Last night I walked away from church thinking, “Wow, did I share too much?” This is a common thought for me. It’s so easy to hide behind an “everything’s fine” slogan, presenting the perfect image for everyone to see, but I think the upkeep is unbearable. And it only demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of grace. Grace doesn’t say, “Get it all together, then come”. Grace says, “Come as you are.” But unfortunately, we live in a sinful world where judgments are made every day, and we’re gonna get hurt. Most often by those we trust the most. But that doesn’t mean we add another brick to our heavily-mortared walls or pull the covers over our heads. It means we keep our eyes on Jesus, and stay rooted in His love.
This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. To be honest, over the years, it has often been the body of Christ that has hurt me the most. During those times when I shared a portion of my heart, only to find it smashed beneath heavy combat boots, or when I offered a helping hand only to be shot down. And for a period of time, I hid in my safe little house behind my computer screen. But then God began to stir in my heart. I think I heard Him strongest when I sat and listened to an older lady who had been a Christian for over fifty years recall her journey. I didn’t hear anything about her struggles, fears, temporary bitterness, and even occasional rebellion. True, she may have been a spiritual powerhouse who never faltered, not once, not even when she was sitting in an African Bushman’s shack watching ginormous bugs crawl up the walls, but I don’t think so. I have a hard time believing that she was able to stay above the fray, consistently, for fifty years. Unless she had somehow managed to shed off her humanity. I do, however, think her intentions were good. She wanted to glorify God and help others see the all-surpassing peace that comes from resting in His hands, but unfortunately, by omitting the struggles that brought her there, she clouded the path, leaving others just beginning their journey to navigate this thing called Christianity alone.
About a year ago, I felt God nudging at the deepest recesses of my heart, urging to me to lay it all out there–to be real. To show others what it means to fail again and again and again, only to find yourself more deeply rooted in grace. And so, I am continuing in obedience, even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it causes me a few friends along the way, because somewhere, sometime, an empty soul will happen across my writing and will, by the grace of God, lift up their eyes to the one who pulled me from the pit. And I think it is that realization, the understanding that there are others out there struggling even more than I, searching for the faintest glimmers of hope, that keeps me throwing my dirty laundry on the line. And when I face rejection, when someone more “spiritual” than I cringes at the depths of my depravity, I’ll brush it off and turn my eyes back on my Savior, the One who knows the extent of my sin and yet loves me anyway.
Maybe you’re struggling with this very thing. Trying to live up to a societal or “religious” standard, bouncing from one church to the next with a forced smile on your face and a “God is good” slogan popping out of your overly-cheery lips. Or maybe you’ve opened your heart up only to find it broken and smeared. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that somehow if you do A or B, that will magically change and people will respond to you with the unconditional, accepting love of Christ, but I can tell you that He will never turn you away. When everyone else fails you, He never will. And for me, resting in that freedom–the freedom of knowing that I am dearly loved and totally accepted, has made all the difference in the world.
Tomorrow I have a guest writer on my “Till Death Do We Part” column, and it is my prayer that you are as touched by her story as I was. It shares some very deep struggles and moments of total faithlessness, and I know it was hard for her to write. But as I read her email I realized her desire to comfort others overcame her desire for self-protection. Now that is love–loving others enough to open yourself up for judgment and rejection. Stop by Reflections in Hindsight tomorrow to hear how God resurrected a dying faith and marriage.