LOVE THAT WILL NOT LET ME GO

this is a long one,  kids .  i thought about splitting into two posts and giving you a tidy part i and part ii,  but let's just throw that out the window and go for it .  i have a hunch i should have more faith that folks like you enjoy reading,  and so with that in mind i give you this humble offering:  my story of the last few years,  an honest account of how God brought me to here, now at my farm table in kansas . 
 

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maybe you've had this kind of nudge before .  a small but distinct and present voice in you that speaks words to you you recognize are true .  the knowing of a pull...  and for me, simultaneously the most absurd thing you've ever heard :  that i was supposed to leave my dream city of portland, oregon for kansas city .  it sounded like a farse, a cruel joke . 

but deep deep deep in the parts of my heart that were still open to listening to God, i knew the invitation was real .  

still,  it took three flights out to kansas city to make the decision to actually go ... to  tell my roommate in portland i was moving out . to sell stuff, get rid of stuff, hire movers, tell my friends, cry a lot, and still wonder if i was making a horrible error -  'did i just make that voice up in my head?',  pack up my car and start driving east while wrestling with the aching of wishing i wasn't going, but knowing i was being prodded to go . 

now,  my leaving oregon didn't make much sense to me (or anyone around me) but i did know this one crucial thing:  my life, my internal, spiritual life was in shambles, and my physical life reflected the mess .  the messiness was fiercely painful, and i was ready for something new . i recognized my need for fresh beginning and a restored relationship with Jesus .  i believed kansas city was the place where i was meant to do all that - the friends i had made there over the course of the previous year were living out what felt to me to be authentic lives loving an authentic God .

so i drove 2,000 miles to missouri .  
 
honestly,  many days i wish i could say that was my biggest wrestling match and skip to the present .  

but something happened that delayed my well-intended course .  i met another boy and i was infatuated from the get go . he lived in the midwest, conveniently . and immediately i turned from hopefulness and a vision set on healing and growth, restoration of spirit and loving God to this new relationship that showed up unexpectedly and swept me off my feet and away -  very much away from where i knew deep down i was supposed to be traveling to .  

as the relationship intensified i felt myself growing more and more angry inside . angry at God for bringing me out to this awful, ugly place,  angry i was miserable, angry i couldn't seem to get my shit together . but looking back i will admit openly i was angry at myself because i knew i was running .   

like Jonah trying to duck out of his calling,  i was pushing God away at every turn,  swapping what i knew to be real and true for a mirage of someone i thought was the best thing i could ever have .

as it turned out, the guy i was with was as angry at God as i was and at the one year dating mark with our middle fingers pointed to the sky and all of our emotional baggage packed into a uhaul, we drove west, to escape the middle west, to escape our messiness and mostly, ourselves .

the thing about redemption is it can come very quickly, or very slowly,   or in my story: it came as both... a slow unraveling and a jolt of an awakening . 

there we were, our uhaul, and all the stuff in it - literal & figurative -  landing in the pacific northwest and little did i know - or maybe i sort of knew all along?... - we would only last another month .  the failure of it all was a sucker punch to my guts .  when we broke up and he left i laid on the floor of what was supposed to be our little coastal bungalow and cried until i thought i would die .  i couldn't seem to breathe without a deep ache in my chest for weeks .

for two months after the breakup everything felt colorless,  and i felt aimless and just plain guts-out-hurting .   i lived mostly like a hermit, trying to grasp some bearings, re-find my footing .  i would go on drives in the columbia river gorge looking for something to catch my eye... birds soaring overhead, the sun sparkling through an oregon rain mist, fog on the water, anything that reminded me there was beauty and hope, too .  i read psalms every day, and this one in particular i kept speaking out loud, declaring it to be true even though i felt like i could barely make it through the day.  

'i waited and waited and waited for God. 
at last He looked, finally He listened. 
He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud'.   
psalm 40 
 

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i was waiting, and i was asking - begging- God to save me .  what do i do now?  i felt like nothing could save me from the flood of grief and heartache i was drowning in...  not a trip somewhere or shopping for clothes or a new guy or being awesome .   there was no lift,  no desire to strive anymore to prove myself, no energy left to pick myself up or go to the grocery store .   i felt like i had nothing left inside that wanted to keep going .

those two months were the darkest time i've ever been in .  i'm struggling with how to put the weight of it into words,  but maybe between the lines you know that sense of heavy loss i'm describing,  of hitting the ocean's floor just when you thought the bottom couldn't delve any deeper .     

for me this wasn't just about losing a relationship i had invested myself wholly into, although that was a large part of it .  this was also about already having lost so much . relationship after relationship down the drain and a part of my sense of worth along with them .  taking all the intricate and arduous steps to move to the midwest in the first place a year earlier,  then the emotional roller coasters i had put myself through that year, and the humiliation and stupidity i felt for moving back to oregon with red flags screaming at me, and the umbrella of shame i felt over me for making such poor choices that were ripping my guts out .  it was a lot of things,  but mostly -  not having a clue how to get myself standing back up again .  

being in that house those eight weeks felt like an eternity . i wanted to run so fast so far from there but i didn't know where to go . and after two cross country moves in a year and feeling foolish, i wanted to make the right decision for this next season of my life . 

but more importantly than deciding where to move next was my heart being confronted by all this loss .   where was God?  'do You even care about me?'   and, really,  how could He after all the ways i'd messed things up .  

i started to realize i had believed God was caring enough, but underneath that perceived care He was really just judgmental and angry with me, ready to mock my efforts and laugh when i fell down .  

it's a miracle that this skewed belief of mine started to shift and then change and then radically transform over the course of the two months,  mostly thanks to Bob Goff's book:  Love Gives and poring over the Psalms day after day on the back porch.   

i felt Him reaching out to me in a way i hadn't known before:   a full-on embrace, without any weird pretense or enjoyment of watching me suffer . i started to recognize Him for who He is...  Someone who loves me more than anything .  and who pursues the heck out of me ( and you ) . i read in the Psalms how His love for me endures forever,  and His faithfulness to me outlasts anything that can happen,  and 

i started to see this breaking apart of my life was for my own sake and saving .  

the tearing-away of all i was holding on so tightly to was just Him ferociously loving me,  and asking me point blank -  'do you believe i am who i say i am, and that i love you as much as i say i do?'    the anger i'd felt so long and the 'how could You?' 's  started to crack apart and dissolve .  there was so much more going on in the larger Story than i could have anticipated,  and i was discovering the Jesus who loved me more than i could've ever imagined .  

it was all very slow and painful, with glimpses of hope and newness peaking through the dark .  

and then nearly eight weeks into this i woke up one morning with the words 'KANSAS CITY' so present in my mind, as if they were scribbled on my eyelids when i closed my eyes .  i sat there for some moments in bed and for a few seconds i thought 'kansas city?  you've got to be kidding me' .  but my heart was so ready at that point to do whatever God wanted me to because i knew two things:  He was in the process of saving my life and the kicker :  i knew He was good .  

i was so excited to dive into this newfound relationship with Jesus that i didn't flinch .  i immediately told my parents that morning 'this is what i'm doing .  i'm moving BACK to kansas city' .  i called my friends and told them, and to my surprise i wasn't met with them laughing at me or telling me how stupid i was for returning .  but i don't know if anything could've deterred me because  i knew once again, this time for certain, i was supposed to be in the midwest,  Lord help me .   so for the third time in just over a year, i sorted & got rid of & packed stuff & put most everything into a storage unit in oregon,  crammed what i could fit into my subaru and headed eastward . 

i had my car, my clothes, my bike and peace .   peace...  something i had not known, and i knew now:    it surmounted anything i could ever own .  and with that i began the trek back to missouri .  

june 14, 2012 i left oregon, the columbia gorge and that little house i nearly didn't survive inside of .  as i drove away and looked one last time at it i remember thinking 'how could that small little bungalow hold so much grief?' .  
 
i was so glad to be leaving . and the gladness grew into overwhelming joy as i drove through the gorge, across the state of washington and over mountain passes in idaho where i witnessed one of the most remarkable, unforgettable sunsets of my life .  You woo us,  i thought,  as i prayed and cried all over my steering wheel on interstate 90 .  

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now,  a year & some months later, i'm writing this all down to share with you all, and to keep for my own reminding, too, of the God who never gives up on us .  an endless Seeker,   a faithful Redeemer . 
 
i'm still marveling at how i got here,  and how the God who saved my life continues to show that from brokenness He brings life and unexpected crazy miraculous beauty .