Today I kick off my new series! A few posts back, I offered my place for anyone to come and share their faith story. Anyone. That includes all walks of faith, all kinds of people, and truly- everyone who comes here is loved and valuable and worthy of respect, wherever they are in their faith journey. I have no expectations of passionate Christians coming in droves, my passion lies in people. Period. And quite frankly, your hearts. Wherever you are, God meets you there. And I too, meet you there. As all should.
Now lets all shout a glorious “AMEN” to that, shall we?
I am so excited to share an incredible testimony, written by an amazing and beloved friend. Lizzi has become dear to my heart, as we have grown close quick. I love how God places people in our lives for a reason. Don’t you?
She is a gifted writer and a beautiful soul. Don’t let her fool you. If you haven’t met her yet, you need to see what she’s all about. She gives plenty of her brilliance over at Considerings. Go see for yourself. And here, she shares a part of her that is both profound and powerful. I am personally in awe of her portrait of faith. Okay, enough of ME- it’s now time for Lizzi!
Chris asked me to write a devotional for her, which made me hugely excited and happy that she valued my words that much, but also made me think she might be making a huge mistake, you see, I’m pretty certain this might turn out to be a massive let-down.
Let me explain:
I remember very vividly, a few times in life where the sermon in church, or the discussion in home group, has suddenly gotten ‘pointy’. As in, pointing-at-me, ‘pointy’.
These times tend to be when the conversation or teaching wends towards the topic of WITNESS, and often includes the oh-everyone-knows-this verse from the end of Matthew’s gospel (also often referred to as The Great Commission)
“18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The moment this passage gets brought up, I start getting twitchy. Because years ago, a very compelling teacher posed the question “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to accuse you? If not, then you might want to think about that…”
If there is one thing I can definitely guarantee, it’s that there is far more evidence against me being Christian than there ever could be for me being one.
The swearing. The anger and arguing. The struggles I’m having in my marriage and in sticking to my vows (love? honour? obey? who are you kidding?). The bitching behind backs. The flirting and occasional salacious comment. The resentment I harbour for my current situation as mother to two miscarried babies and potentially without the prospect of any further children, all due to Husby’s illness. The resentment which seems to be hardening in my heart, like a cold stone, when I look at him and wonder why he’s not better yet, or not trying harder to GET better yet. The irritation I nurture and feed, allowing myself to think negatively. My lack of faith that any Good can come of this, and that perhaps God doesn’t know what He’s doing, at ALL, sometimes.
And yet, I just can’t quit God. I know – I’ve tried.
In the end, the idea that this world in all its brokenness and hurt, and the propensity of the corrupt and wicked to find success, and for the poor and downtrodden to remain so, should be all there is…is too harrowing for words.
Whereas, even if it’s the wildest of magical dreams, the idea that there is a Creator who Made It All, and intended it to be perfect – who made me, and you, and everyone else, and intended us all to be perfect, with eternal souls which could spend forever in glorious friendship with Him – that sounds like the Good Stuff right there.
Not to mention some of the amazing promises made about this afterlife:
Revelation 21: 3-6 says
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done…”
Can you begin to imagine? That moment when all things (including us) are made new; are perfected and brought back to our original, intended, eternal natures – it’s what Louis Armstrong sang about in ‘What a Wonderful World’, only amped up beyond our wildest dreams.
Heaven is perfect. And that perfection is so wholly holy that it is almost unbearable in its beauty and as such, nothing which is less than perfect could ever be allowed in. Ever.
So how can we ever hope to get there? Because let’s face it. We’re screw-ups – I don’t care who you are – you make mistakes, just like I do (well, different ones, I expect) and it’s part of our nature while we’re here to have the balance ever-so-slightly loaded on the side of ‘making a mess of it’.
Some people try to get there by Being Good, or by Doing Lots of Christian Things, or by Sharing Their Wealth, or by Converting Others. And in the end, none of that will work.
Our best efforts will never be enough.
Is that disappointing?
I don’t think so.
It’s a relief.
Because knowing myself, and knowing how utterly hopeless I am, the pressure of trying to get myself into Heaven under my own steam would be too immense and I would shatter into a million pieces, knowing it was an utterly impossible task.
Enter the loophole.
It’s all about Him.
Because in His wisdom, He made me (and you) and the whole point in making us was that He wants to be friends with us. Forever. But He’s not going to force the issue – He wants genuine friendship, chosen freely by us; not coerced or forced or ‘for-lack-of-a-better-option’ friendship, but the true, invested kind.
He knew that we’re messy kinds of beings, because He made us (fearfully and wonderfully) with the option to mess up. And in this broken world, messing up often seems like the better (or default) option.
So He decided to address this with grace; He allowed himself to be murdered by the very people He was trying to befriend.
Jesus – who somehow managed to contain both human and God – managed to go through life so mindfully, He did it without a single sin. And because of that, when He died, the Old Way – the way of Death – was defeated. It couldn’t keep Him down, for there were no transgressions to separate Him from going straight to Heaven. Perfect.
And all for this:
On that final day, when those horsemen of the apocalypse come rampaging through, and lightning goes off across the world, and bells ring and trumpets sound, and in a glorious chaos of confusion and wonder, the world comes to a halt and wonders what the hell just happened, then catches its collective breath as it realises that this is The End – we all will be judged.
And in that moment, through grace and love more immense than we can begin to fathom, Jesus offers to step in front of us, hold out his arms wide, hide us behind his perfection, and tell God “This wonderful person is a friend of mine, who has done some wrong things, has apologised and tried to make amends. I am here, standing in front of them, so that you can only see my blamelessness. Their wrongdoings are gone. Every. Last. One. Because I, who could not be held by death, have forgiven them everything. They are perfected. Let them in.”
(I paraphrase (probably) but you get the gist)
So in the end, it’s nothing to do with me.
I need to be a willing participant in the plan. But in the end, workings are all Him – His character, which freely offers a way for a failure like me become perfectly what He intended all along.
In the meantime, back in the witness box, if anyone should try to accuse me of being Christian, what do I have?
Well, I have those failures. The parts of life I wish I really hadn’t done as I did. The parts of life I should have done differently and didn’t. The conversations I chickened out of, or the arguments I went for with all guns blazing and my words set to ‘kill’.
Because just look at this:
2 Corinthians 12
“9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
And so my constant prayer (and perhaps one of the major sources of my ongoing ability to somehow keep the faith, in spite of everything) goes something like this:
“Dear LORD! I’ve fucked up. And again, for saying fucked. Twice! But look – I’ve made a mess, and I know that somehow, you can do something with that. You say that your power can be made perfect in weakness? Well I’ve been working on those weaknesses, and somehow two have gotten a little better, but seven more just appeared – could you just take them all – all the gnarly, broken, crappy parts of me and make something GOOD happen with them. Please? And sorry. And thank you.”
So yes. I’m a failure. A let-down. But I’m God’s let-down, and He thinks I’m worth it.
And that just might be perfect, in that case-
So might this writing be.