I remember the velvet box my sweet friend Stacie handed me for my birthday. It was high school sophomore year I think. I was turning sixteen. Opening the box revealed a simple necklace. A tiny dot of brown yellow encapsulated in a circular piece of glass hanging on a silver chain.
I don't remember if I cocked my head to the side and looked at the necklace quizzically. But I do know Stacie explained to me that the tiny fleck of gold was actually a mustard seed.
"It's a mustard seed. You know like the one in the Bible. Where a tiny seed of faith will actually grow to be one of the largest trees." She smiled at me.
I remember with joy hugging her and slipping it around my neck. I know where I could find it now. Sixteen years later. It's somewhere tucked in the closet that is still filled with prom dresses, mystery books, and all of my yearbooks in my parents house. I'm pretty positive it rests In one of my memento filled shoe boxes.
I always liked looking at the necklace and pondering exactly how tiny the seed was. Like the tip of a pen or a speck of dirt it was barely noticeable.
That always spoke to me because I desperately wanted faith. And big faith. But I always knew I had actually very little faith and hoped that I actually even had this tiny blink of faith that rested on my chest as I walked around to classes at school. I'd pray for that tear drop size of faith. Surely God might give me just that much.
According to Jesus in Matthew 13 that tiny bit of faith is enough. Enough to be planted and then burgeon up through the soil to produce, "the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter in its branches." (Living Bible).
I would think about the whole verse. How faith when full grown provides shelter to others. Places for others to land.
Still I couldn't understand why in the end I never actually could muster up the ability to believe that God actually loved me. To be at rest in that knowledge and live from that vantage point.
I would say it to people through notes and hugs. But I didn't ever truly possess the confidence that God forgave me.
It held me back and I would retrace everything I had done wrong and all the reasons I was sure that God hadn't included me in His plans.
This inner battle was fought regularly in my mind for years.
My counselor and I discussed this last year, "Somer, you believe that God forgives everyone else don't you?"
"Absolutely," I nodded. And I did. I believed God wouldn't withhold His mercy from anyone. Anyone. No matter who or what. And I wanted that for everyone. No matter what they had done to me or anyone else.
She looked at me with her round steady ice blue eyes, "But you do not believe that God forgives you. You have never believed that fully."
The room was silent.
"Why?" She asked.
I couldn't form a reply.
Not because of the current season of my life and the way my sins felt stacked to the ceiling. It went much further back than that.
I didn't know why but I had always been doubtful of the truth that God actually truly did forgive me and loved me.
It didn't make much sense because I believed God was good and filled with grace and I wanted desperately for Him to rescue others and I wanted to be used to tell other people that God did love them. I wanted to reassure them of this so that they might deeply know this truth. So that they would be confident and joyful in the way I wasn't.
The counselor asked another question, "Do you think you want to rescue others because deep down you want to be rescued?"
She was right. I wanted that same message to somehow reach its way and rest in my heart.
Fast forward several months and I'm curled up on my couch reading a chapter from The Broken Way and I find the answer to what was wrong. All these years.
Reading these words felt like light dawning, "Maybe we believe in Jesus; we just don't always believe in Him working in us...It feels strange, even wrong to believe He could find any value in my tarnished brokenness. But didn't He, somehow? Didn't He believe it was worth redeeming, renewing, resurrecting, to make all into more than enough, in spite of brokenness and through it? Isn't the cross a sign of Christ believing in us, believing that the busted are to be believed in? Which feels unbelievable...'Why do you people always say it's about having a strong belief in God? Who sits with the knowledge that that God's belief in you is even stronger than yours in Him?' You may believe in God but never forget it is God who believes in you." (pg. 82,83).
I knew the moment I read the words that this was the problem. This wasn't new it was the doubt that stretched over all my life. Even and especially as a child.
I flip the page and read these words that solidify what I couldn't describe on my own,
"'So you know how when Peter got out of the boat he wanted to be like Jesus, to walk on water, but he saw the waves and began to sink?...Who did Peter not believe in ?'...Himself." (pg. 84,85).
I close the book. I've read all I need to in that moment. I feel like I've just diagnosed my problem.
As I read through Matthew I see Jesus tell people repeatedly "Your faith has made you well!"
These people all believed that God could do it and that He would do it for them.
Faith has to believe that God's grace and mercy is enough even for us. Without that component it is incomplete and keeps us standing on the outside with our faces pressed against the glass. Seeing faith working and transforming others lives but feeling inadequate to step out into the net of God's grace ourselves.
The level of sin hadn't mattered. The same doubt had always tangled up my mind. It just intensified. I had been the little girl who didn't believe God forgave back talking her mother and wrote down my sins in a little notebook so that I would make sure to confess them all. Now I was the grown up who needed that fleck of faith more than ever. A mustard seed size of faith that believed that, Yes God could forgive and yes God would forgive even me.
I have decided that sometimes it takes the greatest amount of faith to actually believe God will forgive us. Not that He painted the sky deep blue or knit the miles of nerves within our bodies or set the earth on it's axis or chartered the paths of the sea. For me it takes the most effort to believe His grace is enough for me.
And then to step out and live confidently in that knowledge.
**quotes taken out of The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp