I guess that’s me.
I mean I sure have a lot of broken stuff in my history, and it sure does offend a lot of church-going folks, but just so we get this straight right from the start—my history is not my destiny.
How do I know that?
‘Cause I prayed this crazy desperate prayer a long time ago, “God, please teach me how much you love me.”
So He did!
I didn’t have the slightest clue on the day I prayed that prayer that God was “sittin’ on ready” to answer it.
“So exactly how does He do that?” you might ask.
Well, I can only speak to my own journey.
It was a process that took a lot of unlearning!
He started by changing my name—giving me a new way of seeing myself.
He began by calling me, “Sweet Heart,” which I thought it was really odd at first, until one day I got this wild idea to look up the meaning of my real name in Webster’s. And there it was—in the dictionary of all places! My name actually meant: sweetheart!
My mother had always hated using my “real” name so she came up with a “nickname” that she liked much better. It wasn’t until after she passed away, and for online business purposes, that I started using my real name for the first time.
The more I used it—the more I liked it.
Once I realized my name actually meant Sweet Heart I began to internalize the truth that God “saw me” that way; loved me that much. I began to believe for the first time that God’s love had the power to overcome anything in my history. I kept telling myself, “This is who I really am—I am His Bride—and that’s good.”
That’s when God started pointing out all that was “RIGHT” about me.
Have you ever noticed how many people there are who are ready and willing to point out what’s WRONG with you? (Yeah.) Every Tom, Dick, and Sally it seems—even in the church.
I have lost count of how many people pounce and want to straighten me out when speaking about my days of struggle and confusion. It seems I need to be corrected on my transparency and struggles about myself, my relationship with God, or what I believed in the past, so that I will clearly see my way clear, into their right point of view.
But I keep wondering, “How am I to reach the broken and prodigal without speaking transparently about my own brokenness and prodigal days? How in the world are struggling people supposed to relate to me, or find me believable, if I present myself as always walking out this Christianity of mine in perfect perfection?
Do we really think that the broken, disillusioned, and unbelieving are buying that act?
When did authentic become so scandalous and dangerous?
Have we forgotten, that in spite of all His wondrous holiness, Jesus was also considered scandalous and dangerous?
He is by far the most authentic person I have ever met, so even if it’s not okay with the religious, I think I’ll stick with Him and his M.O. I do not want to become so vanilla looking, that the world thinks I consider myself to have righteously arrived without blemishes, bloodshed, and scars. Jesus and I know that nothing could be further from the truth. And anyway, isn’t that what were supposed to be about?
If authenticity is the wrong way, then like I said, “I guess that’s me for sure.”
This business of trying to look and sound like we get it right all of the time—couldn’t possibly be pulled off by anyone—so who are we fooling but ourselves?
He came for the sinners and the sinned against.
So says Jim McGuiggan in his book, The God of the Towel.
He reminds us that,
Jesus always seemed to be defending the wrong kind of people.
Wrong kind of people?
Mcguiggan explains in his chapter,
Receiver of Wrecks:
You’ve noticed, of course, that God, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, was always getting into trouble with the religious, church-going people. Yes, it was the right-living, devout types he offended most. Don’t you find that very interesting?
He was always defending certain people against these “good” types, and that’s what created much of his difficulty… It seems he was forever defending the “sinners” against the “righteous,” and he was often found hanging around the immoral, the outsiders, the churchless people of ill repute…
So what was there about him that drew sinners into his presence? He made them believe that God meant them no harm—that he loved them in their lostness and that he came to rescue them from it and give them fullness of life!
…God himself sent them a message, a Story, and he put it into the hands of influential leaders and teachers who were supposed to tell its loving truth, were supposed to tell it to these who saw themselves as people beyond redemption.
And what did these teachers do? Instead of bringing this joyous message to their fellow sinners, “the righteous” gorged themselves on it and shut the love of God off from anyone who didn’t meet their standards of behavior and doctrine. Instead of recognizing the tired and weakened condition of these hopeless ones, they laid on them the further burden of a joyless religion.
It was to these tired, weak people—ancient and modern—that Jesus said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Can I add my “Amen.”
I don’t want to come off as someone who’s never blown it…
Especially when she still frequently does!
If baring my soul, means I can reach even one person who’s become convinced that the church is riddled with phonies, and instead, turn them toward this incredibly loving and merciful God who searches and seeks out the worst of us? Why wouldn’t I do that?
Can that be so wrong?
I don’t believe so, but to amend and paraphrase an old song:
If authentically-loving the broken and prodigals is wrong—I don’t wanna be right.