Grace and Gluttony

I admittedly have a problem. I’m a glutton. Now before we continue this conversation, I have to stop you. When I say glutton, I’m not referring to eating. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting down to eat a meal that has been put together with loving hands, or taking a bite of a delicate pastry that has just come out of the oven. However, overeating is something that sickens me. On the occasions that I have found myself in the place where I put too much food in my mouth, I feel sick, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. What I am confessing here is not the overconsumption of food, but the overconsumption of life.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person. If I’m going to cook a meal for my family, I want it to have a main course, two sides, and dessert. I want my coffees Venti and my schedule picture perfect. If I’m going to workout, only an hour will do. If I can’t fit in an hour with Jesus, then obviously He won’t be pleased to hear from me. If I’m going to use a planner then it has to be followed to the T. Any change or skipping of a duty is treason to my life. Seriously, this is a problem.

For those of you that know me as the person who loves adventure and trying new things, this may seem odd. The funny part is, I love the little things in life. I love randomly going to try a new activity or tasting a new kind of lemonade. Just ask the man (my husband) who has to constantly hear my “OOO’s and AAHH’s” over the changing of the leaves or the twinkling stars. He sees me breathe sighs of deep relief when I relish in a warm cupcake or cozy up next to the fireplace. A piece of chocolate can better someone’s life. A small candle lit makes a world of difference in a room. Yet, I’ve come to realize that I only enjoy the small things in life if they’re coming from something or someone else. If the things of life are about me or coming from me, then by all means, it must be big and good. It must be of the impressive kind of things, nothing less than the best given my this girl over here.

This seeps into everyday life and I’ve found that it affects not only my to-do list and my adventures, but also my joy. I’m afraid to take on something new because what if I can’t give it 150%. I’m afraid to start cleaning, because what if I only clean the counters in the kitchen! I’m afraid to cook because what if the flavoring isn’t just right or what if someone is still hungry; it would be a crime for them to have to take some berries out of the fridge to munch on. I’m afraid to start a new adventure because what if I can’t do my best. I don’t want to take a day off of work for a mental health day because what if someone is disappointed in my work ethic. I’m afraid to write a blog post because surely it could be longer, more in depth, more nourishing to the  soul. What I need is grace, from myself, to myself. I need to give myself the permission to try new things, to celebrate in the little things, to spend only 30 minutes a day working out, to read only 3 pages in a book, to sip on a Tall or Grande sized coffee, to call someone I miss even if it’s only for ten minutes.

Do you need that kind of grace today?

Luke 16:10 says: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” How many times have I been unfaithful in little things because I was afraid of how small it was? It’s okay to do seemingly small things. It’s okay to spend 5 minutes praying, it’s better than 0. It’s okay to fit in a 10 minutes workout, your body needs the movement. The dinner you’ve prepared for your family doesn’t need to be extravagant. Do the small things my friend. Take joy in the little things that you do, they’re enough, you’re enough.  

 

Who Do You Worship?

Joshua 24:14-15

“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

A while back, I was listening to a sermon and the topic of true worship came up. Being raised in church, I have heard many sermons, debates, and deep conversations over this topic and what it means for the different departments in our churches. Conversations and heated debates swirl around with questions like: “Is our music too loud? Should we get lights for the platform? Is our music too soft? Do we need a sign team? How do we reach all of these people in our congregation?” With hearing all of these different ideas, one thought keeps coming to mind: “Who are we trying to worship?” Are we trying to honor and reverence the thoughts and opinions of those around us? Are we trying to honor and give reverence to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Good Ol’ Merriam Webster defines worship as this: 1) “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power” and 2) “to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion”. The first definition of worship is not something that we, as Christians, easily mistake. Many Christian people honor or reverence God as the divine being or supernatural power. People of the many different religions around the Earth also have a being that they honor or reverence as divine or with supernatural power. Yet, it is this second definition that trips us up. If we switch this second definition: “To regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” to our everyday usage of the English language, we get something like this: “To consider something or someone with great respect, honor, or loyalty and love”. With that in mind, I must ask this question: “What, or whom receives your greatest respect, honor, loyalty, or love?” I challenge you to stop right now, and make a list, mentally or even on a piece of paper.

My initial reaction creates a list that looks something like this:

  1. God
  2. Those who serve our community (EMTs, Firefighters, Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, the Military, Missionaries, Pastors),
  3. My family,
  4. My spiritual mentors,

Then, as it normally does, my brain begins to question, is this the list that my everyday life supports? Do my everyday actions say that I am loyal to these things; that I honor, respect, and love these groups of people? What gets the most of my time every single day? You see, what we love the most, what we are the most loyal to, what we honor and respect the most, gets the majority of our time.

With this in mind, I revisit my list, and if I am completely honest with you, my list begins to look a little more like this:

  1. Me
  2. My Work
  3. Social Media
  4. My family
  5. God
  6. Church
  7. Those who serve our community (EMTs, Firefighters, Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, the Military, Missionaries, Pastors),
  8. My spiritual mentors.

With many different scriptures, the Bible is very clear about Who we should be worshipping:

Deuteronomy 6:13-14 You shall fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shall swear by his name.You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you.” Note: here the word “fear” in its original Hebrew  means to “revere”.

1 Chronicles 16:25 “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods.” Note: here the word “feared” in its original Hebrew means to “revere”.

John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service.” Note: here the word “service” in its original Greek means to “worship”.

If worship is defined as honoring or extravagantly respecting someone, and if worship is an act of our love, if the Bible is this clear on Whom should be receiving our worship, and if our time spent is an indication of what we love, then it is imperative that we realize what we are spending the most time on.

I encourage you my dear friend, to really look at where your time is being spent. Who are you worshipping?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

Six Minutes to Eternity

I’ve been told this message jumps all over the place, and while that is true, I ask that you stick around. Come with me on this multi-lane adventure, because I promise you the destination makes sense, once you get there.
A while back I woke up too late to do my devotions. Because of my habitual pressing of the snooze button, I had missed my time of praying and decided to pray while I was driving. That week in particular was more than busy. Monday was small group, Tuesday was song practice, Wednesday was church, Thursday was something at school, and Friday I was due to teach a lesson at a church youth event. As the realization hit me that I had yet to prepare a lesson for the upcoming youth night, my confusion of God’s provision was heightened.
“God,” I spoke up, “Why haven’t you given me anything yet?!”
There aren’t many times I here a direct, quick answer, but this one threw me for a loop.
In a thought loud enough to be barely a whisper I heard, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Nearly in tears I asked God for forgiveness. I had been upset with Him because I had expected Him to give the answer when I hadn’t even asked.
Then I asked: “God, this is important to me. I know they only give us six minutes to teach this lesson, but those six minutes could mean someone’s eternity.”
This latter sentence rolled over and over in my mind and wouldn’t let up. Six minutes could mean someone’s eternity… Six minutes.
When I got to work, I spent a few minutes looking up “six minutes”. Why wouldn’t this idea of that specific time frame leave me? What things of importance could you do in such a little amount of time? So I asked Google, because obviously that is the place to go for answers. The following is what Google suggested:

  1. You could run a mile (insert picture of me laughing hysterically, because as smart as Google is, this one, my dear friends, it got wrong).
  2. Go through a drive thru twice… Once again, dear Google, you are misinformed, or we need to switch our food choices because I’m not sure I’ve been through a drive thru in that amount of time… ever.
  3. You could go get coffee down the street! Oh, here is the Google I know. Good job Google! Finally you speak my language. Coffee. Coffee is a good thing.

Now as you can see by the three things in this list, six minutes is not a lot of time. In fact, if you do the math, six minutes is less than 1% of your day. Yet, this small amount of time, the time it could take you to get coffee, or run a mile, or whatever your thing may be, that time could be used to save someone’s life.
Too many times when God asks us to do something, He asks of us the things we consider small. The things that seem so minute that we mistakenly think they are not worth our time. There is no “little” or “big” thing to God though. In His word, He continually shows us that He uses the things we consider little to perform great miracles. We see Him work in David. I’m sure David could’ve let fear take over. He could’ve said: “I’m not big enough. I’m not old enough. I’m not enough.” Instead though, we see a small, young man defeat a war champion, a giant, with a sling and a few stones. Flip a few books on and we find a young orphan. She was chosen to be the wife of a king, a seemingly flippant king at that. Yet she was chosen, not only by a king, but by The King. He chose her to save her whole country from genocide. Skip a handful or more books on and we come upon a small village that was chosen to be the birthplace of our Savior. I can’t help but wonder how different Christ’s story would have been, if that small village, if that small stable, would’ve said, “I’m not good enough, no baby can be born here”.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 (NLT)

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish… And he chose things that are powerless… chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…”
Have you ever felt foolish? Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough, worthy enough of the calling you had received? Has God ever asked you to do something that seemed too big for you to accomplish? I’ve been there. I could venture to say that we’ve all been there. No matter how small or insignificant you feel, God has made you for a specific purpose and NO ONE else can fill that exact role.
Have you ever felt like the calling you received wasn’t good or big enough? Maybe you feel like you should be doing bigger and better things. Yet, God has something “smaller” in mind. Sometimes his voice is hard to hear because he chooses to whisper things and when he asks something small, we don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference, so we don’t listen. Yet there are so many times he asks something small because he wants to use it in a big way. These small things might sound something like this:

  • “Go sit by that kid at the lunch table.”
  • “Give that teacher a smile, I know they get on your nerves, but they’re hurting.”
  • “Say yes when your little sibling asks to play a game.”
  • “Ask your mom or dad how their day was… and really listen this time. They’re human too.”
  • “Text this person, they need a friend.”

God doesn’t call all of us to go to Africa, He doesn’t call all of us to be Pastors or Worship Leaders. But He does call all of us to something; whatever He has asked of you, no matter how small it seems to be, it’s worth it, and He has a bigger plan.
The call rings out clear. Come. Serve. Be planted where you are. Love where you are. Esther 4:14 says: “… And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
I’ve changed the words just a bit and maybe it’ll help you see how it applies to you, right here, right now:
“…And who knows, maybe you were made (in your workplace, in your school, with your family, with your friends) for such a time as this?”
Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

A Letter To Me

A book I read a while back inspired me to write a letter to who I was ten years ago. My 14-year-old self was going through quite the traumatic time, as many that age do. I had recently turned back to God from a middle school version of rebellion. I was repentant; worried I had messed up any chances of witnessing to those around me, quiet and worried about every little thing. God and I were closer but I still wasn’t sure what it looked like to serve Him in love; the center of our relationship was solely fear, fear I would miss out on Him, fear I would make Him unhappy… Fear. But still I pressed on. With all of that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter to Freshman self, and I invite you to come along this journey with me; it may end up more important than you realize right now.

Dear 14-year-old self,

May I start by saying hello. If you don’t believe it’s me, I could share a few secrets that only a select few know. Yet, I think if you look into who you are at your core, you’ll believe every word. You are beautiful. You are wanted. You are loved. You are enough. I know life is hard right now, it is for everyone. It never really stops being hard, you just find better ways to give it to God to handle. I have a few words of advice, and I hope at least one of them sticks with you:

  1. Find your worth in the One Who made you. You can’t find lasting worth in achievement because the minute you fail, so does your identity.
  2. Let that guy go, the one who tries to control you, the one who says you need to lose weight, the one who chooses another girl, let him go. He doesn’t know who he is either. And if God’s plan is for you to marry, He will bring a man to you that will love you as He does. He will bring a man that will treasure you more than you feel worthy of.
  3. Take a risk, try out for the squad, go for a late night movie with your friends, do something; just be sure to make stories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Do everything but don’t forget yourself. You have the time, right here, right now to do whatever you want. Be the secretary of a club, join a team you don’t know if you’ll like, join the choir at church, take a night class for a craft, take up a real hobby. These things aren’t what makes you who you are, but you may find a bit of yourself in one of them. You’ll never know if you don’t actually go.
  5. It’s okay to fail, just learn from it. And if all you’ve learned is one thing that doesn’t work for you, then you’ve done well.
  6. Love well. Love those around you, make them smile, make them laugh, show them the beauty you see in them. You’re good at it. It’s one thing you do that’s as easy as snow falling. It just happens. Let it happen.
  7. And for the love, quit letting others define you. There will always be those who talk; give them something to talk about. There will always be those who hate; give them something that makes them question their hatred. There will always be those who love you with everything in their being; don’t push them away.
  8. Just be you, honey. You are beautiful. You will mess up. It’s okay. You will do great things. Celebrate them. You are determined. You have talents and dreams. Pursue them. Most importantly though, out of any of this, you are loved, created for a beautiful purpose. Be you.

Sincerely,

The 24-year-old version of You
You know, as I look over this little letter to myself, I think of how applicable it still is today. I’m in the beginning years of my career, engaged to be married this summer, and yet those eight things apply to me, here and now, just as much as it ever did. And I have this feeling that they will still apply 10 years from now. So the question is this, what would you tell your 10-year younger self? Go write it… and then do something courageous, take your own advice.

 

 

 

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

My Dreams

I was driving in my car the other day, on my way to work, and I decided to spend that time in prayer. I asked God, if He had anything He wanted me to work on or that He wanted to work on within me, to please show me and to start the work… I don’t think I was prepared for when He answered that prayer.

My Saturday morning devotions are some of my favorites because I’m not rushed. I spend as much time as I want reading, journaling, praying, singing, it doesn’t matter how long I spend. But one particular Saturday morning, here recently, God asked something of me and immediately I felt my heart start hurting.

You know those dreams we all have? The ones that we play over in our minds when we can’t fall asleep… The dreams that we perfect over the years of our young lives… I had/have a list of them and it goes a little something like this:

  1. Go to college ✓
  2. Begin my career ✓
  3. Teach in a major poverty area ✓
  4. Travel the world
  5. Write a story
  6. Pay off debt
  7. Have a house of my own
  8. Get my Master’s degree in something
  9. Get married
  10. Adopt a handful or more of children
  11. Live a long life, do well in my career surrounded by my family
  12. Have a great church family ✓
  13. Serve where I am planted ✓
  14. Love well
  15. See the Aurora Borealis
  16. Watch a Meteor Shower late at night
  17. Missions
  18. Become a well-practiced archer

Those are all beautiful things. They are things that I was told I should dream for. Things that they said God would give to me along the way as long as I waited patiently.  

God asked me to change my list of dreams. The things I hope for, the dreams that I have had in my heart since I was young. The dreams I played out with my Barbies… You know, because if it can work in Barbie land then it can 100% work great in my world too (the mind of an 8 year old). He asked me to change my dream to this:

  1. God

He asked to be my dream. He asked me to long to be with Him for eternity, for that to be my one longing. He has asked that all of these earthly dreams be put in their place and that He would be put first. And in all honesty, my heart hurt, because I knew what this meant.

For God to be my dream, I have to lay aside the dreams that lull me to sleep at night. The dreams I journal about, the dreams I pray about, the dreams that have become my idols, they all have to be put away. They’re not wrong, it’s not a sin to dream, but the shelf in my life that they’ve been sitting on isn’t a shelf like I thought it was. Those dreams have taken the throne in my life that only God should sit upon and He has been placed on the shelf meant for my earthly dreams. He is asking to take His rightful place.

For God to be my dream, I have to be content with not having a house of my own. I have to be content with singleness being my life for more than a “season”. I have to be content with not furthering my education or adopting children. I have to be content with serving Him and only Him in whatever way that looks like. When God is my dream, those earthly dreams become ways that I can serve God, instead of ways that God can serve me since I do “good” things.  

I’m finding out what it looks like to have God as my dream. Where my prayers go from “God show me how to live this life, here are my dreams, fulfill them please” to “God show me how to live a life that is honoring to You, guide me in the ways that honor You, where do You want me to serve You today Lord”…

You see, dreams aren’t the problem. Where they sit in your priority list is the problem. Often times, we can find God’s direction in certain dreams we have. When your heart longs to do something, to serve a certain people group, to go somewhere, through prayer and fasting, you may find that those certain dream were God-given. However, there are many times that we put all of our dreams on a pedestal and become entitled. We think that if we do our devotions, serve at church, and place God in a proverbial “center” of our lives, then He MUST give us our dreams. We make a checks-and-balance with God. I serve at church, You give me a husband. I pay my tithes, You provide me the house I want. God is not a Coke machine.

My heart hurts less as God becomes the center of my life. I realize that the dreams I must let go of are not the glorious things I put them up to be. They would have disappointed me. Compared to a relationship with God where I am all in, those dreams are so small. In light of eternity, those dreams mean nothing. When you delight yourself in the Lord, He becomes your desire.

Insomnia, a Blessing in Disguise

12:00 AM is not the time I usually plan to be productive. I’d rather be asleep in a room that feels like an ice-cube, listening to a fan, wrapped in multiple blankets, dreaming of the beach. Alas, my plans, or should I say my plans being unused and thrown away, seem to be the prime time for God’s lessons. While I do not believe God causes all of my plans to be thrown down the drain, I know He uses each detour for my growth. The smallest things seem to impact the biggest areas in my life.

There have been several times, too many to count to be quite honest, over the last two years of my teaching career that I have fallen asleep on the couch before 8 o’clock. By the time I wake up and walk to my bed, my brain sometimes decides that sleep is not on the agenda. For most of my life, when I could not sleep, I would get on Facebook or Instagram, and lay for hours watching videos mindlessly; filling my mind with things that was not helpful in life and complaining continually about how I could not sleep. I don’t know how many hours I have wasted doing just that. Then, one day I had a different idea. Instead of just laying in bed for hours, I decided to get up and make some use of the time. I cleaned, reorganized things, spent time with God, and blogged. It’s funny how such a little change can impact your life.

As I look back over these little hours of insomnia, I cannot explain how much it has actually helped me. Insomnia, for me, happens when I am busy beyond all compare and I have no time for the little things like cleaning and organizing. More often than not, insomnia happens when I have been so busy that my priorities get all out of whack and I am desperately needing time with God. Now I cannot say whether the insomnia is something God has caused or just something He allows, but what grace He has shown me through it. Grace to catch up on things, to spend time with Him, to breathe and relax.

I am becoming thankful for the insomniac nights. It’s not that 10:00-11:30 or 1:00 in the night hours is my favorite time of day, nor is it my ideal time for any of the said activities above. However, it is a quiet time of the day, it’s a time when it can be just me and God. It’s a time when I can be really productive and get a lot done in a short amount of time. It’s not ideal, but God has shown me a way to be thankful for it. God truly can use anything for the good.

Masking My Testimony

I remember the first time I watched Phantom of the Opera. I was entranced by the costumes and masks during the ball scene. It was all beautiful; each mask detailed and with intricate designs. When I became a senior in high school, I got to go to my own masquerade, a prom. Finding a mask to match my dress, posing with it during pictures, it was all a blast. But you see, masks are only pretty on one side. The intricate designs, lace, beads, and colors are only positioned on the side that everyone sees. The other side, the one you see personally is often constricting, covered in itchy fabric, and sweaty if you’ve been wearing it through any kind of activity. Masks often make it hard to breathe, finding one that fits perfectly to your face is quite the challenge.

In life we often wear masks like we attend balls every day. We hide our true selves with fear that if anyone knew, we’d be cast away, thrown out like trash. We teach ourselves to believe that everyone is perfect except for us. We teach ourselves to think that only when we have it all together, only then can we be loved. Yet, our God sees us with these masks and says: “Take them off!” He loves you as you are. As my pastor says, “God doesn’t hold you at arm’s length until you’re perfect and have it all together, He embraces you as you are and lets His love change you over time”.

I’ve hid behind these masks, comfortable in the solace they bring. Then I heard God’s voice say “Enough, daughter, quit hiding your story because I can use it for my glory”. It’s about to get real, I’m opening up something here I’ve never opened this publicly before. They say there are not little or big sins, it’s all the same to God. This is true, and I believe it. With that though, I believe to us there are big and little sins. Their size though is not dependent on how evil they are, for they all separate us from God. Their size, to me, are dependent upon how much they impact our personal lives. I am who I am, the mistakes that I’ve made are in the past and covered by His blood. I no longer claim shame; guilt can no longer reside here. In community there is healing, and if me opening up this raw place in my heart is what it takes to create a safe place for someone to say “Me too”, then that’s what I’ll do. This is the story of my biggest sin, the one that tries to still haunt me to this day. The one that tries to rear its ugly head and say I’m unworthy of love. This sin, it doesn’t define me, by it once did.

It started out as just plain curiosity. When you’re a toddler and trying to discover your body, you’re not completely sure what everything is and what it’s purpose is. So you explore, and try to understand the design you were created with. As I got older, I realized that it had become a habit, the idle curiosity had become a vice. God convicted me and I realized that what I was doing wasn’t meant for that time in my life. I knew I needed to stop, but I kept going back to it. It was a comfort, something that got me through long nights. When I was old enough, with access to technology, it intensified. It became a regular thing. I prayed about it regularly, the guilt ate at me day and night. Its control on me was stronger than I would care to admit. In my own power, I would quit. I would celebrate a day being “clean”, a month, and then I would fall, and I would fall hard.

I believed that if anyone knew, then they would throw me away like yesterday’s smelly trash. I figured everyone would be disgusted with me as I was with myself. How could they love me, knowing it, when I didn’t even love myself. I remember one church service, I went to the altar, as I had in times past. But this time it was different. I gave it all to God, and God told me that He had bridged the gap that my sin had caused between me and Him. I felt free, but I doubted that I could truly be free. Could the chains that had bound me so long truly be gone? My doubt eventually pushed away all hopes and faith that God could heal such a broken thing. I fell back into the habit again. It’s amazing how much temporary comfort a sin can bring. If it didn’t bring fun or comfort, we wouldn’t run to it like we do. That comfort didn’t last long though. The comfort was replaced with the old guilt and shame. Only this time, the load was unbearable. The guilt weighed me down until I couldn’t walk up straight. The shame condemned me until the light in my eyes was gone.

There were times I would muster up some strength, surely this is the last time, I thought. I was sick of it. I was sick of me. How could someone so weak ever be used for anything. Every night the enemy would whisper “it’s okay, it’s your life, your body, do what you want”. Then, in the morning he would whisper again “You’re filth, you’re dirty, no one can ever love you. You have to love yourself, because there’s no way anyone will ever forgive you”. When I would try to quit, he would tell me that God could never use me, my story wasn’t relatable, no one would believe it. You see, you don’t hear stories like this from girls. In the world’s eyes, this is something to celebrate. They say: “You’re exploring your body! Good for you! Know yourself! Find what makes you happy.” In the Christian worldview, we are ashamed to even mention its name. Sure, guys struggle with this, but girls, that’s gross, unthinkable.” I say enough because I feel like God says enough. Enough of this story that says I am perfect. Enough of this story that says I can’t struggle with this kind of sin. Enough of this sin binding me and chaining me down from God.

Here recently, I was freed from this sin. I’m not saying it doesn’t try to sneak in again. It does. I’ve learned to say no. I tried so many times with my own strength, and I failed every time. With God’s strength though, it’s an entirely different battle. Freedom to say no, doesn’t take away the shame and guilt, surprisingly enough, they still hang out on my doorstep. Even with the door closed, I can hear what they say to me. Then, God said enough to them loitering. I went to a church service and the lady speaking talked to use about our masks and how we need to desperately lay them down and let them go. We are not fine. We do not have it all together. We don’t know what we are doing. We can’t do life on our own. At the end of the service, they had an altar call. One of the ladies on stage shared her story, and asked if any girl had something done to them and still felt shame, still questioned, still hurt, to come to the altar, and they did. I prayed for those girls, hard; I was heartbroken for them. Then, she said: “I have one more thing I feel like I need to say, if there are any girls who have done something, anything, this covers a vast majority of things, but if you have, I want you to run, run up here.” And that thing, that sin that brought me so much guilt and shame popped up in my mind. I’ll be honest, I didn’t go at first, and when I did, I didn’t run. I walked up to the edge of the altar area, with my head down. It didn’t matter how long it had been since I had sinned, or how many times I had asked for forgiveness, the heaviness was there. I put my hands up and started to cry. Then, a friend came up and hugged me and prayed for me. I don’t know what she said, I couldn’t hear a thing, but I know what I felt. I know God took away the shame and the guilt I had been bearing for far too long. Once my body and brain had calmed down some, I heard God probe me with a question: “Are you willing to share? Are you willing to share in the place where you share everything? Are you willing to let go of this perfect identity, to create a safe place for others? Are you willing to create a place where there is no condemnation, no guilt, no shame, where someone who is struggling can say ‘me too…’? I want to use you to create a place where the enemy’s hold is no longer present because My children who are struggling no longer feel alone in their struggle.” I juggled these thoughts in my mind, for a few seconds, and then I said yes. If this is what it takes for true freedom, if this is what it takes to be open and honest, yes Lord.

My friend, I don’t know what you are struggling with. I don’t know what you’re hiding, but I can tell you from experience that letting it go, out in the open, is the best choice you will ever make. That thing you’re hiding because you’re scared, it’s not as strong as God. God loves you, He sees you, He sees the struggle. You are not alone. He is pursuing you. I’ve sinned a plethora of sins. I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve cursed, I’ve ran the other way when God gave me a calling. My brother, my sister, we all struggle and that voice telling you that you are the only one, is a liar. Let God show you His love through the community of His believers. I know you may have been hurt in the past, but the people that love God, Christ’s followers, they will embrace you as you are and love you through it.

You are loved. Your sin is not your identity. You are a child of God and He desperately wants to heal you. Let Him complete the work that He has started in you.