Floriade 2014: There I was, road tripping to our nation’s capital with a new friend from college. That weekend was spent pushing each other around in trolleys, laughing, eating food and taking truckloads of photos of us valiantly climbing giant animal statues. Oh, and the flowers. Floriade is an annual Australian tulip festival if you were wondering. It’s incredible. My green thumbs get all tingly just thinking about it! Anyway, it was much more than just fun times and tingly bits. It was a series of deep and vulnerable conversations, accompanied by a single song that ministered to my heart in ways I can never fully explain.
On the journey home, ‘Out of Hiding (Father’s Song)’ by Steffany Gretzinger played on Elise’s phone through my radio. It was a gentle and calming background to conversations about being loved, known and close to God and others. Being the long-ass drive it was, it repeated a few times. Each time I heard it with more clarity. Maybe that was when my navigator fell asleep.
The album’s title is ‘The undoing’ and my, oh my! What an apt name! When I truly heard the song for what it was: a loving ballad from my Father to my heart, I was absolutely broken. I felt my entire life’s work in covering up and protecting my heart being undone. I was unraveled. Years of hardening my heart, miles of pain and fear, a lifetime of cuddling up with addiction’s lies and shame were coming apart.
The realization struck me that I didn’t believe I was loved. I was not worth loving. My existence was a haze of shame. My heart was so frightened of being seen for what it truly was: unlovable. Unworthy. Addicted.
This was so deep within my mind that it was no anomaly. It was never a problem because that was reality, right? Yeah, well apparently God finally had enough with that and shattered my pretend- world to draw me in.
It was the most frightening and intimate embrace I could imagine or ever experience. God loved me. God knew me. God chose me. God delighted in me.
Elise, waking from her drooly slumber listened to my crashing thoughts, and we explored our (flawed) understanding of God’s love. Ah, love! It was too much to even consider! Not after who I had been, what I had seen and said. There was too much done. Irredeemable. But maybe I would just slip by those pearly gates.
Reaching home, I instantly ran for Spotify and, ignoring my indignant bladder, spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to spell ‘Gretzinger’ and then, ‘Steffany’ so I could re-listen to those words that had become mine. Treasured.
Ah, I found her. It’s an ‘f’, not a ‘ph’.
Following this, I spent the next month crying into various household items. The sink was a good one. Ain’t nothing like doing the dishes to a spiritual soundtrack. My meals got a face full of tears at times too, as did the floor, pillow, laptop, my patient dog. Tears for days. Literally. These were therapeutic tears, healing waters! It was as if the shame that was so at home within me was being drained from my body.
That song spoke into the deepest parts of me that had lay dormant for years. It touched on the intense desire I had for intimacy…but how frightened I was of going there. It spoke the wounds of my heart into song and offered a solution. Well, rather than a solution it was a long, knowing embrace from my Father. He was saying ‘I know you, I love you. Shame be off you’.
That song will forever be associated with the incredible display of tulips we immersed ourselves in that weekend.
But wait! There’s more!
A week or two later, a friend drew me aside and asked if she could pray for me.
‘Okay, why not?’
Without asking what was happening in my heart, and without a conversation about the tulips, she began to pray in her quiet way. Eventually, she motioned she had seen something in her prayer time. She told me God gave her a picture, of a beautiful red flower, a bud, tightly bound up, like a tulip. She said he was bringing it to bloom, it was opening up to show its true beauty. As it were, it was valuable and lovely but there was more room to flourish and grow. That red tulip was me.
That season of my life was one of incredible intimacy with God. It was a time of weeping freely before Him and grieving the events of my past. Where I felt abandoned and unknowable, He brought hope. An enormous amount of pain was dislodged in this time, shifting the shame of my pornography addiction and history and leading me into freedom. It was an absolute mess, but it was sacred.
So, tulips. Beautiful, vag- I mean vulv-y looking floral specimens. Pictures of hope and healing. A sign of the creative power of our God. A delightful, life-giving reminder of the love of Jesus and his desire to pull us close, hold us in his arms and say ‘I saw it all, and still I chose the cross’.