Sexual abuse. Cancer. Divorce. Rejection. Drugs. Emotional abuse.
Each of us has a story to tell. We all have different pasts, different experiences, and different futures. Those words though, they were mine. Those are just some of the words from my past.
I think so often we look at other women and we see them as either successes or failures. We think that they have either had a rough life, or an easy one. We think they are better than us or unworthy. We think they either get us or they don’t. We are constantly judging one another.
But first appearances can be deceiving.
What we see when we look at someone is simply a moment. A single glance cannot tell us anything about someone’s past or their future. A glance, in and of itself, can only tell us what’s on the surface.
Take myself as an example. When you look at me you may notice my appearance. My clothes, my weight, my face. You may see my picture is posted on a Christian website and discern that I am a follower of Jesus. But other than that, you only know what I tell you. You might make guesses to other things, but you have no idea who I am or where I come from.
So, let me share a little bit about myself with you.
I am a cancer survivor. I have a prosthetic in my right eye, and still remember some of the painful feelings I experienced because I was teased as a child.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer and lost my eye, my parents divorced. I felt like it was my fault and carried that guilt until I was an adult.
My mom remarried a man who sexually abused me when I was five years old. I had no idea what a father-daughter relationship looked like and I trusted him. When I found out what he had done to me was wrong, after enduring it for over a year, I felt ashamed. I went to counseling (which I hated), and so did he, and after a year he moved back in. He never went to jail. There was never a trial. It was proven, and he was forgiven.
After my mother divorced again, close to ten years later, she raised my sister and I as a single mother on a teacher’s salary. Even before the divorce, my step-father had his income, and my mom, my sister, and I lived off of hers. I didn’t know you could buy clothes anywhere other than Walmart until I was in college. I still feel awkward when I visit a new store for the first time.
When I was a teenager my best friend invited me to church camp where I met Jesus for the first time. I had grown up in church, but I always thought of God as a fact, not someone we could have a relationship with. That realization was life changing.
I graduated high school a year early and got married when I was seventeen. Two years and two children later my husband cheated on me and left me for another woman.
Our youngest son was born with the same type of cancer I had as a child and lost his right eye when he was just a month old.
My faith carried me through my divorce and my son’s cancer, but after that it began to falter. I was a single mother of two, and I was only 20 years old. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I didn’t belong with the adults at my church. I was younger than all the other moms. Nobody my own age had kids. All I had was Jesus, my mom, and my kids, and I felt completely alone. All I wanted was for somebody to love me. Which lead me to do a lot of things I am not proud to admit.
The next several years, I tried to figure out how to mesh real-life and Jesus. I usually leaned hard one direction or the other. I would go through periods of claiming to be a Christian, but living like anything but. I wanted to cling to my faith, but it didn’t seem practical.
I don’t know where you stand with God, or what brought you here today, but I want to tell you something that I wish someone would have told me back then: You don’t have to be perfect to be a Christian. I think we get the idea in our heads that Christians have these squeaky-clean lives. That everything always goes smoothly for them. But it’s simply not true.
Real Christians, live in the real world. We all face the challenges of life, the difference is that when you are in a relationship with Jesus, you know that this world isn’t all there is. You know that despite how bad it looks, there is still hope.
I want to share some of my favorite Bible verses with you. Starting with a passage found in the book of Mark. A rich young man had approached Jesus and asked Him how he could earn eternal life. Jesus listed out some of the commandments, and the guy was feeling pretty good about himself. To paraphrase, the rich kid said, “Whew, I’m good then. I have nothing to worry about.” And Jesus looked at him and loved him. And here’s what He said...
"And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."
The rich kid wasn’t willing to trade it all for Jesus. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t want us to have a good life, what He wants more than anything is for us to love him.
Being a Christian isn’t about what we’ve done, or what we have. It isn’t about where we live, or our social standing. It’s about Jesus and whether or not we have a relationship with Him. And when you are in a real relationship, you are all in. As a mom, I can tell you that I would do anything for my children. That’s the kind of love God has for us, and it’s the kind of love He wants us to have for Him, regardless of who we are or what others think of us.
Earlier in the book of Mark, Jesus was hanging out with some people from town. People with less than stellar reputations. Some were known thieves, others had their own problems, and the religious leaders of the time came in, saw what was going on, and they essentially scoffed at Him. When Jesus heard them, He said, “It’s not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners.”
If you have ever fallen short, if your life is less than perfect, then I have good news for you. Jesus came for you. And you want to know something else? Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short the glory of God. 1 John 1:10 says if we claim we have not sinned, we are basically calling God a liar, and we are His enemies.
But God doesn’t leave us there, Romans 5:6 says that at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly (that’s us).
If you have ever sinned in your life, Jesus loves you. He loves you so much He came and died so you could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him. That’s the beauty that’s found in the Bible. Jesus came to save those who needed saving. Those who had sampled everything the world has to offer and found that it wasn’t all it cracked up to be.
In Luke 7 it was a prostitute. In Luke 18 it was a woman who was cheating on her husband. In Luke 19 it was a crook.
And in Matthew 22, Jesus tells a parable that speaks right to my heart. Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like a king who threw a wedding feast for his son. He invited all of the people you would expect to be there. But they were all too busy. They decided other things were more important. So instead of deeming the party a dud, the king invited everyone else. He sent people to the streets and told them to invite everyone they saw. The homeless. The poor. The evil. The good. He said it didn’t matter, they were all invited. And we are too. We are all invited to heaven.
Jesus understands that we aren’t perfect. He knows that we have sinned, and He knows we will sin again. And He loves us anyway.
1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Jesus, books. flowers, flipflops, chocolate, and coca cola - those are a few of Heather's favorite things. She doesn't have it all together, but she's okay with that because she knows Christ has her covered when she fails. Her hope that is while she is struggling through this thing called life, she is pointing others towards Jesus along the way.
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