Emily Belle Freeman



What Am I Holding Back From God?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about crystal vases and about God. I wonder if maybe I hold God at arm’s length. My belief is real—I am certain about that—but I think I might protect it like the cut glass vase I keep in the cupboard over the fridge. The crystal vase handed down from my grandma, the one that is precious to me, so precious that I don’t want it to get broken. I keep it there, protected, in a place where it won’t get dirty or damaged or disturbed.

It is safe, but is that where I want it?

Because the other vase—the one that holds the marked-down roses I buy weekly from the grocery store, the deep purple iris from my yard, the flowers from the funeral, the wildflowers from the camping trip, the bouquet Greg sent on the day I really needed a lift—that vase sits out ready to be used. I use it so often that there isn’t time to put it behind a closed door in a dark cupboard for the special occasion that only comes once a year.

Why is it that I use daily the vase I don’t even love the most?

Is that how it is with my relationship with God? Do I protect it from the hard things?

I take a good, hard look inside my soul, and when I go there I discover something I didn’t know I would find. I love God, with my whole heart. I have for my whole life. I have gone through the motions of belief every day since I was born, but have I really believed in His goodness? Or have I sheltered the belief, protecting it from the hard things, the hard questions, the hard realities that can’t be easily resolved, the ones that may never be resolved? Do I hold those things back from God?

I’ve spent the last few weeks looking back over my life and trying to learn from my encounters with God. Some are miraculous, and some are painful, and maybe this heart needs to come to terms with that. Maybe, for this relationship to be real, I need to reconcile the possibility in my heart that choosing to follow God doesn’t necessarily make life easy; it won’t be easier. Because life is dirty, and my best plans are going to be frustrated, and sometimes my heart will feel the damage of that. And maybe the God I believe in is okay with digging through some dirt.

I consider it and I decide that for this relationship with God to be real, I can’t look only for the times when everything worked out. I can’t focus on only the miracles and the solutions that came packaged just the way I requested. I can’t believe only in a God who gives exactly what I ask for. I will have to lean into the times when God let me down; I will have to remember the answers that never came. I won’t ignore them. I will allow myself to consider all of it, and this time I won’t keep score.

Instead, I will sort through the moments carefully to remember how not knowing increased the necessity for faith. How falling is what forced me to reach out for grace. How letting God be God led me to answers I didn’t ask for, but ones that He knew I needed. I want to look for the times in my life when He got right down in the dirt with me, and I want to trace the goodness that I discover there. His goodness. Even in the hard things.

It isn’t long before this looking back leads me to one truth that cannot be ignored: Someone who is willing to be there for you, walk through fire for you, dig through the dirt with you, fix the damage, enter the dark places, and the questioning places, and the aching places—the One who meets you in the most intimate places must love you. It is within the hard details that I am vividly reminded of the reality of His love, the depth of His love. And I realize that there, within those hard places is where I discovered how much I love Him. How much I need Him.

The truth of it settles into my soul. 
Why not fully embrace what I love most?

I walk over to the cupboard that holds the crystal vase and open the knotted wood door. It is sitting safely there in the dark place where I keep it. As I open the door wider, light from the window behind me illuminates prisms off the cut glass.

It is precious to me, this vase. I gently lift it out of the cupboard and carry it to the kitchen counter so I can fill it with this week’s roses.

Originally published at TOFW.com