I was a rotten kid. From...say the age of 10-25? I was haughty, proud, selfish, hypocritical, hateful...where do I end? What's worse is that I have lived in the same small town for my entire life. It's one of those towns in the middle of nowhere, with lots of cows and cornfields and where everyone knows your business before you do.
The really bad thing is that for most of those years, I lived a lie. It's a lie I wasn't even aware that I was living. I confessed Jesus Christ was my Saviour and although I changed many outward behaviors, I was still so full of sin inside.
I was a false convert and wasn't even aware of it. Jesus spoke many times of the false convert inside of the church...
The parables of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:25),
the good fish, and bad fish (Matthew 13:48),
the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25: 31-46)
I was the tare. I was the bad fish. I was the goat.
I served in the nursery, then went onto the toddler ministry, the bus ministry and later onto the youth where I was the drama leader for awhile. All the while thinking I had salvation under my belt and fooling others to believe the same.
I think the reason that it was so easy for me to believe is that because of some of the bad events in my childhood I desperately wanted to feel clean- like I was a good person.
So when the minister made the altar call and I went forward at the age of 13, he told me I was saved and I believed him. I tried, from then on, to do what I saw other christian people doing. When you surround yourself in that "church culture" it's quite easy to do. I did it all so much and so well that I was completely convinced that the Lord had done a work in me. For awhile everything seemed new, fresh and yes clean. But by and by, the sin- the bad sin, came back and brought some friends along. But no worries right? I just needed to repent and RE-dedicate my life to Jesus and all would be well again. I think I did that two or three times in that age span. Ever notice how "re-dedication" is never talked about in the Bible? Think on that for awhile.
Somewhere along the way the Lord decided the time was right to call out to me and save me. I didn't know that I wasn't born again until that moment when suddenly... I truly was. It wasn't in church or in some huge tent meeting. I sat alone in the house one day, so completely broken over my latest sin-a BIG one- that I felt utterly discarded by the Lord. I couldn't sense Him at all while I prayed for forgiveness and I cried out to Him. I really had one of those moments where I took a long hard look at my life and saw the enormity of the sin I had engaged in. It was no longer about the one, but about all of them...all of my life.
"LORD even if you will never have me, I will still follow you." It was said with sorrow and determination. "I will follow you until death even if you throw me into Hell at the end of my life." I wept and wept, completely broken now.
A contrite spirit is what He always desired. Now he could work with me. He came to me slowly and tenderly over the next weeks and months.
I have been challenged by a wonderful group of ladies to begin to show others my underbelly. In most animals, you'll notice that most species will never show their belly to anyone that they don't trust...it's a vulnerable place- one of the most vulnerable in fact. It's a soft place where all of the vital organs could easilty be ripped to shreds by a predator.
One thing that I've learned of late is that we, as christians, must let the world into our lives...into our vital organ areas. They have to see hurts, our challenges, our "protected" areas, in order to see how Christ is able to work in and through us. Through our imperfections is where Christ is truly glorified.
I have been guilty of protecting all of that- OVER-protecting it in fact. Like I said above, it's hard living in a small town. People may or may not forgive and they never forget. When I see people on the street or in the grocery store, I so want to shine forth the new creation, but too often, I see that pseudo reflection in their eyes of the old, dead, Brenda and immediately, somehow I'm back there- in that old skin and I don't know what to say, how to act. And I'm full of shame and regret over that past life. Eyes lower to the ground and my fortress wall comes up...my Fort Knox. It can be very irrational...I know this, but there it is.
My mind knows that my sin has been thrown as far as the east is from the west, but my heart cannot wrap around it. It's hard to see that reflection in their eyes and forget that person. And it hurts to see the scorn in others eyes toward a person who used to be me, but is now gone forevermore. So I curl up inside and retract a little more.
So, after much pondering I've decided to show my belly (figuratively remember?). This is not about trusting the people out there, because I don't- not very many of them anyway. But I do trust my Saviour and want nothing more than to glorify Him however I can with my very quiet, humble and uneventful life.
I don't have it all together. I have struggles. I have sin that needs repenting of daily. I often mess up the victory that could be my life.
But when I'm weak, YOU make me strong.
Here's to putting ourselves out there for the sake of the Cross-imperfections and all.