My mom used to hide notes in my lunchpail: funny ones, sweet ones, silly ones—little slips of paper inked with kindness to interrupt the hurried rhythm of my day and bring a smile to my face.
Isn’t it sad how we grow out of remembering true things within minutes? Our hearts need constant reminders that we ourselves are not forgotten.
I graduated and left that cafeteria of sandwiches and love notes, and then another, and another, and another.
There I was, an overwhelmed youth pastor’s wife in my early 20s, and I was flat at the bottom of an emotional hole. Isolation, depression, perfectionism, and the unlimited obligation of ministry life pressed in hard. Invisible notes seemed tucked into every corner of my reality, but these weren’t funny, sweet, or silly. They were knife-sharp, meant to draw me over the brink into the darkness forever.
“Do more, slacker.” “You can’t do this.” “It will never get better.” “They don’t care.” “You’re ridiculous.” “Not enough, not enough, not enough.” “Your life is a waste of time.” “Don’t fall apart—it would get your husband fired, and then where would you be?” “Try harder.” “Of course you’re alone.”
My schedule revolved around the Lord. I worked in collegiate ministry, discipled teen girls, attended church every time the doors were open. And I was drowning in silence from heaven. God felt like the only One not interested in reminding me of my place in the world.
I showed up at a retreat for youth pastors’ wives hanging by a thread. A chance to escape? Yes, please. The first activity was to go find our bunks and write a letter to God about how we were coming to the weekend. I plopped my sleeping bag onto the mattress, opened a notebook, and began to spill.
God, I’m a mess, and not even a hot one.
And out it all came, tired and jumbled—the doubts, the confusion, the concerns. Do You even see me? Do You care at all? Friends, in a world of Instagram filters, do you know how brave it is to share your unvarnished real? Especially if you’ve been hiding it from everyone (including yourself) for so long?
I stashed my letter out of sight and moved into the rest of the retreat feeling a bit relieved, but also slightly timid. Would God retaliate against that kind of emotional expression? Didn’t He appreciate good girls who went about their lives without struggling (or who would at least keep quiet if they were struggling)? I guess I’d find out.
One by one, the youth ministry wives were called away from the meeting space for a professional chair massage. When it was my turn, I entered the dimly lit room and sank into the cushions. Soft music played, candles flickered, and rich lavender scented the air. The masseuse began to work her magic on my stressed out (and surprisingly sore) self, and I relaxed about halfway in.
“Oh! Very good,” she murmured out of the blue. Smiling at me, she paused and explained happily, “Every retreat I serve at, God points out someone special He’d like to love on a little extra. This time, it’s you. He wants you to have this.”
She walked over to a shiny jewelry box, picked out a beaded bracelet, and handed it to me.
People. I absolutely lost it. (My composure, not the bracelet.)
The goodness of a God who would provide something so solid in such a turbulent time took me completely off guard. I expected a frowning Judge; I found a smiling Daddy. That bracelet has become my permanent love note, but instead of placing it in a lunch box, I keep it with my stash of weapons against the enemy’s lies. (What can I say? Sometimes a hug looks like bling.)
Whether we’re in the fifth-grade cafeteria or behind a pulpit on a Sunday morning, it’s so easy to forget true things. May the Lord open your eyes to a thousand notes He’s placed all around you, reminders of an affection so deep it will take your breath away.
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