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A Story Worth Telling

I was one of the lucky ones. From the very beginning, I was told there was nothing I could not do. Every report card was met with praise. When I doubted myself, I knew at least two people in the world who believed I could rope the stars if only I tried. I was well into my twenties before it hit me that there were real limitations on what I could do, on who I could be.

By choice, I was the college girl who wore a veil before I wore a cap and gown.  By grace, I held the title of Mom before any other professional one - and still value it over any I'll hold. We had a mortgage before we had a clue. We had struggles nobody warned me about. We had babies born in packages we never imagined. Parts of my story were just too painful to tell. I never stopped believing in the happily ever after, but somewhere along the way, the rains came and washed away all my courage, all my confidence.

I didn't have to attend Sunday school every week or be part of a youth group to know from a young age that Jesus was the rescuer I needed. My only dilemma was how to align the deep longings in my heart with the rules I was given to abide by if I wanted to find my way to Him. One day, as He is so apt to do, my Father kicked the walls down I'd been feebly holding up and lifted me right out of my mess. I'd stayed in my shame long enough and He showed me the hope He had for me. Every excuse that had held me in my seat when I had wanted to run to the altar all those times before suddenly let go one August night and it's been easier to breathe ever since.

I didn't ask about rules that night.

I couldn't even pronounce the names of the prophets in the Bible I wasn't sure I even wanted.

I just knew He was my only hope.

That was twenty-one years ago.

I've learned a lot since then. I have logged a lot of hours in hard pews learning hard truths. A lifelong student, both by choice and by nature, I have pored over study Bibles, commentaries, and the like. I have asked a lot of questions and pushed back when I have needed to push back in an effort to follow no man further than I'm following Jesus Himself. I love an eloquent speaker, a well-educated teacher. A lover of words myself, nothing gets to me quite like a smooth talker, but when it comes to the Word, I've learned to look for the fruit. My heart has been broken more times than I can count when the message delivered from the lips simply did not align with the overflow of the heart all the world could see. I have come to believe with everything in me that the very character of a servant of the Lord will indeed be described as loving, joyful, patient, kindhearted, good, faithful, gentle, and able to control oneself.

As it turns out, though, neither perfection nor eloquence are required.

"Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart. 
Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin." 
Proverbs 26:12

Obedience is.

"And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes into his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:23-26

Friends, Jesus is my courage. He alone is my confidence.

He alone has been able to take me places I could have never gone. He alone has made sense of the unfathomable. He alone has given me peace in the dead of night. When I look into the eyes of college girls like I was, I desperately long for them to take hold of His hand, for it is the ONLY one that that will hold them safe on this ride that awaits them. When I look into the eyes of my own daughters, the thought of the evils lurking in this world terrify my "mama heart" but I boldly tell them - nearly through clinched teeth - to cling to that robe with everything they have in them. One ounce of His power will be enough to heal them for good. When I first looked into the faces of the ones I mother who came to me called "fatherless" all I could see were His fingerprints.

We fool ourselves into believing we are in control. We tell ourselves such nice stories about how able we are to craft beautiful lives for ourselves, such elaborate fairytales for our children, such incredible fortresses in which we are molding the future generations. We dress our babies up and rush them to the sanctuary on Sunday morning, tuck them in bed with a kiss and a sweet story every night, say all the right words and never the wrong ones, limit their screen time and watch their behavior and diets like hawks. 

We do a real fine job, but I'm afraid we are missing the point.

It's not about the rules.

It's never been about the rules.

It's about hope. 

It's about the kind of hope Christ alone has to offer.

The folks around us - and even our babies - don't have to show up to church every week or own a Bible to know they need a rescuer. They need to know how to align the deep longings in their heart with the rules we keep talking about. They want to find Him and they are tripping over us. One day, as He is so apt to do, the Lord will give them a chance to let down the walls they've so been feebly holding up all this time. It is not His desire that any should perish, whether they can pronounce the names in His Word just or not. The Man of Sorrows stands wiling and able to lift our neighbors - and our children, with or without our permission - right out of their messes. 

The cool part is that He has called every last one of us as believers to play a unique role in this perfect plan of His. 

"Therefore, brothers since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way the he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
Hebrews 10:19-25

We are the lucky ones. From the very beginning, He has promised His children there was nothing we cannot do in His strength. (Phil 4:13) Where our sin increased, His grace abounded all the more. (Romans 8:20) When we look around and find ourselves in such squalor that we are longing to just have what the livestock have, our Father sees us from a long way off and is ready to run toward us and cover us, filth and all, in his best robe. When we know we ought to hide, He stands ready to celebrate. (Luke 15:16-24)

He is our courage.

He is our confidence.

That's the kind of God I serve. That's the kind of Father that has lead me through the darkest nights I thought I'd never know. The world says there are real limitations on what I can do, on who I can be.

He tells me another story.

Until my last breath, that is one story I am going to tell.


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