This blog will take the average adult reader approximately four minutes to read.
A friend recently pointed out to me that, in all aspects of life, I am a data collector. I know I do this consciously as part of my job—and I know I do it as a bit of a hobby. I never realized until very recently that I do it non-stop in my head in my personal life. It is an adequate way to describe how I process much of the world around me, though.
I collect data by observing behaviors (intentional and otherwise), language, and my environment—I sort it into data sets—and then I draw conclusions. I can trace this behavior back to when I was about five years old—I’m sure people that knew me as a wee tot can trace it back even farther. It is how I process information. All of life, for me, is data collection and analysis.
It’s equal parts helpful and detrimental.
On one hand, it’s what allows me to write this blog—this blog is nothing but a lifetime of data collection distilled into semi-digestable bouts of word-vomit. Some of these datasets are extraordinarily useful. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to let go of certain conclusions I’ve come to based off of empirical data. I have literally spent decades collecting the data that leads to those conclusions.
Again, I invite you to sit in my shit heap with me. Don’t respond out of discomfort—don’t coddle. Don’t respond with platitudes and niceties. Perhaps take a moment to evaluate the conclusions you’ve come to based on the data you’ve collected.
I have struggled for years—decades—with three lies that, when distilled, say:
- I am unwanted and unwantable.
- I am unloved and unloveable.
- I am unworthy of love.
I’ve got decades worth of empirical data embedded in my brain that confirm those lies. The lies aren’t coming from nowhere—they rarely are for anyone—no matter what lies you struggle with—there are reasons stemming from our life experiences that make us prone to believe specific lies. From where I’ve been standing at times in my life, those lies have looked more like truth than anything else. Situations and circumstances in my life have repeated those lies back to me over and over and over and over again.
By the grace of God, in the last five or six years, I’ve started to observe data in some contexts that contradicts those lies. I have friends and a community who love me well—they love me well—I am allowed to be me, not some fucked up Christianese vision of “Godly woman”. I don’t feel the pressure to be something other among my current community. (Y’all fucking rock.)
This blog is not about changes in my datasets. This blog is not about the accuracy of my datasets, either. This blog is about the authority of my datasets—no matter what the conclusions are.
I believe that there is a higher authority that supersedes any conclusions I come to—and any data I’ve collected. And it is a fucking good thing, too. If I’m honest with myself—and you—without that higher authority superseding my conclusions—I would absolutely be wallowing in a giant fucking pit of despair and those suicidal thoughts that I flirted with as a younger person would’ve wound up being far more consuming. Without the voice of the Holy Spirit whispering (and sometimes shouting) in my darkness, “You’re wrong and I love you.“—I would be in a very, very different place than I am.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55
Sometimes my empirical data is temporally correct. And it can be devastating when it is. For example, looking at the data set that can be most aptly named “my love life”, the empirical data (30 years of it) clearly displays confirmable trends of unwanted, unloved, unworthy. I’ve been told multiple times by the men I’ve been interested in why I’m not loved by them. I’ve been told clearly by society (and loved ones) one of the major reasons why I’m unwantable on this front. And I can certainly acutely see within myself the things that make me unworthy of love on all accounts—as I’m an extremely self-aware sinner.
But even though my data appears to be correct and confirmable here and now, I need to recognize that I don’t actually have the authority to declare those things over myself—because that higher authority, whose ways and thoughts are higher than mine, has declared otherwise. And to draw conclusions that contradict Scripture—and opt to trust those conclusions over Scripture—is to declare myself the higher authority.
When I evaluate that data I’ve collected, and hold it up to God, and say, “You’re wrong because the data says otherwise!” I am declaring myself a higher authority. I am placing my ways and thoughts above him—usurping His throne—and becoming nothing shy of an idolater.
To repent, for me, in this context—is to be wrong. (And if you know me, you know how well that goes over with me.) To repent, for me, means throwing out all that data—that I’ve spent my whole fucking life collecting—that appears, here and now, to be true—and saying, “I will trust you more than I will trust me.” To repent, for me, means to make a choice that is antithetical to how my brain operates—it is to choose faith, over data.
And on those occasions when I respond to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to trust him more than I trust myself—it is fucking incredible. I wish I could get to that place more often. (And I’m pretty sure it’s another lie that I can’t.) It is liberating to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am loved and wanted eternally and completely by the God who created me me.
If I was completely satisfied in that love—and completely trusting that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine—I wouldn’t need to see changes in the dataset to believe the Truth. And it wouldn’t be so devastating when another point gets added to the data that is contrary to what I so half-assed believe to be true.
Today, deeply embedded (yet attempting to repent) in my self-idolatry, and struggling to escape the constant collect-and-analyze data-oriented thought process I have, I find rest and comfort here:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 38
Neither the data I collect and the conclusions it leads me to, nor my choice to trust those conclusions over what God the Father says about me (and did for me), can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.