Here is a defibrillator for your soul (shock pads) on this Monday morning. My guest writer today is a good friend. The kind of friend that meets a need before you know to ask. The kind of friend that expects less and gives more. She is constant, low-maintenance and witty. Her words reminded me of how messed up I have been and of the story of redemption. It’s all of our stories.
These days, it seems like everyone has an “I grew up in the church, flirted with sin, fell from grace, got burned by said church and then eventually found a real relationship with Jesus” story. It’s not a unique story. It’s not even a particularly interesting story; but through my own version of it, I found out that it was never meant to be either of those.
I grew up in a large Pentecostal church. I can’t remember not being involved in something there. I was part of the leadership team of the children’s, youth, and young adults’ ministries. I was all in. But there came a point when I also realized that being all in with church didn’t do much for my chronic loneliness and need to feel known. Being recognized by everyone in my little evangelical subculture didn’t address the reality that I was living with agonizing unmet expectations – both of God and of myself – and they were eating me alive. Despite my best efforts, the cracks in my heart became too big to patch.
Before long, I shattered. My best efforts to ease my loneliness failed, the wrong turns I made on a path toward my own expectations leaked out, and those I had hurt with those wrong turns reached out for help as I should have. I was sorry for my mistakes, repentant for my sins, and willing to do whatever I needed to do for reconciliation. But I had grown up in church; I had seen this movie before. And once that little triangle button of how the church deals with “moral failure” was pushed, it rolled out exactly as I knew it would, if not worse. I don’t mean to paint everyone as judgemental and awful; there were many grace-filled eyes that lit up the darkness of those days. They felt small compared to the overwhelming feeling of loss. But they were there and I’m really thankful for them.
It was dark. I went to a lot of therapy. I prayed a lot. I cried even more. I was crushed under consequence and I was nearly suffocating as the dross rose to the top of my life. But I never felt far from Jesus. I was acutely aware, always, that I felt close to Jesus. I felt far from understanding, far from church, far from progress, far from my calling, far from friends and mentors who had been foundational in my spiritual constructs, far from sleep, far from peace and far from any feeling of hope. But I never felt far from Jesus. One of the most profound lessons I learned from that time was at the end of the day, how utterly separate Jesus truly is from all of those things. The Footprints poem is completely cliché, but I know the feeling of being carried. I think He carries us in the darkest places. He’s not afraid of our dark. He is His own light. He actually sets up camp in the darkest corners we’ve got, putting His feet up until we are ready for Him to carry us out. He did it when He was here. He took flack for it constantly – but that’s where He always seemed to end up…right in the middle of the messes people found themselves in…right before He carried them out.
The details of my story may be different than others, but the general themes are fairly common. The reason this story feels so familiar is fairly simple: it’s humanity’s story. It’s Adam’s story. It’s David’s story. It’s the common thread woven through God’s narrative of His people throughout history. And it’s Gomer’s story. Terrible name. Great story.
God tells His man Hosea to go marry a hooker named Gomer. So he does. God tells him that He’s going to use Hosea’s life as an object lesson for His rebellious and adulterous people – to show them who He really is. This is not my idea of a life calling, frankly.
“Go marry someone who will repeatedly leave you and use all the cool stuff you give them to worship idols with their partners. And then, when they have nothing left and come back to you, do it all over again. THEN…when they are up for sale as a slave because they have no way to pay their debts, GO BUY THEM BACK AND MARRY THEM AGAIN.” (my paraphrase).
As you read, it becomes apparent that we are the hooker. God is telling His people that He is so fiercely committed that He will let them run, let them return with questionable motives and will finance their restoration even when they have no means to know freedom. In the redemption narrative, God says these beautiful words:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her back her vineyards
and make the Valley of Trouble a Door of Hope…
“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Master.’… And I will abolishthe bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” Hosea 2
My life is not perfect. I want to be more like Jesus every night when I fall asleep than when I woke up that morning. I am more in love with Jesus today than I have ever been. I am surrounded by so much more than I lost. And after coming face to face with the gravity of my own shortcomings, I know how to love imperfect people in a deeper way than I could have ever imagined, because I am one. Grace is a powerful thing; the more you get, the more you know how to give. I know I have been forgiven much; I want to be one who loves much. I want to be one who quietly whispers, “I know. It will get better.” I want to stand at the Door of Hope, reach out my hand to those still in the Valley of Trouble and say, “You’re almost there.” I want to be one who knows the Lord.
There was a significant length of time when I couldn’t read Hosea 2 without losing it…completely. I have a Bible that you can’t actually read it in because the ink has run with tearstains. It’s me. But it’s not just me. It’s each of us. It’s our story. We relate because though details may turn each of our paths differently, they all end at the same beautiful Man – the same beautiful God. Our stories aren’t meant to be unique or interesting. They aren’t meant to be the point at all. They are meant to shine all the lights on Jesus. They are meant to bring honor and accolade to the One at the end of the path, the One who has carried us, the One who has bought our hearts back. This is what redemption looks like:
Us…up for slave auction while our Husband slowly parts the crowd offering Himself as the ransom.
Us…with no ability to impact our darkness, blinded by the light in a Savior’s eyes. Us…dying of thirst in the Valley of Trouble when Jesus carries us back to our vineyards over the threshold of the Door of Hope.
This is why our stories pale in comparison to the One who writes them. This is redemption. This is Jesus.
I remember the first time I heard this song more than 5 years ago, before most people even knew who Jesus Culture was. I probably played it 26 times in a row in my cube at work just crying thinking about Jesus. I’ve never stopped loving it. It gives us beautifully true words to sing to Jesus. It tells us the story that trumps every other story. It tells us the story of redemption.
Your Love Never Fails~Jesus Culture
Nothing can separate
Even if I ran away
Your love never fails
I know I still make mistakes
But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails
You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning
And when the oceans rage
I don’t have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me
Your love never fails
The wind is strong and the water’s deep
But I’m not alone in these open seas
Cause Your love never fails
The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I’d reach the other side
But Your love never fails
You make, all things, work together for my good.
Bekka lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with her husband Lucas, little Stella (2 years), and Mousse (4 legs). After graduating from Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, Australia, she pursued her B.A. in Electronic Media Communications from the University of Northern Iowa and an M.B.A. from the University of Iowa. She currently owns her own business and loves spending time at her most important job: mama-ness.
For fun, Bekka enjoys writing, making music, leading worship and moving her family toward a natural and sustainable lifestyle. Her passion is natural health and wellness. Iced tea is her beverage of choice and the invitation to eat Mexican food will never be declined. She blogs on leadership each week at Change Forward. http://www.bekkadove.blogspot.com