Note from Adrian: This is a guest post from Aly Lewis, a fellow blogger. Aly is a twenty-something writer from San Diego, CA. When she’s not writing ridiculously witty and yet still thoughtful and inspiring copy for the international non-profit Plant With Purpose, you can find her roller blading, showing off her dope hip hop moves, or overanalyzing her quarter life crisis.
Aly has a passion for social and ecological justice, anyone who speaks Spanish, and experiencing the God of the unexpected. You can check out her mismatched musings on her blog, Memoirs of Algeisha, or on Twitter!
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The feeling only comes in two sizes: regular - can’t shake this vexing sensation but still able to function, and extra large - paralyzing, life-stopping, all-consuming.
If you allow this unwanted guest to sneak past the bouncer of extra large you can pretty much say hello to an eternity of bumping and grinding with this guy in the nightclub of hell. When he comes looking for you in your modest skirt and smoothed hair, assuming invincibility because you don’t flaunt yourself around like a floozy, you need to stop, drop, and roll off the bus leading you down the one-way highway to the danger zone.
Trust me, you do not want to let this guy anywhere near you, your hopes, your future, your children, even your dog. He will squash your dreams and eat your confidence for breakfast. He will steal your identity and transform you into a small, frightened child. His presence prickles your hair and dries your mouth. With your heart beating like a conga drum, he wraps his icy fingers around your tender throat, daring you to call out his name. But you can’t reveal his identity. You don’t even know who he is.
But I do. He is the unwelcome elephant of fear and self-hatred.
You give him an inch and he’ll take a foot, your leg, your whole body and mind, and your little dog too.
This is not a life to the full.
I used to let this elephant rule my life. I used to tell myself awful stories. Depressing, really. I told myself stories of how dumb I was. How ugly. How boring. How awful. I was never good enough. Even in my relationship with God I wasn’t good enough.
So I left the church. I left it all. What was the point? How was I supposed to love God or love my neighbors if I didn’t love myself?
And I stayed there, angry and encumbered.
Until I became God’s basking case.
No, not basket case, (although I’m sure there’s a hint of that, too). Basking case.
This part of the story starts with a rebuttal.
When I first came back to church, people started asking me if they could pray for me. Most of the time, I said no.
But after awhile, after racking my brain to come up with anything I might like the almighty creator of the universe to help me out with, I finally decided on the one prayer request I felt comfortable asking.
“I’d like to be able to love and serve others better,” I mumbled more to my feet than to anyone in particular.
And the response?
“No, that is not what you should pray for.”
Since when does a prayer request have to pass quality control? When I was a junior high youth leader we'd pray for students' sick fish, cats, and Nano babies. No prayer was too big or too small.
But the congregation had spoken: I was not to pray to serve others better.
“I have an image for you instead,” they said--they all said, different people on different occasions. All with the same image, the same concept. The same Instead...
Instead they all had an image of me basking in God's love.
One couple told me, "Aly, you are beautiful. I see you lying in a meadow. Soaking in God's love."
Another woman (on a separate occasion) told me: "I see a picture of you in a field of flowers, basking in God's love."
Another person straight up told me, "No, I don't think you should pray to love others. I believe you need to bask in God's love."
The first time I heard this, I scoffed.
The second time I heard this, I scoffed.
The third time I heard this, I started to get nervous.
Basking, really? That’s about the sissiest verb I’ve ever heard and somehow everyone in this church is obsessed with it.
I didn't want images of soaking and basking and laying lazily in a field of wild flowers. I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted my god to care about injustice and oppression. I wanted my god to help me love others better, to quiet the guilt in my heart for being born to a well-off family in the wealthiest country in the world.
If you're going to give me an image, I thought, let it be of selling all I have and giving it to the poor. An image of writing award winning exposés that shut down sweat shops and bring justice to the marginalized around the world. An image of revolution. Of anger. Of action.
That's not what my church friends had for me. And it's not what God had for me either.
Check back tomorrow for Part Two of Aly's story!
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Questions: Does being God's basking case sound "sissy" to you? How would you react if someone told you that you should focus on basking in his love? Do you struggle with the unwanted elephant that Aly describes?
This guest post was part of a guest post series called "Living to the Fullest." Interested in joining in? I'm still looking for submissions! Just write up a post, or even just an idea, and e-mail it my way.