I don't really think I believe in desert, in deserving, and at the same time, I believe in it all too much.
I'm an Enneagram One: of course I believe in it. I've believed in it all my life. I believe in it so hard I believe I can earn the favor of my God, and the reason I have so much trouble with the Psalms is that I hate to be reminded of all the ways I fall short. Because I AM reminded of all the ways I want to measure up, and I have this sinking feeling that I can't.
All my troubles come from my mixed-up ideas of grace.
Because, you see, I have so much trouble with Psalms because I am so sure that I have to measure up, and at the same time I've been told my whole life that I can't, and I wonder if my upbringing hasn't set me up for failure, hasn't reared me to believe that I both have to and that I cannot.
I've dealt myself a standard and then been beaten with the idea that I can't reach it. And that itself is an idea I only half-believe, anyway.
i'm overcome with pride and shame, and they are two sides of the same coin. Pride in the belief that I can, and shame in the deep knowledge that I should, but can't.
I cannot convey the depth of this, the way that it runs up and down my spine and into the deep places we don't talk about. It runs through the center of my skull and dives from the depth of my pelvis into the ground. It cuts me in half, it keeps me standing up. I don't know who to be without this killer cocktail.
It baffles me that somewhere exists a Sara that lives without it. That lives without the drug of perpetual pride and perpetual shame that drive and drive and drive and drive until my nails are bitten to the quick and my fingertips are raw and my eyelids twitch and the hair on my head is frazzled with the electric current of trying so hard.
I smell like burnt rubber from the friction.
I don't know how to write about the inexpressible things that frighten us in our deep places. I can't write about my deep-seated belief in magic and in grace and, at the same time, my belief in burning and in asphalt and in spinning tires and in shame.
Because they go together.
I wrote that somewhere a Sara like that exists. And when I say somewhere, I mean in my future, but Your present, because you exist in present and in future all at once.
Writing is communion with God. It's my spirit meeting Yours in a whole different way than the inexpressibility of singing.
In my timeline, that Sara doesn't exist. But in Yours, she does. And Yours is the real one.
She exists, and she doesn't just exist -- she runs free through the meadows, grasses tearing about her knees, but they do not drown her. Tree branches in the divine forests above the margin of the world -- they catch at her hair and at her dress and rip across the white skin of her cheek but they do not hurt her.
Heaven will be so utterly alien to us because we are not used to living without our complexes. And at the same time, something within us will say: I knew it.
We know it because maybe we're made to live that way here, too.
Something within us knows all the time that what is here is not quite right, and that there is something buried deep within us by all the pride and the shame that is truer than true.
Somewhere under my poison-cocktail of the arrogance of Babel and the shame that makes us want to stick a dagger in our hearts, draw a razor across our wrists -- somewhere underneath that, something is stirred. Has been awoken by the wind of the breath of God.
And we come face-to-face with the person God called very good.
The childlike version of us that believes in the grace that was guaranteed to us by the Cross and the Empty Tomb.
Yes, somewhere far beneath my dirt and bones, I believe in grace.
Somewhere underneath my complexes and my hangups, I believe in the magic God has wrought by blood and broken skin and by mud streaked across eyes that once were blind.
Somewhere I know that grace is real.
All my crazymaking demons try to stop me from believing it for very long -- but every time I uncurl my fists and give in a little bit, I believe a little longer, a little deeper, a little truer.
I'm beginning to believe in the me that believes God.
I'm beginning to see that the real me is the little girl underneath the fear, the one whose eyes are open to the heavens, whose irises are navy around the edges and ice-blue close to the pupils, and flecked with gold fairy dust throughout.
See, the sparkle in the middle of my eyes?
That's the version of me that's Real. Capital R Real.
God is breathing into her the way He breathed into Adam's lungs once upon a golden time that was not actually that very long ago.
God has made me for this grace, and He has made me to accept it, and I'm waking up to the fact that my Inner Witness, the part of me that touches the Holy Spirit of God the way Michelangelo's God touches man -- my Inner Witness already has accepted it.
It's just letting my brain catch up with that part of me. Letting the rest of my body catch up with my soul. My soul is ahead and pulling my body along by taut-stretched golden wire.
Really, the story for me is, has always been, my ability to not count on my ability at all -- which is to say that the story has always been about my doing nothing.
About the endless capacity of God to still my busy hands. To stop me biting at my nails while I anxiously drum my feet on the floor.
The story has always been about stopping and not doing anything at all.
About You don't have to try so hard.
God has written my resolution in the Cross and my denouement in the way He holds my hands and prevents me from doing His job for Him.
It's all falling action. It has been accomplished. It's just me learning how to live in what is already true.
It's learning new habits based on who we actually are.
And I -- I am learning that I was made to believe in magic.
There is pixie dust in my veins, and when they dust off my bones in years to come, those future archaeologists, they will find golden specks inside my marrow.
I am learning that Sara as she was created -- she believes God. She believes in grace. All this pride and shame on top? It's just an alien trying too hard and covering up the tenderness with a shell. It's my demons coming to get me.
They will not.
Spirit of God, teach me to be who You created me to be. Teach me to live the story You've already written for me. Teach me what others wiser than I have called the unforced rhythms of grace.
Teach me that freedom is mine in big, slurping gulps.
Remind me that I really do believe in grace -- and, after all, whether or not i feel like it: it's real.
It's realer than real. It's realer than the food I had for dinner, than the blanket across my knees, than the hardest day that ever left my head swimming.
It's realer than the phantasms, the ghosts that haunt me with perfectionism. Because it's You, Abba -- and You are Truth, and you are The Real.
And that teaches me that magic is real, too.