irresponsible sometimes. But then, I should know better than to try convincing you.)
There’s this pastor you need to know about. I’m telling you now before he shows up on your topography, because after he’s here, words and accusations will fly and flare and you’ll be defensive and you won’t hear me. I’m not going to give it all away, but know this: He’s light and dark. He’ll bring lasting good; he’ll damage forever.
You’ll consider this at length later, this human condition, this light/dark, good/evil paradox. But in all your life, you may never experience something so undeniably from God while at the same time having the devil’s fingerprints all over it.
Even when it’s all mixed together later, when you can’t tell if it was your base instincts or a higher calling that led you to fully participate in all of it, you’ll still look back and remember this as a time you came alive.
You’ll go to evening worship sessions that go on and on into the late hours, you’ll grasp sweaty hands in parking-lot prayer, you’ll feel conviction to be unashamed of who you are and Whose you are. You’ll feel self-righteousness and sincere concern for the salvation of your friends. You’ll be captivated by the way he talks to you, to all of you, like you’re adults, capable of mature thought and true calling and deep faith. You’ll come to scoff at youth group ski trips, opting instead to go to a revival meeting in Canada, where you’ll get prayer, where you’ll fall into waiting arms.
But something you’ll see later is the shield over your mind, something that held you back a little, whispered caution. Later, you’ll realize it must have been the Holy Spirit, that he must have been protecting you.
When the emotional call of faith is at fever pitch, a part of you will stand aside, separate, not judging but not letting you dive in headfirst, either. All the frustration you’ll have with not hearing The Voice Of God, even after following the tutorials to the letter, and the secret, shameful knowledge that you fell over more out of exasperation than because you felt the Holy Spirit come over you, or however it’s supposed to feel — one day, that will feel more like steady wings underneath your feet. It will be presence, not absence.
And while the build-up will be exhilarating, you’ll start to sense an impending crash.
It’ll start in hints and whispers, how he revels when an adoring group of you is literally sitting at his feet, how he taunts the congregation on Sunday. Then there will come a day when you finally ask those few tough questions that have been burning in your heart (and ask them, love, ask them, because they are the key to life), and instead of answers or respect for the mystery, he will chide you for asking.
That’s when the Holy Spirit will flip on the lights and point you to the emergency exit, and you will get the hell out of there. And not a moment too soon.
It’ll be all mixed up for a while; lean into the confusion and let the anger find its way out. Later in the darkest times of your faith, this experience in your youth, when you were impressionable and followed more easily than you do now, something about it will hold you to the chest of God. Though you desperately want to, you won’t be able to deny that He was there.
And the pastor eventually will change in your memory. You’ll come to see him as tiny and broken and probably ill, with a deep need to self-destruct, each time more spectacularly than the last. When you get some distance, you might even feel pity.
Finally, you’ll realize the miracle — that God used him to reach you, despite his colossal failures and many faults and even though you still have scars.
And a long, long time from now, that will give you hope for yourself.
Kim Van Brunt is a writer, mother, wife and world-changer. She is currently working on her first book, about the hidden emotions adoptive parents experience and finding God's beauty in brokenness. Find her on Twitter @kimvanbrunt or Facebook at facebook.com/kimvanbrunt. Next month, she will be the official blogger with a group going to Uganda to minister to women and mothers there; follow their journey at kimvanbrunt.com, where she also blogs about faith, family and adoption.