Lord, search my heart, show me who I am without you.
I imagine picking up a pen…
Today, I lost it with my kids. Yesterday, I wished I had a bigger house. Sunday, I blamed my husband for my big mess up.
I quickly realize, there aren’t enough hours to visit all my failings. My mental scribbles expand:
Wanting More. Ignoring God. Nasty Words.
My mind runs out of paper. But just as well; paper can’t hold the weight of the words. I imagine writing on massive stones: Envy. Disobedience. Complacency. Arrogance. Selfishness.
I see my desk covered with papers. They’re tumbling off, pressing against the walls and pouring out the windows like an avalanche. The stones have shattered my mirrors and cracked the tile floors.
My heart is sinking from the pull of my words; from the burden of my sin. But God shouts through the condemnation:
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”(Colossians 2:13-14)
A man is coming. He’s collecting my papers…one by one.
A man is coming. He lifts the heavy stones, balancing them on his back.
There’s something else on his back too.
He leaves my house and painstakingly searches for my neighbors. They have a collection of papers and stones… just like me.
Not everyone lets him in. They sit atop their stones clutching their mass of papers and weep.
It breaks my heart. I know it breaks His more.
Now the man begins his climb. I know the story. You know the story. He carries his cross. I imagine him bearing the stones and crumpled papers scribbled with black sin.
He doesn’t drop anything. Not a single thing.
He grips my written sin; the soldiers hammer nails through his hands.
Flesh pierced. Paper torn.
My selfishness: Nailed to the cross. My arrogance: Nailed to the cross. My apathy: Nailed to the cross.
Blood flows, drenching the papers in his hand, havingwiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against me.
I watch every sin of my life nailed to the cross.
He took it all away, having nailed it to the cross.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
Having several women in my life who have experienced domestic abuse, both physical and verbal, it is impossible not to have compassion for them. My heart breaks, my spirit ebbs and flows to try and speak hope and life into their situation. The church is divided on how to address this issue in many cases. I was hashing out thoughts with one of my best friends. I voiced my struggle, “The hard thing is, it is easy to love the victim and want to help them…and we should! But as much as it disgusts our human minds at times, Jesus died on the cross for the abuser, too. We are called to love and restore the abuser, not just the victim. THAT is the truth of how deep the love of Jesus is. THAT is the test of how much we look like him”. My friends eyes welled up as she pushed out the hushed words, “Jenna, when I hear you say that. I think of my abortion and…it’s like…I was that abuser. I was that murderer.”
My eyes burned back tears. Oh, how I love her. My, godly, courageous, beautifully restored friend. Yes. We are all the abuser. We are all the murderer. We are all that thief on the cross who needs saving. My best friend, who had carried the pain for so long, needed the people of God to love like Jesus and say, Come in, there is love here for you. There is forgiveness here for you. There is restoration. There is freedom.
Jesus can change anyone. No one on earth was excluded from the work done on the cross. It hit me: If I feel disgusted that Jesus even offers salvation to vile offenders, then I have no real sense of who I was before Jesus saved me. Bill Hybels reminds us, “You have never looked into the eyes of someone who does not matter to God”.
Seriously, this quote.
I’ve used it to test my level of understanding of the love of Christ. I’ve held up photos of Hitler, looked into his empty eyes and said out loud, You will never look into the eyes of a person Jesus didn’t die for. There is no evidence that Hitler ever accepted this gift of salvation, but was it offered? Yes, by the work of the cross. I only go to this uncomfortable extreme, because, how do we understand how deep and wide the love of Christ? How will we ever be able to understand the power of his blood on the cross?
Jesus paid it ALL. Jesus paid it ALL.
ALL to him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
Do I believe he has the power to do that?
For the wife beater down the street?
Are we intentional in seeking after abusers who want change, saying, There is hope for you! It is imperative that we crowd around the people they have hurt, offering them a safe place to stay. Let us not diminish our distinct, urgent call to aid and protect the abused! But then, what of the offender? Do we never look back?
The intent of this specific blog is not to give direction on how to restore each specific, abusive person (that would entail a book). This is not how...but an offering as to why we must engage in the work.
What if Ananias did not go to see Paul after he had been blinded on the road to Damascus? Paul was a man who was overseeing the murder and persecution of Christians. Paul was an abuser; possibly a murderer. God knew it would be hard for Ananias to believe such a vile man could change. He graciously spoke to Ananias in a vision instructing him to care for Paul because he was God’s ‘chosen instrument’(Acts 9:15). What if he had not been obedient to care for Paul? What if he refused to go heal him as God instructed? What if he did not believe God could restore a, man like that.
Without realizing it, Ananias was a huge catalyst in the spreading of the gospel and the writing of the New Testament. All because he trusted God’s power and was obedient. He was one of the first people to offer Paul the tangible acceptance of Christ after his radical conversion, even referring to him as, brother.
There are two forces at work here. The most significant being, the work of God himself. God blinded Saul with his power. God must do the work to bring someone to repentance. Ananias had no power to bring Paul to faith. The second is also the work of God, but, it is him working through his people. He used one of his people to give Paul back his sight. We have a role to play. We must understand God has called us to participate in the restoration of others–no matter their offenses.
I think of my best friend and what a powerhouse of God’s love she is. God is moving and using her life in crazy, beautiful ways to bless others. And it makes me think, what would the kingdom of God look like without her? The answer: Not the same. Jesus crafted a role just for her. In His power, I foresee her moving mountains. I have no doubt God will partner with her to bring restoration to other women. She will have the honor of acting as an Ananias. What if she had been left to her feeling of condemnation? What if she remained in the shadows and believed her name was murderer? What if Paul remained the same way?! What if Ananias never said to him:
“Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here- has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17).
Oh, Satan would have loved for Ananias to keep silent.
He wants all God’s children to remain blind to their divine purposes. He wants us to keep our old names. Remember, Satan is forever bound to his name, which literally means, ‘the accuser’. He wants us to be forever bound to our condemning names as well. We should not listen to him.
We should listen to one whose name means, “God Saves”; our precious savior, Jesus. He tells us the truth of who we are, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John:31). Let us not be silent regarding this truth.
Pull the people around you closer to the foot of the cross. Show them their new name carved into the wood. On the days they forget who are they are, engage in the work of restoration. Take them by the hand and go back to the foot of the cross. Find your new names. Say them out loud. Praise God!
I had the honor of being with both my paternal grandparents when they went home to see Jesus. Although physical death is ugly, I listened to my Poppa whispering scripture and pointing at angels before he died. My Nanny was circled by her family praying and singing. What a gift to have that last chance to say the words sitting on your heart. Not all people die this way. I may not die this way. My husband’s brother died at 20 years old in a car crash. No time for a last minute goodbye or I love you.
You could argue, God allowing someone to die without the opportunity for goodbye is cruel; proof that we bow to an unloving God. But isn’t this just a way to take the blame off us and point it elsewhere? Is God really denying us the chance to say how we feel, because he keeps hidden from us the date and time of our death?
What about TODAY? What about the past 10, 20, 30, 40 years we’ve been walking this earth? The last 20 minutes I’ve been typing, every single breath I’ve taken during this time…a gift. Every second lived on earth, is one more chance to speak life into those you love. It’s arrogance that argues, ‘what if we don’t have a chance to tell people how we feel?’
Bull honky. Yes, I just said Bull Honky.
We need to take a step back, dust off the timid words tucked away in the crevices of our hearts, and release them like roaring waves onto the people we love.
We have some major responsibility here; it’s serious. We can’t pass the buck on this one. God gave us a tongue; we can use it for life or death. (Proverbs 18:21) Let’s use it for LIFE while we still have our life here on earth. Continue reading →