In an effort at being a little more bold, I want to tell you a story.
It starts with a smiley, goofy, youngest daughter. You know, the one who tries to make peace and tries to be cooler than she is and tries to be older than she is? That was me.
I remember what my faith was like in 1993. I memorized verses and believed that it was by grace I’d been saved. Somehow, a little six-year old girl, with a high pitched voice and scraggly hair felt she needed a savior, so I was baptized in a chlorine-filled pool at Hillcrest Baptist church, tip toes on the rubber boot of a pastor. I was so short, no one in the congregation could see my little head dunked under water. Underneath the watery-death, my sinuses filled and stung. I didn’t want to hold my nose because I felt that would be cheating.
But what did that little girl know of good or evil? What did I know of amazing grace?
I grew up. I learned to do flips on command. I wore Limited Too clothes when that was cool, then changed to American Eagle when that was cooler. I cried in school when I couldn’t understand prime numbers. I wanted so badly to get things right. But I knew something wasn’t right.
I have this very vivid memory of lying to my mom. A pointless, aimless lie. We were living in Virginia and I was nine. I dropped a glass of lemonade on the kitchen floor—it splattered, shattered everywhere, and I hastily cleaned up the pieces, but left the lemonade behind on the floor. I guess I was being lazy. When my mom got home, she asked what I’d spilled. “Water,” I lied. It was lemonade, and I’m sure she felt the dried sticky sugar under her loafers. And I knew she knew. I was a liar.
At school I smiled and wrote notes and sang songs and got good grades. I was a cheerleader. I went to youth group. I tried my best to be good and look better. Around that same time, I learned to steal from my sisters. Make-up mostly, but clothes and purses later. I’d put them back just in the right spot, just in the nick of time. But I was a good friend, and I went to church. But I knew I was a thief.
Something was wrong. And in a dark moment, I realized it wasn’t just me.
Everything is wrong.
It was night and the clock read 2:02. I was 12 and at a friends’ house. I should have been asleep but his hot breath was loud in my ear. And it turned out nothing is right. And it turned out I wasn’t the only victim. And it turned out no one believed us until it was too late.
How could I believe in a God that saves when he allows a man to abuse?
There are days I don’t really remember: the trial, the sentencing… But then a youth pastor sat in a room with me and the other girls. Was this really happening? Surely it couldn’t be. Surely all of this was a dream or some kind of script someone was writing for some new movie. He had the impossible job of busting through the rosy glasses of four pre-teen girls. He confirmed our suspicions about the world: all this evil, all this darkness.
And he said something I’ve never forgotten.
He said that in life, we are impacted by two things: our own sin and the sin of other people. Some of it hurts more, but it all does the same thing: it separates us from a perfect, holy God.
He said that we were made to be with God, and all the pain we were feeling was this deep expectation and desire to be near God—the only thing we need, and the only thing we can’t have in our current condition.
And that’s when I knew this world needs saving.
And the Truth I believed as a child rang True once more. We’ve all sinned. I deserve a death sentence. And so do you. And so does the man that hurt me. But God created us for relationship with Him and He couldn’t stand to watch us walk like sheep to the slaughter. So He sent a replacement. A perfect Man to suffer and die to make a way to God.
A Man that was God in flesh. A Man that didn’t consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. A Man who made everything, then made Himself nothing.
He never lied, but lies were told about Him in open court.
He never stole, but His life was exchanged for 30 pieces of silver.
He never abused, but He was stripped naked and beaten and mocked.
This Man. Jesus. The one who healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, payed attention to the poor, stopped what he was doing for beggars, knew names before faces. The One who pointed a finger at the men who pretended you could get yourself right with God on your own, and called them snakes.
He said, “I Am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
He didn’t say he is “a” way. He said He is The Way. The. Only. Way.
If you believe in Him, He fills you with a new Spirit, a new life—His. I am no longer a slave to what my nature tells me to do: the lying, the stealing, the selfish jealousy and bitterness. He gives me power for life and godliness. Everything I need to be a conquerer, and to live with joy not despair, in a world where most of the time, despair is all that makes sense.
I can consider that my present suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in me through Jesus. And I can’t help but speak of Him. I can’t help but find hope in Him. Because without Him there is no hope for me.
This is a story about a God who loved me so much that He didn’t leave me here alone. And He didn’t just give me Jesus. He gave me Jesus in a pastor’s rubber boot, my parents, my sisters, my friends, and in Patrick.
I remember when I told my story to Patrick. The one about the night and the dark, and the man whose wife and children were blindsided by the evil in their own home. The one about how I still feel skeptical, and when I’m alone with an older man, how I still feel nervous.
And I remember what He said.
Quietly, softly, Jesus whispered through the love of a husband, “I want to spend the rest of my life proving to you that I’m different.”
It’s the gospel. It’s the good news.
And really—it’s the only story worth telling.