I am my beloved's and He is mine

 

I am ecstatic to be linking up with the lovely and talented Addie Zierman’s synchroblog today. It is taking place in celebration of her book, When We Were on Fire, which releases today.

 

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy. And since I finished it, I have not stopped recommending this book to everyone I meet.

 

The book is her story of growing up in the evangelical youth subculture, but it is so much more than that. It has the gripping "I can't put it down" power of a novel, mixed with the thought-provoking "I can't get that idea out of my head" power of nonfiction. Through inviting you into her story, she opens you to processing your own. And she does so with honesty, sincerity, critique, and hope. Her words may help all of us unravel and make sense of what it looks like to walk in a life of faith.

 

Seriously. Read this book. You won't regret it. You can get it on Amazon here. (This isn't an affiliate link. I'm not making any money by promoting this to you. I just want you to be able to share in the goodness of this book.)

 

Today I am linking up with a story about one of my own experiences in a cliché Christian environment. And, I hope you aren’t feeling too cynical today, because, in this case, my experience was a positive one.

 


 

Retreats are a staple in Christian-subculture.

 

I went on my first retreat {gasp} fifteen years ago, when I was in college. I had gone to one of the campus Christian groups several times, and everyone said I MUST go on the fall retreat. Time away from campus seemed like a good idea to me, so I signed up. I even volunteered to be one of the drivers.

 

Autumn was the perfect time of year to go to a retreat center in central Wisconsin. Changing leaves. Crisp air. Piercing blue skies.

 

There was horseback riding and cafeteria-style meals and bonfires and games and laughter.

 

And there was also talks. And worship. And space to go be with God.

 

These kinds of activities were not completely foreign to me. I had been dabbling in them for the previous year. But still, they were relatively novel.

 

On this retreat, we were encouraged to have a “quiet time.” (That was the lingo for bring your Bible and a journal to a quiet place and pray.) For many others on the retreat, who had been following God for longer, the act may have felt cliché and dry.

 

For me, the idea of a quiet time was fresh. I had never really thought God would or could interact with me personally. I believed in Him. I went to church. But my thoughts were more based in tradition than faith, and my experiences were more corporate than personal.

 

I don’t know if it was the speaker, the weather, or the peer pressure, but I grabbed my Bible and headed for the woods. I sat under a tree and wondered if God would meet me there. Didn’t it seem ridiculous to expect such a thing?

 

Not knowing any better, I went for the “drop and flop” method. I asked God to lead me to a passage that would show me He cared about me in that moment. Then, I cracked my Bible and let it fall open to a random page.

 

Now that I am older and “more experienced” in my faith, I have better methodology to my study. I know better. But God’s grace met me under that tree as the Bible flipped to Song of Songs 2.

 

I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. –Song of Songs 3:4

 My beloved is mine and I am his; -Song of Songs 2:16

 

I had never before considered that I might be God’s beloved.

 

I realize now how much I didn’t understand about the context I was reading, but in that moment, all I knew was that God spoke to me, and I was his beloved.

 

I ran into the hall, skipping and laughing like a girl newly in love. Because I was.

 

And later on, when we sang the classic “His Banner Over Me,” I was swept up in the emotions of it all. And I was filled with gratefulness.

 

That retreat was crammed with Christian clichés, bad methodology, and thin theology, but God’s grace was circled around all of it. He found me under that tree and told me I was his beloved.

 

(If somehow, you've never heard the 90's Vineyard song, "His Banner Over Me," I found it on YouTube here.)

 

my beloved

Wonder: If the Angel Should Come

I definitely have a blog crush on Addie Zierman. Her writing is rich with imagery and beauty and depth and power. I am delighted to have her perspective as part of this series.

Say he comes.

Say he stands in my room, all wings and glory. White and glowing, lit with some kind of swallowed fire.

Say he says my name out loud and the walls shake with the sound of it. Say he makes a promise – the kind that changes everything. The kind that splits the world I know into before and after.

Say he says, “Nothing is impossible with God,” after he has just told me the impossible, and then, say, he fades away like smoke. Or maybe he just vanishes, just all of the sudden, and the room that was a moment ago so full of him is just as it was last night, the night before, every night of my whole normal, quiet life.

Say he comes and goes, all in the span of a few breaths.

Would I believe?

Not in the moment, of course. Because in the moment, with those wings spread wide, the holy feels so big and wild and magnificent that there’s never any room for doubt. When face to face with an angel, I imagine my heart rent with wonder, my hands opening to receive the weight of a promise made.

But then there’s the next morning. That moment when I wake in that same bed I’ve slept in every night for my entire life, and nothing seems to have changed. When the light breaks harsh into my waking eyes, when the dream world is slipping away like water, and I’m still just me.

I’ve always been so good at talking myself out of impossible things. It starts with a question – a loose thread. Did it really happen? And then I tug on it a little. Did I imagine it? Was it a dream?

I picture it again and again. I hold the moment like a photograph, and the more I touch it, the more smudged and clouded it gets. Eventually I can barely make out the image at all.

Once, a boy told me over and over again, “God told me to break up with you.” And then, “God told me to date you.” And it went around and around just like that, and somewhere in all of that shattering and reassembling, I learned to distrust the inexplicable holy experience.

It’s not that I don’t believe that God speaks; it’s just that I’ve lost faith in the human ability to hear. Tell me that God told you this or that, and I’ll give you that knowing, subtly patronizing look that I know I have. I’ll be nodding and listening, but inside, I’ll be thinking, Yeah, we’ll see.

Ask me, and I’ll tell you that I want a sign. I want an archangel to appear and shake me to my core as he tells me where to go and what to do. I want God’s voice, powerful and clear, and I want it to shake the ground I walk on. I want it to split the earth ahead of me in some cosmic way so I know I’m on the right side, headed in the right direction.

But the truth is, I’ve grown comfortable with the silence. I’ve gotten used to a low-dose voltage of God, filtered through common sense and logic. I like the way that I can rationalize a decision out loud with clear, concise points and look like I know what I’m doing.

And who can explain an angel?

Say he comes, and my whole world changes, and I have to just walk forward in a light that only I have seen. Would I do it?

Would I hold choose to know that unknowable thing. Would I follow the memory of light even when the source of it has disappeared? Would I trust a voice that I heard even after all its echoes have faded into silence?

The wild-winged moment of glory comes and goes, and the question is for all the moments after. The dark ones. The average ones. The lost ones.

I have seen. Do I believe?

 


About Today's Guest Blogger: Addie Zierman

Addie Zierman (@addiezierman) is a writer, mom, and Diet Coke enthusiast. She blogs twice a week at How to Talk Evangelical, where she's working to redefine faith one cliche at a time.

 

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.