Listen. I need to talk to you. It’s not about the hole in the ozone you’re singlehandedly responsible for because of the Aqua Net in that perm of yours or that you need to forgive your dad earlier and love him better because he won’t always be around.
This is serious.
And it will change the way you walk for the rest of your life.
So get some coffee (you’ll be addicted by college anyway) and have a seat, okay?
You’ll soon read a story in high school English about a young woman
who was forced by her
community to wear the scarlet letter A to show her sin of adultery to the world. The marking on her dress, along with her public shaming, was her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. You read it as a strange fiction at the time, disconnected and far-fetched from real life. But not too long after that class ends, you will begin to live out your days marked by your own secret A and it will make perfect sense.
There will be a season in your life you split your time between friends, playing every sport, or learning how to drive. You will fall for a boy who says he loves you. That desire to feel loved will pull you out to sea, away from solid ground, and drown you whole. I wish I could change the story here for you, but you will find yourself pregnant.
You’ll soon figure out you’re on your own in this one.
With a daddy’s words about shame if he ever finds you in this boat ringing in your ears and the sight of the boy you loved with his arm around his new girl, you will feel like you don’t have a choice.
But you do.
And you did.
You will make the decision to have an abortion.
It will be easier than you thought it would…or should be. You’ll walk into the clinic expecting to defend or beg for your decision, hoping no one would try and talk you out of it and also wishing someone would. You needn’t have worried: there will be no care about why you’re there, nor comfort or even eye contact.
Just a signature here with a fake name and discharge directions advising against basketball practice for 72 hours.
You’ll go back to school on Monday and almost hemorrhage yourself into the hospital in math class but just wait for the death that will surely come at home because you don’t want to wear that scarlet letter now, do you?
And you don’t tell anyone.
And you live to see another day.
Because life will be different for you now.
You will wake up one morning a mostly whole young woman and go to sleep that same night as a different half-dead version of yourself.
This will not change for more than twenty years.
One day you’ll sit on the edge of the bed and tell the good man you married about that day so long ago at the tender prompting of a God you barely knew.
You’ll brace yourself for the disappointment you deserve to carry for what you did.
And it will never come.
He will hold you and tell you how sorry he is and how much he loves you. He will never mention it again for all the years and you’ll begin to wonder if he forgot what you told him. This will be your first experience with Jesus in this terrible story.
There will be many times you sit in a church service and listen to the pastor discuss how the murdering of babies is a sin. You’ll wonder for just a breath if there’s still someone who doesn’t know that. You’ll concentrate on a cellular level for your body to not twitch or move in reaction to this still-bleeding wound being publicly probed. You’ll feel the heat rising in both cheeks like two red guilty stains that give you away and imagine everyone is staring at you.
You’ll leave church with a heart more tangled and confused than it was coming in that morning.
For a long time you will feel you don’t have a right to be pro life. After all, you made the wrong choice. You feel like a hypocrite participating in the walks or conversations for awareness or your desire to talk to women about your devastating experience with abortion.
So you don’t and you sit quietly with a soul groaning to speak up.
But after you’ve grown a bit, you might start to notice that the people who have maybe the most right to talk about how dangerous a fire can be are the ones you can see whose skin has melted from the flames. They’re the ones you tend to listen to in life anyway and not the ones who care more about the fact that there’s a fire than the people getting burned up inside it.
There will come a season that you fall madly in love with Christ with the full functioning capacity of the half of your heart you allowed to live past sixteen. And He, calling us deeper still into love, will whisper one morning in the quiet:
You’ll understand what He means and you’ll be scared. But more than the fear? You feel relieved. He’ll send you a sister who walked her own different but still broken road and lived to see the spacious freedom on the other side that only those who understand the dark-honest depth of their need get to experience. She’ll hold your confession tender in her hands and whisper true things in your ear that shed light on things long hidden.
Just like your husband, just like Jesus:
you will be exposed heart-naked and human as the day you were born…
and fully loved anyway.
This will begin to breathe a new kind of life into the deadest parts of you. Once again and sweeter still, life will be different for you now. And while you would change this part of your story in a single heartbeat, you would never give back one inch of knowing this kind of amazing grace.
You’ll own freedom in a different way after the wound in your soul begins to close up, but I also need to warn you: you’ll still have to defend it, fight to believe it some days. There will be this thing called the internet and a week will never go by without your scarlet letter being called out. You’ll take the stones thrown in social media venting about abortion and you’ll feel confused by the church you love, mad for the women being alienated with harsh words, and sad for the unborn babies none of this is helping.
And you’ll stay offline for grace and peace’s sake.
You’ll think there is a better way for the body of Christ to advocate for the life of the unborn, to be a safe place for girls who think they have no choice, and to also heal the bondage of shame for women like you who made the decision to have an abortion. You believe the silence forced on women who have the capacity to change the conversation will be deafening and a blow to the defense of life. But you feel like admitting any of this will earn you a lettered dress forever.
You’ll mourn for the one out of every three women who hemorrhage their shame in private because, as we all find out, death is often preferable to judgment. The church will hurt, but it’s also where you find your healing so you’ll need to forgive and love like your Jesus does. Christ took away your letter and put it on Himself just for you, girl. So your response will be to live a life of gratitude.
One last thing before I go?
One night you’re going to come home from confessing the twenty-plus-year-old shame you’ve gotten used to shackling to your own leg to a bunch of women from different churches. Because practicing the freedom you already own is still new for you, you’re going to drive away with tears falling into your lap singing to God with one side of your mouth and cussing with the other side at the anguish it takes to put words around this part of your story. When you get home, your precious husband will ask you, “How’d it go?’
You’ll pause too long and your eyes will flood all over again. He takes you in, he tells you it’s good, it’s all so good.
“This is God’s story and he already took care of that, Baby.”
God is good to send others to tell us the things we sometimes forget to remember. It’s just one of the ways He gets to wrap His arms around us while we are here and whisper low and sweet deep down in our ears:
“I see you and I fully know you.
You are mine, sweet girl, and you are loved.
I exchanged every letter of yours for My own life.
Now go live, and love others, like you believe Me.”
You’ll keep finding out over and over that vulnerability is usually scary, courage often follows obedience, and that this story is not about you.
And one day you’ll decide to believe Him and you’ll want that freedom for others even more than you want it for yourself…
and you’ll write yourself a letter.
I’m sorry to keep you so long. I know you have basketball practice, but this just couldn’t wait another minute. Take care. And go a little easier on your parents, okay? One day you’re going to see how much grace they really needed.
This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me
-Phil Wickham, This is Amazing Grace
Melissa Blair is a writer and recovering Texan now living in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas where she finds joy dating her husband and raising their three little Blairs. She believes there is always treasure buried beneath the dirt of every day and can be found writing the mess out of life at melissablair.net.
I was never a girl scout. I never camped out. I never sold cookies. I never earned a sash full of merit badges.
However, the other day as I pondered God’s grace, His unmerited favor, I realized that in many ways I am trying to be a girl scout right now in my everyday life. And, in some ways, without really realizing it, maybe you are too.
For me, I have always thrived on order and doing my best. Making things “perfect.” I never rebelled as a teenager or any other time. I liked following the rules and receiving the praise that accompanied that choice. That was my identity, and I worked hard to keep it intact. Still to this day, that pretty much sums up how others would describe me because that is what the world sees.
Whether you are a rule-follower like me or not, you could still be an unknowing girl scout. Let me explain.
So many of us, get up each morning and put on a sash without even realizing it. It is a sash of our own making, each one different. As we go about our day, we work and we strive to earn badges to decorate our sashes, hoping those awards will prove to ourselves and to others that we have value. That we are worthy of their attention. These badges come in all shapes and sizes.
Some (like me) might be trying to earn the badge of BEST MOM as you precariously balance PTO, potlucks, car-rider lines, sports practices, bed times and bake sales—all with a smile to make it look as if “it’s no trouble at all.”
Others might be working to earn the BEST WIFE badge by catering to your husband’s every wish out of love and a hope that he will notice and return your love in some way.
Still others are striving to receive the MOST RELIABLE EMPLOYEE badge as you work your tail off day in and day out to gain the admiration and respect of your boss, and maybe a promotion as well. Working to pull yourself up the corporate ladder rung by rung as you aim for the top.
The list of possible badges could go on forever. BEST VOLUNTEER, MOST WITTY, MOST FUN AT PARTIES, PERSON WHO NEVER SAYS NO, MOST CONSISTENT BIBLE READER, MOST CREATIVE, PINTEREST WORTHY HOUSE, BEST PHYSIQUE, MOST ADVENTUROUS and on and on.
You name it. There’s a badge for that.
The thing we all have in common when we try to earn these badges is EXHAUSTION—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or maybe all of the above. These badges we try so hard to earn and place carefully on our homemade sashes are only temporary, no better than stickers really. They NEVER LAST. We constantly feel the burden to do more and better to keep them in a place of prominence, where we and everyone else can see them. These flimsy badges fall off and fade so we must earn them again. It is a vicious cycle that leaves us feeling worn out and defeated.
The good news is we can stop. Right here. Right now.
We can rip off those homemade sashes that cause us so many headaches and heartaches and toss them into a blazing campfire because there is something better. MUCH BETTER. However, it is not found in ourselves. It is only found in JESUS.
Jesus says we can stop working and striving when we whole-heartedly place our trust in Him. In Jesus we can say good-bye to working and striving and instead embrace quietness and rest.
“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:17-18)
That. Sounds. Amazing.
This righteousness is Jesus’ perfect righteousness that He gives to us FREELY because of His grace, His unmerited favor. We couldn’t earn it if we tried. He left Heaven and came to Earth to do all that was required. His suffering on the cross, His death and resurrection was enough now and for all eternity to earn the only sash each one of us will ever need, and He holds it out to us as a FREE GIFT.
His sash is infinitely better than our own. It is beautiful. It is eternal. It is completely COVERED by the blood of the Lamb and full of badges. Unmerited badges, gifts that we most definitely did not earn. Not a single spot remains empty because it is complete. We do not have to do a single thing to finish it. And, the badges found on His Sash are far better than those we try to earn. They proclaim not what we have done but the glorious riches we have in Christ. REDEMPTION, FORGIVENESS, AMAZING GRACE, MERCY THAT IS NEW EACH MORNING, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, UNENDING JOY, A GLORIOUS INHERITANCE, PROTECTION FROM THE EVIL ONE, UNFAILING TRUTH, ABUNDANT GOODNESS, THE HOPE OF GLORY.
These are only a handful from an infinite list from our infinite God. I believe the longer we wear His sash and choose it as our permanent, everyday accessory, the more gifts we will see it represents. As Beth Moore wrote, “Make us as eager to wear Your righteousness and holiness as You are to wear our sins.” (JESUS: 90 Days with the One and Only)
So, who is ready to trade in their old, worn-out sash for a beautiful, perfect, eternally-unfading one on which the badges say, “Beloved Daughter of the King”? I know I am. Let’s wear them proudly as we gather around the campfire to rest and sing praises to the one who makes it all possible. JESUS.
I hope and pray you will join me.
(And maybe we can munch on a few of those delicious cookies while we are at it.)
Questions to ponder…
What badge(s) am I trying to stick on?
What has Jesus given me that is better?
Today I am writing to the rejected. To the ones scarred by the words of others. The ones who sit in silence way too often and feel lost in the shuffle. Those who look different from everyone else in the room. To the ones picked last.
I see you.
But even more importantly, God sees you. He understands your pain because he walked in your shoes, rejected by a world that had no valid accusation against him.
Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as being “…despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…”
The One sent to redeem the world was a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief. He was more than just rejected; he was despised. Oh precious forgotten one, if ever you’ve been understood, it’s by Him.
I have no doubt that God has big plans for you. Because of the rejection you have so often felt, you are more keenly aware of those who walk down the same lonely path you do. Your eyes are well-trained to see the pain lying just underneath the surface of other people’s eyes. You are able to see those whom no one else seems to. Pay close attention to your ability to observe such things.
The scriptures are full of reminders that God does big things with those rejected by the world, but my new favorite verse out of them all is Psalm 118:22:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
How’s that for vindication? He was and is the biggest, most important, strongest and most essential element of our lives. The world may have cast him aside, but Jesus pursued and completed his God-given mission anyway. He fearlessly trusted His Father and kept his eyes on Him, changing the lives of everyone willing to look upon his face and accept his offer of eternal friendship. If he had allowed the world’s opinion of him to dictate his actions, his mission would have been squashed, thus rendering all of humanity hopeless forever.
Likewise, it is important for us to remember that the world’s opinion of us bears no weight on our value. We are valuable because God made us with care (Psalm 139:13-14); He chose us (John 15:16); and He calls us Beloved (Col. 3:12).
To reinforce this truth even further, allow me to remind you of Zephaniah 3:17:
“…He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
You. Are. Adored.
You are treasured. You are sought after. Your company is desired. You are valued, beautiful, and seen. You are rejoiced over with songs.
If you have a hard time believing these truths apply to you, ask God to speak straight to your heart and make them real to you. I believe there’s nothing He wants more than for you to understand how vastly He loves you.
The greater we understand His love, the less validation we need from those around us. The less validation we need from others, the more confident we become in being a light. The more of a light we are to the world, the less others have to feel alone.
We, the rejected, can be the brightest beacons of light the world has ever seen if we allow God to heal the dark, unseen, and hurting places in our hearts with His redeeming grace. Through Him, we can love the unloved; we can see the unseen.
There is a phrase in the “Christian verbiage” that I have seen and read many times. A phrase that I myself have even quoted. A phrase that is not a negative term at all. But a phrase that has left me at times wondering what does that even mean? That phrase is “I’m chasing hard after Jesus.”
Now, I understand that some people say this phrase in reference to pursuing and going after the things of God. But for me, sometimes it can feel exhausting, leaving me on a continuous cycle of never being close enough to Jesus. A feeling that I have to “chase” him down in order to find Him…chase Him down to fellowship with Him…chase Him down to know and experience His presence. This phrase has made me feel so distant from my Jesus and honestly…I don’t like it. But let me clarify, I don’t particularly like it because of where I have been in this season with God.
Just a few days ago, I was home trying to have some much needed quiet time. I am a mom of three kiddos, my youngest being a boy who is, lets just say-HIGH ENERGY. Bless him. So quiet time is particularly heavenly and precious to me. I am sure some of you mommas can relate. This particular day they just happen to all be at school. I had high hopes of spending some amazing time in the word and quality time with Jesus.
I have found myself in a very spiritually dry season. There are days that it feels like Jesus is a million miles away. It seems like no matter what I do, no matter what kind of quiet time I have, no matter how much I worship…that I’m not “chasing hard enough after Jesus.” And there it is again…that phrase. I sat on my living room floor trying to get “into” my quiet time. I read my same devotional. I listened to the same worship songs that seem to usher me into His presence. I recited scripture in my head that I absolutely know to be true. And all of a sudden…I lost it. I shut off my music, closed my bible and told the Lord “I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to TRY to make something happen. I don’t want to TRY and manifest something about who you are…I just want You. Please-I just want You.”
I KNOW that the Lord is honored when we pursue Him. He desires us to dig into His word, studying and allowing the word to wash over us-bringing life, healing and a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and who we are in Him. I KNOW that in Psalms it says, “Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!” I KNOW that we are to go into the secret place with the Father and commune with Him. I KNOW these things are important…but it felt empty. My worship felt hollow. Getting into the word felt like routine. And that great devotional-it just wasn’t doing it for me. It felt like Jesus was not within my reach. I was “chasing hard after Jesus”-or so I thought…I had chased until I just couldn’t chase anymore.
What I realized in that moment is that I had forgotten one of the most important factors about being a daughter of the King- I am FOUND in Him. You see, if you and I are on a constant chase…that means no one has been found. And while we are absolutely supposed to chase hard after Jesus in the pursuit to be transformed more and more into His image, we first REST knowing that we are FOUND. I was trying to follow all my same routines to get Jesus to meet with me. I felt exhausted, tired, frustrated and honestly ashamed. Has it worked in the past in how I have done my quiet time? You bet. Have I experienced the Presence of Jesus in a very real way when worshipping Him through those songs? Sure I have. Has spending time in the word refreshed my spirit and at times jumped off the page and into my heart? Oh YES! But sometimes… I think it’s ok to abandon it all for a moment. To stop and simply tell Jesus -“I simply want You. Help me.” Again, I am not saying we skip all those important aspects of growing in Jesus for a lengthy period of time because you can’t know Jesus without knowing His word, worshipping Him, seeking Him and loving Him. But I believe Jesus wants a fully surrendered heart to Him, a heart that says I want to know you deeper…I long to be in your presence, more than I want to check off my daily Christian duties.
I sat on my floor and I cried. I told the Lord I didn’t want to chase Him anymore. I didn’t want to strive to try and know Him more. I simply want to be with Jesus.
I immediately thought of Psalm 139:7
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
And right there in the middle of my living room, tears flowing down my face, I once again remembered…I don’t have to chase Him down or strive to be close to my Creator. He is right there with me, whether I feel it or not. I cannot EVER be away from His spirit. I don’t have to do enough, be enough, worship enough or study enough because ultimately I am FOUND in Him. While I know the importance of being enveloped in the word of God, soaking up the Joy of devotionals that speak volumes and singing the lyrics of powerful worships songs, I believe sometimes God would rather wreck our spiritual check-list, tell us to lay it aside and simply tell us, “Remember…you are FOUND in Me.”
There is a song by Jesus Culture called Your Love is Fierce. There is a particular part in the song that says:
You chase me down, You seek me out. How could I be lost when you have called me FOUND.
You see, thats how I envision this whole chase thing…JESUS is in pursuit of you and Me. JESUS chases us down, woos us to the Heart of God and declares that WE ARE FOUND and WE ARE HIS!
So I want to ask you today…where are you? Maybe like me, you find yourself chasing hard after Jesus, but on an empty tank of endless routine and obligation. But sweet sister-you can rest-because the chase is over…you have been Found.
Austin & Hanna courageously share their true story of how bringing our struggles into the light not only opens the door for God to move, it transforms us into a new creation. Watch their courageous testimony of God’s ability to redeem, restore, and create a new path replacing shame with peace, and sorrow with joy. Bravery at its’ finest.
Click the link below to watch…
Have you ever seen those cheeky graphic tees with the phrase “You Can’t Sit With Us” plastered boldly across the chest? Personally, the cute factor of such an isolating phrase is lost on me, but maybe I’m still working through some residual pain of being that middle-school-aged girl who truly was uninvited.
I’m thankful my Savior would never say that to me. In fact, if Jesus had worn graphic tees back in his earth-inhabiting days, I’m sure His would have said, “You CAN sit with us.” And the invitation would have been real and all-inclusive. That’s just how Jesus lived his life; he made a pointed effort to notice the unnoticed and call the unworthy to do big things with their lives.
Romans 5:11 says that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been made “Friends of God.”
You guys, we’re in. We’re worthy. Not because of anything we can do but because of everything Jesus did. I’m blown away by this title: Friend of God. My natural inclination is to question my place in Jesus’ group, to feel I haven’t earned my spot, or worry Jesus might notice I’ve crept into his circle and decide to cast me out.
But Jesus will never do that to you or me. He’s the best friend we could ever have.
And because we have been eternally accepted by Him, our lives become part of something so much bigger than anything we could ever accomplish on our own:
“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of UNDESERVED PRIVILEGE where we now stand, and we CONFIDENTLY and JOYFULLY look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
Being a friend of Jesus means so much more than just getting a front-row seat to all the incredible ways Jesus works and touches lives; it means that sometimes we get called onstage to play a significant part. We get to participate right alongside Jesus in getting our hands dirty and changing the world. As members of his crew, we have a purpose, and are delegated unique tasks by Him that only we can accomplish.
There is no one in this world that God can’t use or doesn’t want to use. There is not a person in this world that God doesn’t desire a close friendship with. So if you’re wondering where your place is, go ahead and approach Him with the confidence that you have already been called, and there’s a seat saved for you.
Put yourself back in the cafeteria of middle school. Timid, and clutching your tray, you quickly scan the room for an empty seat near someone who desires your presence. To your surprise, instead of multiple tables scattered across the room, each surrounded by various cliques, there is just one large table. Everyone’s favorite friend is seated at the head, and one empty chair is open next to Him. You make eye contact, and all your anxieties wash away. He smiles with radiant joy at the sight of you and waves you over to the empty chair right next to Him. His friends turn to see whom the object of His excitement is, and upon realizing it’s you, excitedly join Him in welcoming you over.
He stands with sincerity as you approach, looks you in the eye, and says, “You can sit with us. You are wanted here.”
BraveGirl Robyn & her husband, Donny, share their AMAZING story of Courage, Bravery, & Faith as they share their powerful testimony of how they were in the process of divorce and God stepped in…turning a hopeless situation into something worth fighting for. It doesn’t get any BRAVER than this!! Thank you Donny and Robyn for sharing your BRAVERY with us! click the video below!
I want to be in shape, but I really don’t want to exercise. I want to be a woman with a spotless house, but I really don’t want to clean it. I want to be a great cook, but I hate making dinner.
Can you relate? So many times we want to be rather than do.
We want to be a perfect mother, rather than simply loving our children. We want be in a happy marriage, rather than intentionally working on it. We want to be friends with everyone, rather than forming lasting friendships. We want to be known as a servant, rather than having a true desire to serve. We want to be a minister, rather than quietly ministering to others right where we are.
Can it be that the desire to be all of these things comes from our desire for approval from other people, rather than God? We want everyone to think we are all of these things, so we just continue to put on a show day after exhausting day.
Meanwhile, we are silently screaming through our holy Facebook posts, staged Instagram photos, and seemingly squeaky-clean images, “Please see me! Please love me! Please think I’m important!” What we don’t realize is that the whole time we’re searching though the crowd for someone to respond, Jesus gently whispers, “I see you. I love you. You are important.”
I remember when I was a kid and I would come home and tell my mom when someone said something mean about me. She would always tell me the opposite and assure me they were wrong, but I remember thinking, “She’s my mom, of course she thinks that.” Instead of believing the loving words of the person who knew me best, I believed the hurtful words of a fellow 12 year old with their own issues and insecurities.
As an adult, I do the same thing. I believe the enemy’s lies about me, rather than the truth given by a loving Father who knows me best. I seek approval from others to affirm the lies are untrue instead of turning to God for my affirmation.
We were not put on this earth to please others. We were not meant to constantly try to prove our worth. We don’t need to be anything other than a loved child of God who desires to pass that love onto others and make Him known. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It might look messy or overly simple or terribly flawed to others, but if we were perfect we wouldn’t need God. And we so desperately need to need Him.
Sometimes our fears shift from not being able to please man to not being able to please God. The good news is…grace. God’s grace does not change based on our works or our sin. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and His grace is sufficient for each and every one of us. We can’t mess up too much to lose His love or do enough to win it. It’s already ours. There is so much freedom in that truth!
On the other hand, does this truth give us the green light to do anything our flesh craves? Of course not.
“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1
A life lived for Jesus is a life that strives to be more like him. We should avoid sin because it can and will lead to destruction in our lives and relationships. However, we are forgiven. We are understood. We are loved without condition.
I want to make a daily choice to look to God and God alone for my recognition, my approval, and my worth. I want to do rather than to be. And when I mess up, I want to breathe in His grace and know that I am loved by Him and that is enough.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13
So many people, Christians and non-Christians are familiar with these words. We decorate our homes, our social media, our keychains and coffee mugs with these words. We use them to inspire us, to keep us motivated when we’re working out, and to encourage people in difficult times.
But, as a long-time Christian, can I admit that sometimes I can’t?
“I. Can’t. Even.”
Maybe you’ve seen those words. It could be in the context of joy, empathy, or dismay. I recently was at a point where I couldn’t do anything. I made a mistake which blew into a much greater mess than I could imagine. (lesson learned: think before you speak and sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all)
And? Due to the emotions stirred up in the fray, there were words spoken about me that cut me to my very core. Words that I couldn’t even process. I was paralyzed.
I couldn’t do all things through Christ. I couldn’t do anything but sit there, stunned at what had been said.
I tried to process the situation a hundred different ways, but still I was grieved, angered, and ashamed. Grieved that I had erred, angered at the responses, and ashamed to have to face people after the fact, not knowing who had heard what I said and who had not and who now viewed me differently and who already knew me and would forgive me quickly.
It took a night with some dear women who know me well, who brought comfort to my hurting heart. Then…a song on the radio that God used to shake me awake even more to the REAL truth. Jesus redeemed me. He already paid for that error, gladly, because He knew my mistakes don’t define me or who He has made me to be! The song was called “My Victory” by David Crowder. I hope these words sink deep into your spirit like they did mine…
You came for criminals
And every pharisee
You came for hypocrites
Even one like me
You carried sin and shame
The guilt of every man
The weight of all I’ve done
Nailed into your hands
Oh, your love bled for me
Oh, your blood in crimson streams
Oh, your death is hells defeat
A cross meant to kill is my victory
Oh, your amazing grace
I’ve seen and tasted it
It’s running through my veins
I can’t escape its’ grip
In you my soul is safe
You cover everything
Oh, your love bled for me
Oh, your blood in crimson streams
Oh, your death is hells defeat
A cross meant to kill is my victory
Behold the lamb of god
Who takes away our sin,
Who takes away our sin
The holy lamb of god
Make us alive again
Perhaps you too have had those times where you feel that you just can’t. Hang on tightly to His word and let Him be your guide. Be encouraged today remembering that He holds you in the palm of His hand, knowing that Jesus has truly paid it ALL. Forgiveness is free and you can walk in that freedom. And Christ can do all things in you through His Power and His Might and His Spirit, if you allow Him.
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Join me and let’s rest in the freedom our God offers. Blessings, dear friends!
I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white woman. I was southern-born and raised, and I currently live in the heart of Bible Belt country. I’m an organ donor, mother, wife, Christian, and an introvert. And there’s a good chance that as you read the previous statements you have begun forming an internal opinion about me.
I, like you, have been labeled by things I cannot change or control, like the region I was born into or the color of my skin. Then there are the labels I chose and I love, like being a mom or trusting in Jesus Christ.
I was an extremely sheltered child. My parents exposed me to plenty of scripture, but my interactions with people from other cultures and ethnicities were limited. When it came time for me to fly the nest and go to college, I was most comfortable with people who looked, talked, and thought like I did. I felt safe with “my kind of people.”
It wasn’t until I was twenty-four years old that my eyes were opened to the treasure it is to know and befriend those from cultures unlike my own. With my husband, I lived on a Caribbean island for two years, followed by another two years spent living on Long Island, New York. I was a newlywed and a young school teacher experiencing life on two islands, both melting pots, that shattered so many preconceived notions I didn’t even know I had formed. So many new things going on in my life at once!
Our roommates and closest friends for those four years influenced me tremendously. The families of the students I taught gave me glimpses into their world and I eagerly soaked it all in. The children and their parents even re-defined the concept of grace to my legalistic mind. God used so many people in those four years to chisel away at my label giving, self-protecting heart, forever impacting my life.
But here’s the thing…while my soul was beginning to be awakened, I still wasn’t fully awake yet.
Not once in those years when I saw her every day did I ask my Muslim roommate what it was like for her growing up. I don’t remember ever sitting across from her and genuinely making an effort to get to know her or her roots better. I didn’t take time to ask my precious students’ families what life was like in Asia or Africa – or even Europe for that matter – before they made the move to New York.
All the affection and interest I had for my new friends never made it past my lips. Although intrigued by the different cultures that surrounded me, I still warmed myself by the fire of self absorption and found shelter and refuge in my own little bubble. My southern comfort zone and my severe insecurities prevented me from looking outside myself for even a few moments to make connections. I wasted opportunity after opportunity to form relationships that went beyond the shallow and superficial small talk.
As I have reflected back on that time, I wish I would have done things differently. I’ve had to ask myself some uncomfortable and REAL questions…
What is most precious to you and God?
Is it rules and legalism or relationships and love?
Has your pride engulfed your ability to be humble?
Do you value tradition or seek truth?
Would you rather argue to be right or listen to gain new perspectives?
Are your words dripping in hostility or bathed in understanding?
Have you sought self-preservation over loving your neighbor?
Who have you written off with a label?
Couldn’t you wrap them up with love by pursuing a sincere interest in their lives instead?
I often ask myself these questions trying to redeem the time I wasted, trying to make right where I missed the mark.
God and people – the two most important things on this planet. It may sound cliche, but I’m going to write it anyway. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
If you’re struggling to understand what exactly that looks like, you can take a look at the greatest example who ever walked the earth: Jesus – God in the flesh. He lived a life of sacrifice, daring to venture into the world of those nobody else even noticed. He spent zero time pushing a political agenda. He never responded out of fear, hatred, or self promotion. He responded with intentional love focused solely on PEOPLE. He did not live unto Himself; instead He lived to die for us. The ultimate servant.
Today we are watching people hurt each other with no desire to love them or understand them. From my experience, insult has never been an effective form of persuasion. But Love has. Let’s follow the example given to us from God himself. Let’s SERVE one another and seek to know, understand, and love others…just as Christ loved us. There’s no better way to show people who God is than to live as He lived. That’s the whole point isn’t it?
Will you join me in breaking through those self protecting walls? Let’s open our lives up to be vessels and let God use us to show others who he REALLY is.