It feels strange to be typing out a brand-new, clean-slated blog post–first day of school kind of strange. The kind of strange that is so familiar and old-hat but still maintains this daunting sense of potential. The kind of strange that leaves me physically feeling like the last day of school was just last Friday but mentally feeling like I am prepared for the first-day-of-kindergarten-and-nothing-else-because-that’s-how-much-knowledge-I-retained-over-the-summer. The kind of strange-turned-stupid that convinces me that this whole getting-up-on-time with all my pencils sharpened and all my ducks in a row and all my hairs styled gig is going to last. The kind of strange that births the anxiety attack I experience as I sit down in a new seat in a classroom where I had class last year and realize that it’s too cold or too toward-the-front or too toward-the-back or too-close-to-the-door-because-I-can-totally-see-that-junior-twerking-in-the-hallway-to-get-his-friend’s-attention-and-what-if-that-happens-daily, but the new seat is actually only inferior to last year’s seat because of its newness and nothing else. That. Kind. Of. Strange.
It’s not that I am an old pro at this whole blogging thing. I am–in every conceivable meaning of the word–a rookie.
But, if anything, these past three months have shown me how naïve I really am, how selfish and vapid I have allowed myself to become. I know that absolutely no one has been on his or her toes, waiting for me to publish a new post, but before I can start, I have to explain why I haven’t written one. I was scared. I was scared after the last post’s rapid-fire popularity that anything that I could possibly write would pale in comparison. God’s words touched so many in my first post, and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone with a mediocre second. But then I realized that I wasn’t important in this whole scheme. I was merely the vehicle, and God was the one touching lives. Not me. Not little young me. So no matter what I wrote, as long as I felt called to write it, God would have a plan for it. I realized that even if the next thing I wrote touched one person, made one person stop and think about what had just been said, then that is ten-fold better than if I just kept my thoughts to myself and sat stoic in self-satisfaction.
Since the first day that I posted “[Thigh Gap]se in Judgment,” I have been bombarded with the same message. Every hymn I sang, every conversation I held, every sermon I heard, every article or book I read, and every inner-struggle I experienced linked back to the same idea. And if that isn’t God telling me to get over myself and write, I don’t know what is. So I move forward with the knowledge that I am nothing, we are nothing, and everything is nothing without God.
Last night, as I was sitting on the couch, unwinding into the monotonous familiarity that ensues upon arriving home after a week at the beach, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed. Now, a lot of people hate the fact that Facebook is now plagued with Buzzfeed quizzes and photo-string articles. I am not one of those. Is it a good thing that I enjoy opening up a link that says, “Forty-two Moments that Make Us Wish Jennifer Lawrence Was Our Best Friend?” Probably not. But I will be darned if by the end of that article I didn’t wish Jennifer Lawrence was my best friend.
As I scrolled through the feed, I saw that someone had shared a link to a photo-string called “29 Photos That Show The True Meaning Of Playing With Death.” I followed the link and was blown away and terrified in just twenty-nine photos. (Seriously, if you haven’t already seen it, go look it up.) It’s honestly just photos of people doing crazy-adventurous, dare-devil kinds of things that make my stomach crawl up my throat just from looking at pictures.
As I looked through the photos, I thought, “Wow, they are really living.”
But then I thought, “I am really living, too. I mean, I am sitting on my couch, absorbed in the goings-on of other people, but my heart is beating. My lungs are pumping. My brain is functioning. I am just as alive as the person on my phone screen who is scaling a sheer cliff-face, and I am just as dead as he is.”
I locked my phone and sat back, resolving that if God had wanted me to scale sheer cliff-faces, he would have given me the adventurous spirit required to do so. Sure, those people in those pictures are exceptionally brave, and they may very-well be the bravest or strongest people that a handful of somebodies know.
The strongest person I know is my Memaw. She is eighty-two years old and my only surviving grandparent. Just in my lifetime, she has lost her husband, her mother, her oldest son, and some of her best friends; travelled the world; undergone–and is currently facing–serious surgeries; grand-mothered eight grandchildren; endured constant ridicule that comes in the form of countless dreaded, flamingo-themed gifts from her entire family (honestly, her house is covered, and she HATES them); and beat cancer. Memaw is strong.
Those people are strong. But Memaw is strong.
Then I started thinking.
And I thought, I want my grandchildren to view me as the strongest woman they know.
There is something so beautiful about that thought. No one has a monopoly on opinion. It is possible for every person on this earth to be viewed as the strongest person that someone knows at some point in his or her life. The potential exists.
But it won’t happen.
Fifty or sixty years from now, my grandchildren will not see me as the strongest woman they know. And if they do, then bless their little hearts because God may not call me to be a dare-devil, but he certainly isn’t calling me to be who I am right now.
Strength is defined as the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force.
For that reason, I will never be the strongest person ANYONE knows.
Why? Because the motivation and purpose for my life and my existence that I claim is often the part of me I keep most hidden.
That motivation and purpose is my relationship with Christ.
It’s one thing to keep my relationship, guard it, and protect it. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts above all else because that is where Christ resides in us.
No, my hiding my relationship cannot be described as valiant or even cautious. It’s cowardly, born out of timid shame.
I am lying to a three-year-old version of myself who sat in Sunday School, singing “This Little Light of Mine” with all of my heart when the only thing of which I was sure in that moment was that Satan was NOT going to blow it out.
Will I have a conversation with someone who shares my faith about the love of Christ and His unending grace?
All day long.
But he has to show his light first. Only then will I reach behind that bushel I drag around behind me and reveal a light, saying, “Look, I have one of those, too, and now that I see that my faith won’t offend you, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Will I have a conversation with someone who doesn’t share my faith about the love of Christ and His unending grace?
All day long.
But I will wait until he asks me if I have a light. Only then will I reluctantly and carefully reach behind that bushel I drag behind me and bring forth a light, holding it far enough away from myself so that he cannot see the light reflecting on my face and keeping it a safe enough distance from him so that he doesn’t get burned.
Why do I do that?
Because I am scared. This faith to which I accredit my entire existence, all of me, all of my soul, is my most powerful weapon.
And that’s honestly what terrifies me, that I’ll use it as a weapon or that people will see me brandishing it and get scared.
As a follower of Christ, I have been given a charge.
As God’s creation, we have been given a charge.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Can we look at that for a moment?
The Bible doesn’t say, “Go therefore and force the religion of Christianity on all nations, condemning those with whose views you don’t agree in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
So why are we?
We can evangelize without judgment.
We have to.
We are in no position to judge. None. Ever.
Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us!
If we keep obsessing over 1) being politically correct with our evangelism or 2) playing God and trying to “save sinners from themselves,” we are going to drive the Truth straight into the ground, bury it, and hide the mound of fresh earth ourselves by trampling on it until we have ultimately killed it.
I am so guilty of it. I am beyond guilty of all of it.
We are not God. We are sinners. We are broken people. All of us. The believers and the non-believers; the preacher who speaks God’s Word from memory in the pulpit on Sunday morning and the homeless man who sits in the back of the church, unable to read the Word but somehow more capable of understanding it than the deacon-church-regular sitting in front of him; the people who point a gun and the person at which the gun is pointed; the mothers who worry and the children who don’t; the blind and the sighted; the gay and the straight; the lost and the found.
I could go on, using as many adjectives, identities, and stereotypes as humanly possible. But none of them would separate us from the fact that we are people. And people are sinners. None of us is worthy of God’s love.
But He showers us with it anyway. He pours it out over us. He drowns us in it. He cleanses our souls with it.
Our charge is to spread the gospel. The gospel is the Word. The Word is God. God is love.
Our charge is to spread love.
Our charge is not to condemn the broken when we are broken ourselves.
Our charge is not to save the others.
Our charge is not to save ourselves.
God already did that.
God is the righteous. God is the savior. God is the sovereign. God is the perfection.
Our charge is to love as God loves and let others know of God’s love for his people.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35″By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
God’s love is impenetrable and abounding, positively infectious.
We are known for our self-righteousness because of the way we have chosen to spread the gospel.
Our identity should be made known by the love and joy that we exude. He will break our hearts of stone and give us hearts for love alone.
So while we have been walking around with our noses up in the air, claiming the word of the Lord, we have only been distancing ourselves from God, not our sin.
Only when we repent and allow our broken hearts to seek and be fulfilled by the love of God will we be disciples of His word.
It isn’t by force, coercion, guilt, or condemnation that men are changed. Those are diseases that already plague each of our hearts–believers and non-believers alike. Adding more is like fighting fire with fire. The heart will only become more bitter.
It is by love and love alone that the truth may be revealed.
Strength is defined as the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force.
That force that breaks me is fear. Fear that I will step on someone’s toes with my big, heavy beliefs. Fear that I am not worthy. Fear that I will judge. Fear that I will be judged.
That force is the bushel that I am dragging behind me.
The only strength that I have a prayer of possessing is that which is found in the Lord, in Christ our Savior.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I’m right about that light, my faith, being a weapon. But if I keep it hidden, concealed behind me, it will terrify. If I hold it in front of me, let it guide my path and lead my heart, people will know me by it. People will see me by it. They’ll see all of my flaws, my broken self, the truth. But they’ll see my weapon, my light–the source of my strength–miles before they see me.
When we hide our lights from the world, we are also hiding our lights from ourselves. We have been given this incredible gift, this incredible strength, despite our crippling weaknesses. We have no right to keep it from ourselves, let alone others.
God’s word is the light. God’s word is love. If we allow His love to guide us, to lead us, to radiate from us, we will be unstoppable.
I want to be strong, so I will follow Christ. Take the charge, cast away the bushel, and let your light so shine.
In His love,