Unsung Faithfulness

“You can reach people with a story like that; I can’t.” It’s a line I’ve heard so often it takes supernatural strength to not scream. I understand what someone means when they say such a thing. On one hand, with medical trauma, trials, travesties, and long awaited triumphs, my story seems miraculously riveting.

After all, it’s not common to be told you can live with 3/4 of a brain, a neurological “shocker collar,” and a body which literally enjoys living in the realm of pseudo heart attacks. But to survive all that–praise be to God– and pursue a career in writing, get married, and live a life that seems subliminally normal? Yeah, that’s awesome.

Then you have the spiritual aspect. In not-so-Christian terms, at 17 years old, I told the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to take a hike because no logical person needed Him. Though Christ never left my side, He did let me experience life without Him. My sinful desires almost burned away every recognizably redeemed part of my soul. I shouldn’t be alive. I shouldn’t be safe. I shouldn’t be claimed as a Child if God. But somehow, like the Hound of Heaven that Jehovah is, He let me play the harlot, He let me experience my “prodigal power,” and when I’d had enough, He let me come Home.

So, yes. That story is riveting as well. Unfortunately, the story seems to shut up the individual who believed in the Lord Jesus as his or her savior at four years old and never looked back. Oh, with all my heart, I wish it didn’t.

If you are one of those Believers, take it from one of the people who gets handed a microphone way too often. You, my friend, are the Story that makes people like myself cling to Jesus even more. You are proof that returning to Jesus really is more than enough. As much as I am confident of my salvation in Jesus Christ, as head over heels in love as I am with my Savior, there are days I doubt whether leaving my life of sin was worth it. Redemption takes the place of the lies within your heart, but the lies can run deep.

I sold my Jesus for a season to get my way. You didn’t. Your story may feel boring. To people like me,though, it’s a breath of fresh air and the whisper of Jesus telling me to shut out the lies and keep my eyes on Him.

We were all given our faith journeys for a reason. Just because you don’t see your impact doesn’t mean it’s absent. Thank you for your faithfulness to our Jesus. Your faithfulness brings me to tears and reminds me to keep going.

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Forgetting to Enjoy Him 

When I was a kid, I loved figuring out new words. At four years old, I’d approach my unsuspecting mother with some variation of the question, “What does n-k-v-i-o-t spell?” I couldn’t wait to hear what word I had magically spelled. I loved the idea of making my thoughts known.

So, of course, I became a journalist. The challenge was always the same: Use the most descriptive words to say as much as possible with as little blank page used as possible. 

I was also the 8-year-old who secretly disliked playing with my peers but got a quirky amount of joy sitting with the elders of my church and listening to them talk about doctrine. At 13, I asked for my first concordance. I learned that I loved teaching others life-application within Biblical truths.

So, of course, I acquired a degree in Biblical studies. Within that realm, the challenge was always the same: Make one point as deeply understood as possible, all amounting to a minimum of 5,500 words. Create a masterpiece which looks like a mini-doctoral thesis. Good luck. 

Too often, I waste my time trying to fulfill both challenges when I share or teach Biblical truths. I wax as eloquently and precisely as possible. I use big words to sound authoritative and knowledgeable to appease my journalistic mind. For my theological background, I could write for pages upon pages to share truth I either found intriguing or applicable. My mind is constantly working through topics and how to share them.

What’s terrifying about that is I can be known for forgetting to simply share Jesus. It’s easier to fill a mind with knowledge than it is with love. It’s easier to foster a debate than it is to outline a soul’s need. It’s easy to teach about Jesus but difficult to simply share the essence of the beauty of Christ. 

I’m an analytical person, to put it mildly. I’ll study a topic till I’m blue in the face simply because I thrive on being intrigued. But when Jesus is the “topic,” I’m constantly being reminded it’s okay to sit still and simply enjoy Him. When we learn how to do that as believers, only then will the truths which we share about Him come to life for those watching.

Worst of Sinners

Growing up, the generations before me were still struggling with believing life was (almost) all about reputation. If you shared your life-lessons with anyone younger than you, your sin needed to smack of holiness because, well, you were a Christian, right? That was all fine and good when dealing with things like gluttony, pride and disrespect. Those were the “Christian” sins. You can still look holy while dealing with those. (No, Dear, you can’t…)

But dealing with sins on the ‘level’ of sexual sins, addictions, or manipulation? Yeah, no… We can’t Christianize those, so we didn’t talk about them. Or, if we did talk of any “serious” sins like those (they all separate us from God– they’re all serious), they were addressed using such broad terms, I left feeling very confused and like I couldn’t be a Christian and have questions about those things. But then I felt betrayed when I found out secondhand the Christian who shushed my questions was the very brother or sister in Christ who shared my silent frustrations.

One of my strongest fears as someone who journals her prayers is that someone will read my heart’s cries long before I’m ready to share them. However, on the flip-side, there’s also this innate desire to hand these heartfelt prayers to my future children as a way to remind them their mama never had it together perfectly either. Even with the fact that I have no idea when I’ll hand these journals off, I find myself wanting to manicure my prayers so I don’t have to revisit my struggles’ shame if my children read about my journey to become more like Christ.

Paul of Tarsus, one of the key writers of the New Testament, was self-proclaimed, “… The worst of sinners… (1 Timothy 1:15),” yet he had one of the strongest stances on redemption, justice, mercy and grace. He did not budge when it came to what was/is expected from a follower of Jesus Christ. Though he did everything within his will to lead by example, he did not hide his sordid past. If Paul didn’t, why do we?

I completely understand that there’s a time and a place for transparency. Though Paul was open about his past, we didn’t see him divulging everything he’d ever done every time he opened his mouth to speak about grace and redemption. But even still, when the opportunity presented itself to show people he struggled, he did it openly. That openness only comes with the understanding that it’s ultimately about eternal redemption, not temporary reputation.

I wonder how many times we as Christians miss out on showing people God really does accept everyone right where they’re at simply because we want to protect our reputations rather than herald God’s glory.

Blind to Brutality

Four little boys screeched, “Help us! They’re using batons and won’t stop! Lady, please help us! They’re beating us up! They might kill us. They’ll take me to jail! I didn’t do nothin'”  I quietly observed the boys’ laughter-filled playtime, slowly becoming more and more appalled at what they considered play.

Police brutality. They think it’s funny. The boys couldn’t have been more than seven. They already think brutality is funny. 

By the age of 12, I was a hopeless tomboy. I enjoyed horsing around with the guys much more than painting my nails or trying on my sister’s prom dress. I know what it’s like to have a childhood of accidentally going “too far” with wrestling and playing cops and robbers. It’s all in good fun. Welcome to a healthy childhood. 

But adding police brutality? Imagining the role of a “bad cop” misusing his authority? No, that wasn’t my childhood.

I know I’m not a parent. I realize it’s quite possible I’ll come back to to this post and disagree with my younger self after having actual parental experience. But at this point, all I have is frustration over the fact that our culture’s children have very little understanding of the sacredness of life. Many of them have even less respect for authority. 

I had a childhood packed to the hilt of learning respect and the difference between right and wrong. The current generation of children are learning their version of those things by watching media. They are also watching us — their parents and role models. 

Are we modeling wholesome characteristics which are worth them mirroring? Or, are we reacting in anger, sarcasm and cynicism and simply shrugging our shoulders and telling ourselves they’ll understand better when they grow up? 

A seven-year-old knew that a baton can kill. We need to stop shrugging our shoulders.

Heavenly Minded, Patriotically Shifted

I’ve never told anyone who I’m voting for. Inasmuch as my Spiritual gifts call me to confrontation (attempting to do that always in love), I hate rocking the boat. Declaring I support one person over another hurts at least one side of my circle of friends. I wept in anxiety with people afraid of Hillary and I mourned just as bitterly the idea of Trump taking office. 

That’s not the point. I wish it was. As deeply troubling as both sides of the spectrum are, neither of those approaches are what takes up my mind’s time. 

I’ve known almost all my life that American Christianity is weak. I do not, whatsoever, believe that our chances at a relationship with Jesus Christ are any smaller or less important than any other nation’s. Once saved, always saved… no matter what your nationality. But we… we just don’t get it most days. 

In America, Christianity is a label that makes us feel good. It is not, on the other hand, always a sobering call to sacrifice and love for the betterment of others as it was meant to be. (John 15:13) Often times, we as protected American Christians decide christianity is best for us when we ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” and we like the answer for one reason or another. 

Wrong. 

So, just a thought: What if, now that we know Trump is taking office, these next four years are God’s way of purifying the American Church (nationally as a whole, not small affiliations)? Because some of his proposed policies will make us reevaluate what it means to love (protect?) our neighbor, Christianity may possibly be taken to the firing squad. 

Within our American Christian circles, we often use the phrase, “Go all in for Christ.” What if God’s sovereignty allowed Trump as president because God wants us to start putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak? We’ve become too comfortable in our concept of Christianity. What if we’re being called to so much more? 

Terrified Truth-Speaker

I have a shepherd’s heart that comes to life when I write. There are a million things I could write about to challenge thought and prayerfully provoke change in our failing world. But I don’t. There are just as many things I could cut up into a four-part series and feed to you bit-by-bit to increase my readership. But I don’t. 

Why? 

Because we now live in a world where when truth is spoken, we feel attacked, undervalued and demoralized. When truth is spoken, we don’t often change our respective lives to rise to such truth. Instead, we shut our ears, close our eyes and scream, “That’s not nice! That’s not nice! I thought you liked me!” 

And before you turn me over to the firing squad, please know I’m the worst of the worst. I may have a shepherding heart, but I absolutely detest getting corrected, challenged or criticized.

I used to rub shoulders with homeless druggies, drunks and all around God-haters (yay, job!). In those circles, I had no fear blatantly sharing truth. They were so desperate for help, they welcomed the times I willingly adopted their rhetoric but spoke truth. They weren’t “nice” in their responses, but it was obvious truth went soul-deep.

I’m more hesitant to share truth with a fellow Christian because of how they’ll respond than I ever was calling a meth addict to attention. So, because my skin has been bruised by a follower of Christ a time or two, I’ve stopped sharing truth that needs to be heard. 

It’s funny, really. Up until this week, I blamed everyone but myself for how weak American Christianity has become. But the fact is, I’ve stopped heralding life-changing truth because, well, because I want to be liked? Crap, maybe I’m a part of the problem.

So, for that, forgive me. I seem to have slipped up and forgotten what being a Truth-speaker is all about. Truth — actual truth — is a conduit to soul-deep change, which honestly isn’t fun at the onset.

But oh, hallelujah, it’s a glorious thing when a sinner like me sees God’s Son despite my wretchedness. Writing simply to tickle your ears isn’t worth you missing out on seeing the same miracle in your own life.

Put It Away, Kid

I had two little boys between the ages of four and six live with me for right around a year. I am not, by any means, anything now but an amateur idealist when it comes to being a good mom after that experience. A year of playing their referee, jungle gym, nurse, teacher and caretaker (caretaker came first… usually… I think) taught me a lot and yet taught me nothing. 

One thing I learned was giving them broad instructions didn’t work. I learned to say things like, “Boys, by the time Auntie comes in there your socks & underwear, shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, dinosaurs, etch-a-sketches, paint brushes, 8-balls, tools and books better be on the shelves where they belong.” 

As their forced angelic voices wafted down the hall, “O’taaaaaay, Auntie Tassie, we do dat,” I flew through a mental catalogue of everything they had. Inevitably, they’d come tromping into my kitchen with a toy and the innocent question, “What we do wit’ dis one, Auntie? You didn’ say anytin’ about dis one.”

I spent an entire year trying to learn the right amount of patience, enjoyment, and training to teach those boys life skills. I wasn’t very good at it, but somehow their grins and inquiries usually made me want to hug them rather than scold them. That was my momentary taste of parenthood.

Fast forward to today. I’m no longer an “auntie” to two rambunctious boys and I no longer micro-manage my household just to keep it standing one more day. I am, however, finding that at 27 years old, there are days, weeks and months where I identify deeply with those two boys. 

I understand all too well what it’s like to not quite get life just yet and being in need of a God to help me through ridiculous, clarifying questions. He patiently reinforces His command to “trust and obey” really does mean with every corner of my heart over and over again.

But still, I have to ask, “Yes, so God, you said trust You with my future, but what about my future in regards to…? What if this crazy situation happens and I’m left with a broken heart? What then? Do I have to trust you then, too?” 

My whimsically imaginative heart can almost picture God chuckling, kneeling down and whispering, “Kiddo, put your worry where it belongs.” Somehow, His enjoyment & patience in seeing me work out my salvation never ends & He’s never too annoyed to give me the same assurances He’s given me my entire life. 

This is the grace the teaches me to love even when I can’t get my mind around how it gives my life purpose.