What if it’s messy?

A few years ago, I knew this girl that everyone kind of stayed leery of.

She was of the messy grace variety.

She made a lot of mistakes. She would take one step forward, three steps back. There came a point when people started questioning her salvation.

No joke. I distinctly remember the chill I felt down my spine one night when an onlooker whispered in my ear, “I just don’t think the packaging matches the inside.”

I was quick to retort that she was wrong. I had known this girl for ten years, much longer than anybody that dared to judge her, and knew that, despite her mess, she was indeed growing in her faith.

It broke my heart to hear the judgments from people who sinned differently than she did. Flash forward five years and now I’m of the messy grace variety. I’ve had just as many people question my salvation, throw stones, cover me in shame, refuse to speak or socialize with me. I have often on the fringe of the church. Unwanted, tolerated, patronized. And when I am wrestling with shame and guilt, it is the people who have known me the longest who are quick to remind me that, despite my mess, I am indeed growing in my faith.

I used to believe that I had my life all together, that I didn’t sin too much. I went to church every Sunday, joined a community group, showed up to all the churchy events. I was a model Christian, lukewarm in faith. My life was boring but safe.

But God doesn’t call us to a boring but safe life. Every person of God I have looked up to has been of the messy grace variety. They’re always the ones with the most grace, the most outspoken, the strongest advocate. They have a fierocity for God and His church that religious people just don’t have.

Because I just don’t see how you can be moved by the fact that you are covered by the blood of Christ until you understand your own depravity.

How can you truly extend grace to another person until you have experienced that grace from God first?

I’ve been working through my perfectionist attitude, the side of me that falls apart every time I fail. It’s been through reading through the biblical heroes that I’ve started to question how we as Christians perceive salvation. Because there’s not a single person in the bible that wasn’t of the messy grace variety. So why do we expect perfection out of each other?! Why is there condemnation when you produce some fruit of the Spirit and fail to produce others?

What if it’s messy? What if your walk with Jesus is littered with mistakes and failures and God still sees the finished work in you? He still sees you covered in the righteousness of Christ.

I don’t know what happened to that girl. We lost touch but I’m sure she is still as in love with Jesus as she was five years ago. I hope she found people who pointed her to Christ and not her messiness. It’s the same thing I hope for myself.

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Who do you want to be?

One of the most profound things anyone has ever told me was remarkably simple:

A worthy woman keeps the end in mind.

Unlike many people my age, I haven’t thought much of the future. I’ve never thought of growing old or made long-term plans. Where most people would dismiss that as emotional immaturity, for me it’s more complex.

I never thought I’d live this long.

As an adult survivor of abuse, I have attempted suicide and struggled with self-harm as a teenager. In the back of my mind, I just assumed that an attempt would one day be successful. I have struggled to dream of a future because I didn’t anticipate one.

I’ve become healthier in more ways than one so I have attempted to make plans for the future but as God has routinely shown me, I am usually wrong when it comes to my future. So, unlike my peers, I tend to only walk in the few steps I see in front of me and leave the future up to God.

But, a worthy woman keeps the end in mind. She knows who she wants to be and what people will say about her when she’s gone.

***

I ended a friendship earlier this year. It wasn’t easy or impulsive. It took a couple months and some long conversations with a counselor to decide to end the relationship.

She made me feel worthless. Every conversation we had was about something I did wrong. And I was always wrong. I was always a failure in one way or another and honestly, I cannot remember a single time in the four-year-long relationship that she encouraged me or gave me a compliment.

You may ask why I would stay in a relationship with someone who thought so little of me but that wasn’t how I saw it. Her criticism was meant to improve me and as the perfectionist I am, I was always in need of improving. It took a counselor, a life coach and a few friends to speak truth into my life that I was allowing myself to be emotionally abused by someone who had her own issues to work through. It was not the first time I had been in a relationship like this, but I would be sure that it would be my last.

***

So what had I gained by engaging in relationships that broke me? Years of counseling were finally starting to make sense. Somewhere along the way, the cycle of abuse was broken. I was learning to trust my value as a daughter of God and that the relationships I had let in were not reflecting that truth.

A worthy woman keeps the end in mind.

Who did I want to be?

I know very much who I don’t want to be. I have spent the last twelve years in counseling working hard to not be the abuser or the abused. And much like digging up a hidden treasure, the dirt that is dug up gets everywhere before you finally reach the treasure. As I have been diligent in dealing with the mess, I’ve been getting closer to the heart of who I am. How God has wired me.

Of all the things I could be, I want to be what I so desperately have needed myself, a reminder of grace. I want to be the person that people come to be heard, understood and encouraged. I want to point people back to Jesus and that doesn’t happen if all you do is point out their sin. The gospel is not about behavior modification.

When at my lowest point, it was not the pointing out of my sin that brought me back to the cross. It was the moment when someone, having witnessed my sin, told me she loved me anyway, that her love for me was not conditional on how I behaved. Nobody had ever said that to me before. I will never forget that for the rest of my life.

If I look anything like her at the end of my life, that’ll be good enough.