This evening as I sat amongst my missional community/family we discussed how the gospel is good news in light of the death and the resurrection of Jesus. As soon as the question was posed a million things rang through my mind. However one struck most clear.
I grew up in a small town. A small town full of churches. About half of my group of friends in school was made up of pastors kids. In telling you this I must also share that I did not come from a Christian home. We did not go to church on Sundays or fellowship with believers. In fact my parents very much left it up to each child to choose what they would believe and to follow it in their own way. My friends knew this and their parents knew this and because of that many of them were not allowed to come to my home. Most of them were quite honest as to why they couldn't hang out in our home or come for sleepovers.
As it turns out my parents not being Christians was not the only skeleton in my closet. I had grown up with much brokenness and hurt and sin. And when I learned that my parents lack of faith alone could keep my friends from me the need to hide the rest of my secrets was evident, at least to me.
About this same time I became a believer. However the behavior and belief of what I had to do was set to the tone of shame, and with the shame came doubt. Doubt of worthiness, doubt of my ability to receive forgiveness, doubt of my belonging and doubt of my true identity. But I was pretty sure that if I wasn't worthy of it on my own right I could earn it. And so began a long road of trying to be someone I was not, trying to keep an appearance of perfection, participating in all of the "right" things, and dating the "right" people, and overall just trying not to bring any sort of negative light upon myself, to mask what was really true.
This was my gospel, work hard to earn, work hard to prove, work hard to belong and maybe, just maybe I would have a shot at an eternity in heaven. And I was failing everyday. I would go to bed pleading for forgiveness, pleading for a second chance and pleading to simply be saved.
Fast forward about 10 years and you will find a tired, ragged woman who was doing real well at holding it all together, but was still praying that same prayer every night as she laid her head upon her pillow, God I know I'm failing, please forgive me, please give me a second chance, I promise tomorrow will be better, I'll do anything to be with you. I was exhausted.
At that point if you saw me from the outside you would see a fit, busy, mom of two with a white picket fence, a dog and a hardworking husband, dozens of friends and a Volvo...I mean thats the american dream right? My kids went to a Christian school, not only were we in church every Sunday but we led things, we full on ran things, my kids were well behaved and well mannered, we were teaching them to serve-thats we would tell people. However unintentionally what we were really teaching them was how to earn, and how to behave according to how people desired. And that breaks my heart. We would tell people how well God was providing for us, I mean look at all we had, but really we were very good at making things happen, not so much good at praying and asking God for his leading, and so although I know how incredibly he was covering us in that time, we were really just using his name to justify our livelihood.
In that time I was not aware that there was another way. In fact I thought that was the way. I looked around at people who weren't their belief out in the same way and I thought to myself, must be nice. Self righteousness was my propeller and my fuel.
A few years ago God so very painfully yet gently began to show me something different. The difference was Jesus. All those years I was real good with who I had made God to be, but I knew nothing of a loving, caring, provider, who sent His son to die so that I may be freed from all that I had been trying so hard to earn. The death and resurrection of Jesus allowed me to put all of that striving to rest. The death and resurrection of Jesus allowed me to be free to enjoy the world around me because my salvation had already been won and provided for me, through the sacrifice of a king, the very king that shed his perfect blood to cover my nasty sin. The death and resurrection of Jesus began to heal the heart of a very scared and sad little girl. And when He looks at me He sees me amongst the mess and says you're beautiful, I love you, and you don't have to live like that anymore. It frees me from the shame that I've felt for more than 20 years and in that He gives me an inheritance I can not only be proud of but proclaim without fear because he is a good Father that protects me from all fear and condemnation.
For 31 years I lived blinded by own sin and the sin of others and for almost 2 years I have lived in full forgiveness and truth. And that is what blinds the past 31. I can look forward without looking back because I am redeemed.
As you move forward towards the weekend, I pray that you would allow the events in which we celebrate and remember to really mean something to you. I plead with you to find Jesus in the remembering, forget about you ham and scalloped potatoes and Easter eggs. And instead focus on the cross where real and true blood was not only shed but shed for each of you. Where a sacrifice and suffering was made so that you wouldn't have to. Thats the true hope of this coming weekend.