I was asked to tell my story…in front of the group of women I fear the most. Church women. Why do I fear this particular group of women so much? After all, my church isn’t even like most. They are the most grace-focused, loving, authentic group of ladies I’ve ever met. They have welcomed me with open arms. I have grown to love them and enjoy our life-giving friendships. I have been in women’s growth groups overjoyed in finding out that we have the same fears and frustrations and “unglued moments.” I have found that my quiet, yet lingering, fear that “they” have it all together and I’m just a warty toad of a mess is dissipating the more I actually take the time to get to know them. And yet…I wonder if they would judge me for things like the fact that my favorite song about Jesus is “Heart Like Mine” by Miranda Lambert…
You see, I am not a straight-laced, quiet soul even now. I’m saved and baptized and you know what? I am still loud and stubborn and rebellious. God knows who I am. He made me. He made me willful and wild and big-hearted. He knit me together in my mother’s womb to be who I am with the strengths and weaknesses that are uniquely me. It’s just that ever since I started seeking Jesus and really inviting Him into my heart and my life, I try my best to channel those personality traits in a very different way, in a way that isn’t self-destructive. I champion the causes of the disadvantaged, the rejected, the disabled. I rebel against becoming a “Martha.” Check out the story of Mary and Martha here. I am learning how to use my natural personality to serve rather than trying to change my personality to fit someone else’s idea of service. Guess what? I’m still human. I still have temptations and imperfections, but I am no longer bound up in the chains that once wrapped around me. Jesus broke those chains, made a way for me, and He holds my hand every day leading me, refining me. I am in awe of that. I thank God for that. I was once so lost I didn’t know if I would ever be found.
Yet…I often wonder if who He made me is acceptable to the church ladies…I wonder what they really think of me. Do they think I am selfish or ambitious or loud or unladylike? Does my desire to be more like Mary than Martha rub them the wrong way? I marvel at how MUCH truly awesome and needed service some of them are able to do when I feel like I can barely work my 2 jobs (one of which feels very much like a spiritual calling and mission field working with abused women and children), take care of my 2 kids who attend public school, lead a Sunday morning Bible study, and serve in the nursery once a month. I have to remind myself often that God made us different for a reason. Because the Body of Christ doesn’t need all hearts and no hands…or all eyes and no ears. We all have a role to play. I hope they are reminding themselves of that too…I really want to believe they are. “It takes all kinds of kinds,” as Miranda Lambert reminds us (I promise I do listen to Christian radio too).
One day I was driving down the road asking God this stuff, and got this surge of energy and had a lightbulb moment. I resolved through this epiphany that regardless of what any lady at that church might think of me, my stubborn self is claiming my place at His table by golly! “Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come”, Casting Crowns sang one day as I was driving down the road. Ya-uh! That’s my kind of rebellion and challenging the status quo right there. Everyone’s in baby, whether the more judgmental peeps like it or not. Claim your seat at God’s table. We ALL get an invitation. Don’t let anyone take that invitation away from you. Open it, read it, its a love letter. God loves you, no matter who told you that you can’t sit at the table because of _____.
I refuse to let fear of judgment and rejection cause me to go sit in a dark corner, isolated away from all that is good about church again. You see, that’s what I did in high school. I was rejected by the “Christian” crowd (which at my school also just happened to be the popular and privileged crowd) and I thought I’d show them by going to sit with the “freaks and drug addicts” at their table in the back corner of the lunchroom. I was rejected, so I reacted by putting on a facade that their rejection didn’t hurt me and I didn’t want to waste my time with their boring, small minds, or their God anyway. I let them drive me away from my place at God’s table, from my place in the Body of Christ which is the church. Oh, how I wish I would have looked at that rejection as an opportunity to go love on “the least of these” and brought God’s love to that misfit table I sat at for 3 years of my life instead of bringing my hardened, angry heart.
Anyway, now that you know why I fear sharing, I’ll also tell you why I am convicted to share. I don’t want my story to be about making sure you stick to the straight and narrow for fear of the consequences. I want my story to be honest about how He saved me from myself. If I had always been perfect, a “good girl”, if I had always walked the straight and narrow….would I have needed saving? Would I truly “get” things like grace and mercy so deeply that I ugly cry every time I hear “Amazing Grace”? There is such mystery about why and how God weaves each of our stories so uniquely, using EVERYTHING for good according to His plan.
A friend of mine who has lived her life in a much more righteous (meaning right choice that glorifies God) way once told me that she thought at one point she didn’t need grace and mercy. Then God showed her she did. Not through wild, wrong choices like I made, but through depression and anxiety. Wow, God is such a creative teacher, I thought to myself. Maybe all of us are broken at some point, either through our choices or our circumstances, and it doesn’t really matter how we came to that point of brokenness. What matters is that we acknowledge this human brokenness as something as universal as God’s unconditional love and our need for that love.
We all have different sins or weaknesses, whatever you prefer to call it. Some of us are wild and rebellious. Some are judgmental and prideful up on a high horse. Some are overly materialistic and flirt with idolatry and envy making sure our lives look picture perfect from the outside. Some of us are gluttons and find joy in food rather than God. Some are addicts. Some are vain. Some have let lust burn down lives like a forest fire. Some actually think we can achieve perfection in various areas of life. Some have control issues and don’t want to give our burdens to God. We all have issues, they are just different issues. I can’t look down on you for your sin du jour just because its different from mine. I hope you don’t look at me like I’m a 3-headed toad because mine is different from yours. All sin is dangerous. Its even more dangerous when we start to think some sins are harmless because they come wrapped up in nice looking, even enviable, packages the world applauds. No one wants to be a sex addict or strung out on drugs, but many covet or define themselves by that nice big house on the lake or that nice car. We have to be careful not to fall into traps of socially acceptable sin. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
When I was a little girl and I would mess up, I would beat myself up verbally and mentally about it. My Dad would always say in his most gentle voice, “you know Jen, there’s only one perfect person and that’s Jesus. You might as well stop trying to be perfect because no one is.” So I stopped trying to be perfect and instead started trying to just be “good enough”. Good enough to fit in. Good enough not to be rejected. Good enough to get a quality man. Good enough to get a full scholarship. Good enough to get a good job. Good enough to look down on the people who rejected me. Good enough. But all along, it was the voice of the world that was telling me I had to try SO HARD to be good enough. God’s Word is clear that He created me and that I am much more than “good enough.” Right now, I have to challenge my self-sabotaging thoughts that tell me, “why would YOU think you are good enough to tell your story at a CHURCH of all places?” How do I challenge them? With the Sword of Truth:
I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I have been healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
I am the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)
I am the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
I have eternal life. (John 10:27)
I have been given peace. (John 14:27)
I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life. (John 15:1,5)
I am clean. (John 15:3)
I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)
I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit. (John 15:16)
I have been given glory. (John 17:22)
I have been justified…completely forgiven and made righteous. (Romans 5:1)
I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule over my life. (Romans 6:1-6)
I am free forever from condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
I am more than a conqueror through Christ, who loves me. (Romans 8:37)
I have faith. (Romans 12:3)
I have been sanctified and called to holiness. (1 Corinthians 1:2)
I have been given grace in Christ Jesus. (1Corinthians 1:4)
I have been placed into Christ, by God’s doing. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things feely given to me by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)
I have been given the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
I am a temple…a dwelling place…of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19)
I am bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 7:23)
I am called. (1 Corinthians 7:17)
I am a member of Christ’s Body. (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:30)
I am victorious through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God in Christ, and I have been given to the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing my inheritance to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13,14)
I am being changed into the likeness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18,19)
I am given strength in exchange for weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ’s life. (Galatians 2:20)
I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. (Ephesians 1:3)
I am a fellow citizen with the rest of God’s family. (Ephesians 2:19)
I may approach God with boldness, freedom, and confidence. (Eph. 3:12)
I am capable. (Philippians 4:13)
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. The debt against me has been cancelled. (Colossians 1:14)
The voice of the world tells me a much different story, but that is why I have to meditate not on reality TV and celebrity news or obsess with my appearance, but fix my eyes on Jesus and serving the hurting. Loving God with all my heart and loving one another as He has loved me should be my goal. Philippians 4:8 advises us to be intentional and mindful about what we allow to marinate in our minds and hearts. “Therefore, my brethren, those things that are true, those that are honorable, those that are righteous, those things that are pure, those things that are precious, those things that are praiseworthy, deeds of glory and of praise, meditate on these things.”
As I write my story this week, I will meditate on these things. I will focus on how God has loved me unconditionally, saved me, healed me, never let me go, taught me how to love, forgive, understand, serve and of the miracles I have seen unfold in my life. I will focus on giving Him the glory. I chose to cut through every thought of “not good enough” or “you don’t belong here” with the Sword of Truth, bit by bit, little by little. Letting God Chisel. Because, in the end, I’m just a girl who loves Jesus…winging it through this crazy world…taking my place at the table…trying to fly on home….