Love and Holiness

I have been thinking about the holiness of God lately.  Specifically how does the holiness of God work with the love of God?

The meaning of “holy” is “to be set apart.”  When we think of God being holy, there is an idea that He is set apart from us.  Which granted, He is in a way, which I will explain later.  However, what I have experienced in the church and my background is the idea that God is so holy that He is untouchable and/or unapproachable.  This particular idea of His holiness seems to negate His ability to love and forgive us freely.  Holiness and the wrath of God intertwine so tightly that there is no room for love.  When one hazards the legitimate question of how a loving God can send people to hell to burn for eternity just for not believing the exact right thing – the answer is always, “God is HOLY.”  Because He’s holy and we are utterly depraved, God feels pretty wrathful towards us about that, so not even His love can protect us from His holy wrath.  His holiness and wrath demand blood one way or another, and only then can he offer his love and forgiveness to us, assuming we believe the right thing about all of this.  If that doesn’t make you nervous about God’s holiness, then word pictures from the Bible and from some well-known pastors can help you move in that direction.  I’ve heard descriptions of God’s glory and holiness being so unapproachable and overwhelming that we would burn in God’s presence if we were even allowed there.  Not much indication of unconditional love there.  This is an exclusive holiness.

So I’ve been wrestling with the idea of God being Love and Holy and what that really looks like.  I have concluded that it is because of God’s love – because He is Love – that He is holy.  He is set apart from us because He loves us perfectly and unconditionally. He has the kind of love that we cannot seem to manage even under the best of circumstances.  But God – He does it in the very worst of circumstances!  That is holiness.  That is the glory of God!  I find it hard to see any wrath in that kind of holiness.  His holiness is not something that excludes us.  The virtue of His holiness is that He wraps us in His love and calls us His own.  We are the ones that have created the language of Holy exclusion – not God.

And some would argue that the Bible says that He is untouchably holy…..And to them I say, the Bible says a lot, but most importantly that God is Love.  It tells us that God is so in love with us that he became one of us.  Born in dirt, made with dust.  Suffered with us. Touched and restored the ones deemed untouchable and unclean. The ones excluded from a holy God that demanded sacrifice.  Turned that idea upside down by reminding them that God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Told a “this is God” story about a rich Father that loved his wayward son so much that he swept him up – pig stink and all – into his arms and welcomed him back lavishly.  And when they killed him for turning the ideals of power upside down, for letting all in, he did not invoke the wrath of God with His dying breath, but instead asked God to forgive them.  That is holy.

When I watch the way my dad is with my mom, how much he loves her, reaches out to her, and stays with her in the midst of her disease, I witness God’s love in action and those are the holiest of moments.  When I feel compassion or watch my husband’s gentleness with my child during a difficult moment – God’s love is real there, and it’s holy.

I have come to the conclusion, through my experience with this holy God, that His holiness is defined by his love, not the other way around.

Late Thoughts

I haven’t been writing all that much lately. I put way too much pressure on myself to try and say something profound each time I write. Lovely husband says I should just write anyway.  He said that a few months ago.  So here I am.

I think I feel this pressure to be okay when I write. I mean, sure I struggle with my faith in God at times, but I don’t write about it until I can tie it up in a nice neat bow at the end.  Because it doesn’t seem encouraging to say “I don’t know where God is.”  The end.

You ever notice how best-selling stories of faith and overcoming ALWAYS end with the redemption in the story?  The “I’m angry with God” parts are, at worst, completely left out or at best skimmed over – a stepping stone to the redemption.  I’m all for redemption stories; after all my faith is based on one.  But what happens when the story doesn’t end in redemption?  But Jennifer – you may say – what about life after death?  God will redeem and reconcile all to Himself.  I will give you that hope, but it is not a comfort in a raw moment where you are watching your mother cry and suffer with some sort of pain that she can’t even articulate – and you can do nothing to ease that suffering and you wonder how much longer she must endure.

It’s these moments that I don’t know where God is; that I don’t want to hear anyone try to make it okay with Christian platitudes.  Because sometimes, it’s just not okay.  Sometimes life is awful and unfair and there is no pretty answer to make it all okay.

I am learning that God still meets me in the ugly, and that doesn’t mean it’s warm and fuzzy or that things get “fixed”.    But He’s there.  Just like I can sit with my mom in her suffering, when she has no idea that I’m even there.  Just like I can try to stay in the moment with my kiddo when s/he is having an all out melt-down and can’t hear a word I say. Would it be nice to hear God and have His comfort in those moments?  Absolutely!  But it doesn’t happen that way a lot of times.  Sometimes I feel alone and I doubt that God is there and I wonder at God’s goodness in a world with so much suffering.  And there is no pretty bow to tie it up in.  It’s just the way it is.





I’m currently in a depressive episode.  I’m on all kinds of medication and doing therapy, and while I do well for a while, it always seems to circle back on me, and I find myself once again in darkness.  I’ve been here for about a week now.

If you’ve never had depression, I just don’t know that you could understand.  It’s not just sadness.  It’s a mind-numbing heaviness that makes me feel like I can’t catch my breath.  Sometimes my body hurts.  Sometimes I find myself really distracted and I have a really hard time focusing.  Sometimes I feel ultra paranoid and think that everyone hates me.  Sometimes I find myself crying multiple times a day, but for no good reason.  Most of the time I have absolutely zero motivation to do anything.  Things that I would usually enjoy or look forward to, I don’t anymore. Sometimes I feel everything and am super sensitive.  And sometimes I feel absolutely nothing and am numb.  Most of the time, I have no appetite and struggle to eat.  Sometimes I want to hurt myself.  Sometimes I do.  Most of the time it feels hopeless, like my world is never going to be okay, and I will always feel this bad.  And when a lot of those things happen together, that’s when I think about killing myself.   If you’ve ever been extremely physically sick, to the point that you thought you were dying (and maybe wished it as a passing thought), this is just a mental version of that – except that no one can see how sick you are, and there’s such a stigma when you do speak out about it.

The thing is, eventually it does get better, and I almost forget how bad I felt, to the point I can turn and judge myself for not getting over it faster, or for not doing more to help myself.  Until it comes back.  And then I remember all over again how very bad it is, and the cycle continues.   It’s really exhausting.  So in between the down times, I’ve been trying to remind myself to accept my depression when it comes along and work with it, not against it.  And of course each time it comes back, I scream and flail against it trying to get it to let go of me.

But not this time.  Well Okay, maybe just a little screaming at first.  But eventually I was able to get quiet and just sit with it, acknowledging that yep, I’m depressed. Again.  But, even though it feels like I don’t have a choice in how I react, I realize I actually do. And so, everyday, sometimes every moment, I’m telling myself to just do the next thing, however small it may be.  And then I congratulate myself for doing it and thank God for helping me.  I’m avoiding things that I know make me feel bad even on good days, (like the news and excessive facebook use), and I’m being intentional about choosing things that usually make me feel good to do instead like read positive books/quotes, write, be outside, pray, meditate, listen to calming music, write some more, pet my dogs and cats, take a brisk walk, yoga.  Breaking down chores and tasks too has helped me to not feel so overwhelmed, and I can take more pride in what I accomplish because in breaking down the task, I realize how many tiny things I do that I usually take for granted.

I’m still depressed. It’s there. All of those positive things I’m doing, hasn’t taken the depression away.   So why work so hard if I could lay in bed, or scroll around on facebook, or just sit in my dark thoughts, or do whatever else it is I do to try and numb out the pain, and feel pretty much the same?  Because I know I would feel worse if I did.  Either way, I have the depression, but I feel better about myself, and it’s helping me not to spiral deeper by making the hard decision to push on and make positive choices.  I can say that I’m actually really proud of myself for all that I’ve accomplished this week, despite feeling so low.  There have been times that I feel like I’m pouring my whole energy into just getting out of bed, or making myself take a walk, or spend time in prayer.  It would be so much easier to just veg out with Facebook, or lay in bed.  But, I have not regretted any of the positive choices I’ve made this week, even when I completely dreaded them and thought that I couldn’t do them.  No regrets.  I can’t say that about facebook or laying around in bed, though.  So my path is set before me, and I will continue to do the best I can, telling myself that this too shall pass, and the sun will eventually come back out.

I don’t know if this will be able to help or encourage anyone else, but I’m planning on rereading this the next time the depression beastie comes around, because the struggle is real.  And I always need all of the help that I can get.  And I’m learning to give myself lots and lots of grace as I ride out these storms over and over, so come what may next time, I will be gentle with myself.  Please be gentle with yourself too, lovely reader, wherever you find yourself this night.