I’d really like to take a nap right about now, but apparently I’m not through tossing my thoughts out into cyberspace. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this excited about writing anything.
Last week I went and had lunch with a group of wonderful, intelligent, beautiful women. The Big Bear Deli was our locale; the yummy food and cozy camaraderie did much to lift my tired spirits. We munched and laughed as a steady flow of hungry traffic funneled in and out. It was just one of those days that couldn’t be ruined by anything.
All of this, however, is not what I enjoyed most about the outing. At my persistent (yes, I admit it!) questioning, each of these ladies shared their stories with me. They told me about how they came to know Jesus and about how much they needed Him. When my turn came around, I was struck with this thought:
Does anyone know that I need a Savior?
I gotta tell you, I think I’m pretty good at looking like I’ve got it all together. Dependable, mostly punctual, largely stable. I’m the girl who folds her towels a certain way, whose floor is consistently vacuumed, who gets good grades and has a nice marriage.
Do you know what lies underneath all that external and occasionally annoying “put-togetherness?”
A huge mess.
* * * * * * *
My parents taught me about God. Contrary to popular opinion, this did not stunt my intellectual growth. I grew up with a fond love for learning and asking questions, but with a simple faith. God was real. I could talk to Him. That was that.
Over the course of my childhood I was exposed to several different churches. By the time I was old enough to really begin investigating things like faith and the nature of life, I watched as the congregation of which we were currently a part forced the pastor out. Supposedly it was a sabbatical, for his own good. This was not, in fact, the case.
I began to have all kinds of questions. I still held to the belief that God was real, but I wasn’t a fan of His church. His people were mean, nasty. They bickered about ridiculous things. I didn’t get it. More importantly – they couldn’t answer my questions. They didn’t even try. This was especially the case at the private school I went to, where I watched as Bible verses were used by some as a means of getting what they wanted. I asked more questions. I got into trouble.
By the time I was 13, justice had become very important to me. I watched a friend of mine be expelled from school for something I felt was incredibly silly. With the support of my parents, I wrote a letter to the principal and circulated a petition amongst the students to have him reinstated. This was the first of many trips to the principal’s office.
So, at this point I had developed an extreme distrust for people who claimed to be Christians who were in authoritative positions. What they were doing all around me didn’t square up with what I was reading in the Bible. At the same time, the simple faith that I’d had from earliest memory was beginning to be mocked. I had braces. I wore glasses. I was covered in acne. I couldn’t afford “cool” clothes. My relationships among my peers were constantly shifting. On top of all that, I was a “goody.”
I wish I could tell you that I clung to that simple faith. Instead, I chose the road of hypocrisy. By the end of my freshman year of high school, I was done for. I knew all the right things to say and how to act so everyone would think that I was still a good Christian girl. Inside, though? I was smoldering. I was a mess of rage and hormones that was ready to pop at any moment.
Pop I did.
I liked the same boy for two years. Another girl liked him, too. I did everything I could, in my jealousy, to belittle her in his eyes, something which I deeply regret today. (She’s a fantastic person, and we’ve since become friends). I had a friend of mine steal things out of his locker that she left for him. I said mean things about her. I lied. I was just…mean.
I wanted him to like me. I’m not really sure why I was so desperate for that. Maybe it was just because I was 15. Maybe it was because things had gotten awkward between my parents and I, as they are so apt to do as children age. Who knows what it was? All that year, though, he kept me guessing…even as he got more and more flirtatious.
I feel scared to go any farther down this road, but I cling to James 5:16, which reads:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (NKJV)
I was teased all that summer because I had turned 16 and had never been kissed. It was humiliating. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I wasn’t quite so physically awkward anymore, though I had not yet embraced the coolness of being a nerd. I just wanted to fit in. I began buying stylish (read: name-brand) clothes with the money from my part-time job at the library, another source of embarrassment. I listened to music I didn’t like because that’s what everyone else was into. I stopped reading my Bible and my family wasn’t going to church.
I began to blend in.
I also began to date this boy.
I don’t wish to dishonor him, so it’s enough to say that we went too far physically – all while I would tell my friends about the virtues of abstinence. Funny. I went to a youth convention with him and, instead of learning about God and growing closer to Him, I learned about how to kiss on the bus without being caught.
Spent a lot of time in the principal’s office that year when another friend of mine was expelled for getting pregnant. (She was expelled, but the father was allowed to say. Thankfully he did the honorable thing and left the school, but the injustice of that situation still baffles me). Wrote an article about that in the paper, was nearly suspended. The boyfriend was threatening to break up with me because I was “slutty.” Isn’t that ironic?
The boyfriend did break up with me – two days after my birthday. After not speaking to me for two weeks prior. Surprise, surprise. I was devastated and even more angry than I had been before. The white-hot rage within me was building to an explosion, but I wanted to ignore it. Got another boyfriend, destroyed my purity further – and, I’m ashamed to say, played a part in him walking away from youth group, which we both desperately needed at the time. Spent LOTS of time with my rear planted in a chair in the principal’s office; faced expulsion the day the spring play opened. Were it not for parental intervention, I’m sure I would have been out on my tail.
Graduation. The current boyfriend calls me all sorts of names for graduating at a better standing in the class than he did. Feeds into what I already feel and think about myself. The next few years are spent bouncing from relationship to relationship, pouring myself into being the best reporter the college paper had ever had (with the awards to prove it) and posing as some sort of collegiate intellectual.
Loneliness. Deep, abiding loneliness. Shame. Sorrow. Approval-seeking. A ball of venom.
All covered by a slick veneer of perfection.
I returned to the faith of my childhood about the time when my family was dealing with some serious issues. I developed an intellectual assent toward its tenants without desiring to change the way I lived. I got to decide that; I couldn’t see how anything else was going to work. So, did I believe that Jesus of Nazareth existed, that He was God and that He and died and rose again three days later? Sure. Did that have any impact on my life whatsoever? None.
Met another boy. Finally gave away the last of whatever purity I had left to him. Didn’t darken the door of a church or crack open my Bible for at least two years – though I still talked a good game. Hypocrite. We decide one day to start attending church, feel convicted about some stuff, get involved. Even get baptized. It’s still not that deep. I party on Saturday and go to church on Sunday. I tell middle schoolers not to compromise even as I go out dancing at Mic n Mac’s.
I marry the boy. Shortly after our one-year-anniversary, he tells me he wants to kill himself.
Agony. Hate. Bewilderment. Sorrow. Fear. Loneliness.
Three years ago. That’s when I fell in love with Jesus. I sat in that hospital lobby and told Him to show up if He was real. All I know is that He did. All I know is that He still does.
Sometimes I stretch the truth to make myself look better. I still have a lot of anger and bitterness. I have manipulated people – and been good at it. Sometimes I cut corners. I am very impatient. Sometimes I think that I am smarter than others and that they should be quiet. I don’t take correction/instruction well. I am arrogant. I hate the way I look. I belittle myself. (How does that work when you’re arrogant?) I’ve had sexual sin.
The plaster of perfection is just that: plaster. It barely covers the cracks. The day I met Jesus was the day He began beating all of the plaster out of my life so that His light would shine through the cracks. I’m not perfect and I can’t do this on my own. I am messed up and twisted inside. I don’t have the right perspective and any wisdom I have comes straight from above. I am utterly and totally dependent on His unflinching grace.
I think I maybe understand, just a little, what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 5:8 that Christ died for us while we were sinners. WHILE. In the past act, present act and future act of violating His commands and trying to go our own way. I need that. I need a Savior so badly, and He’s the only one I’ve ever seen Who qualifies. Not myself. Not my husband. Not anyone else.
You know what I really need? Someone who doesn’t want the plaster. Someone who thinks it sucks. Someone who loves me and thinks I’m pretty darn special, despite all the garbage I’ve heaped on myself. See, God doesn’t make junk, but He is in the business of peeling it away.
He loves me. He made a way for me to be free, a way that I am still discovering, when nobody else possibly could. Believing that might make me foolish or weak in the eyes of some, but I guess I wonder: do those people really feel any different than I did before I fell at His feet? Do they feel any less lost, hurt, angry or confused than I did? I can’t really answer that, but I do wonder.
I need a Savior. It’s that simple.