January 12, 2015

Half-fish and a Broken Cage

Dad always said I was half-fish.

Sliding under water always felt to me like sliding into edges of God. I was weightless; I could move with liquid speed and hide in the deep. No one could see my emotions under water. I could sneak a smile or tears; I could search for treasure. The water seemed endless.

I always came out from swimming feeling refreshed and exhausted. I often come out of wrestling with God feeling the same way. I connect with Jacob and his wresting of God. God isn't easy to cage, impossible really, and that unsettles me.

For the first half of my life I drank in what was spoon fed to me about God. I hung onto it like a child grasps their blankie. It felt calming and manageable. I knew what I should and shouldn't do to keep God from getting angry. But I didn't just envision an angry God, my parents were tender with me so I could imagine a tender God albeit a little moody.

One infraction and I might get the silent treatment for awhile before He engaged talking to me again ~ or at least that's how I perceived it. I worked hard at keeping him happy. Ironically, I would've sworn a person isn't saved by their works but by grace; yet I had no belief in it. Keeping the God-mamma happy was my goal.

God couldn't be caged ~ but I walked right into one. 

Oddly I felt at peace with it for a long time. It became a cocoon against the world, a tree-house hidden in the trees. It didn't always make sense but it felt safe and I love safe.

So I plumped pillows and hung posters in my little cage to make it as homey as possible. Then I became determined to get other people into my cage with me, like a clubhouse. If they were in the cage then they were safe too, but outside the cage was a terrifying cavern of darkness. I assumed that if others didn't find their way in, they would be stuck in the wild fighting monsters and tempting God's anger.

I posted club rules on the wall and enforced them on my heart with the weapon of guilt. These rules were sacred. Basic rules like: don't swear, don't wear plunging necklines, don't drink, don't miss church, don't go to bars and don't have sex. I didn't want to mess up these rules. Well, except for the swearing one...

I found how delightful cussing could be during my freshman year of college when my cage was feeling tight and cumbersome. My boyfriend had just broken my heart and I saw him with friends walking on the sidewalk in front of my dorm. In a moment of crazed anger I did something uncharacteristic of me, I spoke out. Not only did I speak, but I yelled. I cussed like bloody hell. I stepped out on the back porch of my evangelical college dorm and let every unsavory word I'd ever held back cross my lips in a throttled pelting like rocks across the lawn.

He and his friends looked up in shock then laughed with surprise and hurried on. It fell on them like one plop on the water, but for me, it sailed across the sea in a record seven skips. Freedom. It washed over me like a six foot wave. I'd said what was in my heart instead of hiding it. This was new. It was against the rules. 

So I picked up the stick of guilt and beat myself silly.

The cage grew cramped but I remained because it was safe. For the first time though, I noticed there were cracks in the bars and rust on the locks. This cage was not going to hold forever and I had an ominous feeling I'd have to face the outside soon. I pushed that thought aside and recommitted myself to the rules, which I interpreted as recommitting myself to God. Blindly I didn't see it was the opposite of grace.

The cage fell apart eventually; as with all good pretenses, it had to come to an end.

I'll tell you more about that in another post.

Read Part 2 here.


  1. Ah, a cliff hanger! I am a big fan of God, but not of cages. His grace is definitely not a cage, though I know plenty of people who treat it as such.

    Great post!

    1. You're so cute, Rebecca. Sorry I left you hanging. :) Good thoughts!

  2. This post brought up something I think of every day as a parent: the way I love my children now will, for better or worse, impact the way they understand God's love. That's such a responsibility--it's a good thing God helps us carry it!

    1. Yes, daunting to say the least. I have many moments I wish I could retract my impulsive actions. But I think showing our kids we can own our wrongs is as important as not messing up in the first place. Thanks for your thoughts, Faith!

      P.S. This is the third time I've replied to your comment but it kept not showing up; sorry for the delay.

  3. *God couldn't be caged ~ but I walked right into one.* LOVE it!

    Catherine, I know it's been a loooong time since I've stopped in for a say, but this post is just beautiful. Too beautiful for me to read without telling you so. Soul-bearing and sincere, just like you! Thank you for sharing it. Love!

    1. Scarlett, long time or no, I always love hearing from you! :) Thank you for your kind words.


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